Much like our changeable weather, the unreliability of Britain's postal service is a thing of legend. The odds are you've had things go missing in the post, or turn up unannounced months later, long after you gave up hope of them ever reaching you - but where all the letters go in the interim remains a mystery, although we suspect they're all hanging out in the same place as all those odd socks we've lost over the years. But have you ever stopped to think about what kind of journey that birthday card, DVD from Amazon or electricity bill actually makes? Seemingly the folks at Media Molecule, the studio behind Little Big Planet, have, as their game Tearaway tackles that exact issue - although we think they've embellished the tale just a touch.
Tearaway's story is simple - playing as the 'Messanger', an envelope with arms, legs, and a little papery body, you set off on a world-wide jaunt on a mission to deliver a message to, well, yourself - via a hole that's appeared in the sky. The only catch is, a number of nefarious 'scraps' (little newsprint bad guys) have leaked through said hole, and are causing chaos in the world of Tearaway - so it's up to you to put an end to their tricks. What follows is an adorably paper-crafted adventure full of puzzles, platforming and quirky characters - and, as to be expected from the developers behind LittleBigPlanet, a fair bit of creative freedom too.
But let's backtrack a little. Tearaway Unfolded itself is a Playstation 4 adaptation of one of the PS Vita's best-loved hits (after murder mystery visual novel Danganronpa, of course!). Putting all of the handheld's features to use, Tearaway on the Vita was designed as a tour de force for the handheld's functionality, letting you use the console's camera to take pictures, the front touch screen to doodle a crown for a squirrel king, and the rear touch pad to push your fingers up through the game's world to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. Given the large amount of platform-specific features, it seemed like a bit of an odd one to be ported across to the Playstation 4 - but it seems the folks at Media Molecule have ended up reworking a lot of the game to better fit Sony's latest home console.
In fact, the game now makes use of the PS4's controller in a number of innovative ways. Pretty much the first thing you'll do on your adventure is to point the Playstation 4 controller's light up rear at the screen, and use it as a kind of torch, to hypnotise the 'scrap' enemies, leading them off cliffs and into various perils (holes in the floor, man-eating plants - that sort of thing) to defeat them. But that's not all the 'guiding light' comes in handy for either, as you'll soon find yourself using it to light up dark caves, burn away scrap-related newspaper tentacles that cover the scenery, or even as a makeshift spotlight for a Wassailing play. Later you'll also be able to wield the power of the wind with a swipe of the controller's Touch Pad, suck rocks/squirrels/angry scraps into your controller and fire them at the scenery (but not before giving them a tickle), and even record a scary roar for a scarecrow (assuming you have a Playstation 4 camera, anyway) - and much more. It's pretty impressive quite how many different things Media Molecule have managed to come up with to make use of all the quirks of the Playstation 4 hardware, with each area bringing something new to the table.
Essentially an adventure game, most of your time will be spent wandering around the cut-out paper forests, treetops and snowy fields that make up Tearaway's papercraft world, perhaps platforming your way up a giant mountain, or even crashing your way through everything that stands in your way on the back of a rather angry pig. Scattered around each area are various collectable presents to find and open (all containing some of the game's currency, confetti), while the game's quirky inhabitants all require your assistance in some form or another. Whether it's giving an elk a new winter coat, throwing a number of squirrels through basketball hoops or designing a fashionable new hat for the townsfolk, there's plenty of random things to keep you occupied on your long-winded message delivery journey.
But perhaps the biggest draw of Tearaway Unfolded is its creation feature. Using the controller's Touch Pad, you can draw simple shapes out of coloured paper to create anything you want. Sometimes you'll have to do this to complete a quest - making everything from squirrel crowns to elaborate outfits for gophers and a 'scary' scarecrow face - bur you can bring up the cutting board and make whatever you want, whenever you want as well - and then stick them on your Messenger. For example, our female Messenger has a selection of pre-cut hair accessories (a cat face, heart and a kind of sun-come-flower circle thing), a miniature pink top hat at a jaunty angle, and two moustaches - one handlebar and one Salvador Dali - and that's not including the rainbow mittens and victory badge from design quests gone by either.
Admittedly, the Playstation 4 controller's Touch Pad is a little bit on the small side, and your finger too imprecise an input when it comes to making the finer creations, and perfectionists will be annoyed by the lack of undo, copy or other such features, but as a light-hearted way of injecting a bit of personalisation to your little papercraft Tearaway world, it works pretty well. Given that we've sunk way too many hours into Nintendo's creature-creating Freakyforms, spent days decorating cars in Forza, and just generally appreciate games where we can apply moustaches to anyone and everything, Tearaway Unfolded was right up our street, even if we were slightly miffed at the one time we accidentally put a single piece of one of our more complex creations into the 'finished design' envelope whilst shuffling it around, giving some poor sap a rather lacklustre shield in the process.
Sticking with the papery theme, you'll also come across various whited out silhouettes around the place, where those pesky scraps have pinched the colour. If you stop and take a picture (because like all good games, Tearaway arms you with a camera and lets you take selfies), you'll magically bring the colours back, and earn yourself an unlockable papercraft in the process - papercrafts which you can then download, print out and then make in the real world, if you're so inclined. And, alongside the aforementioned hidden presents, there's also a slightly dozy gopher who keeps getting himself lost, and needs you to carry him back to his house - although given our propensity for falling off cliffs, we haven't managed to successfully escort him back home yet.
As an adorable papercraft-y creative adventure, Tearaway certainly hits the the nail on the head - or whatever else you fancy sticking on someone's head really, whether it be a fancy top hat, an elaborate chicken cap or a cute bow. For those of you that have already completed the PS Vita version, Tearaway Unfolded's appeal may be a bit more limited, as it is essentially the same game, just with a different control scheme - but for those who missed out on the original, this is a (wait for it) well crafted adventure worth picking up.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4