Every once in a while something comes along that captures the imagination in such a strong way that whisks us back to our childhood memories. Whether it be film, prose or interactive media, the feeling is the same. Nostalgia so fierce that you can’t help but get swept up in it and you’ll never be able to remove that Cheshire Cat smile whenever you think about it.
For me, this has only happened twice in the past 20 years that I can think of. The first was Pixar’s 1995 animated classic Toy Story. The way they encapsulated our youth of playing with action figures, then bringing them to life with their own personalities was a magical moment in cinema. The second time was 10 years later when video games were providing incredible high fidelity experiences of their own and a small studio by the name of Traveller’s Tales took on the challenge of bringing my other childhood staples to life. LEGO and Star Wars. Together for the first time, in interactive form, this brought me right back to my childhood days of playing with nothing more than a big bucket of Lego blocks and my imagination.
Now as we skip forward another 10 and a bit years to 2016, a third time has just happened. The culprit is another game titled Tearaway Unfolded, released at the tail-end of 2015 for PS4, but originally a PS Vita title released in 2013.
Here you don’t get a world filled with little plastic bricks, instead you get the origami heaven of Papercraft. Everything and I do mean EVERTHING in this world has been cut, torn, folded and glued in to place to look just as it would if it were created in real life. And this is where that tidal wave of childhood nostalgia comes flooding in. Every child, whether in school or at home, can instantly relate to cutting and sticking bits of paper on to a blank sheet and seeing their imagination create something before their eyes.
Developed by Sony owned wunderkinds Media Molecule (of Little Big Planet fame) Tearaway released on Sony’s handheld platform to critical acclaim even winning 3 BAFTAS for Best Family Game, Best Handheld & Mobile Game and Best Artistic Achievement. I am ashamed to say however that at the time I didn’t even bat an eye in it’s direction! A travesty I am making up for now though. You see Tearaway has now been given a reboot to realise it’s full potential (and a much bigger audience) on PlayStation 4.
Re-worked from the ground up, Tearaway Unfolded has been developed to take full advantage of the Dualshock 4‘s motion controls and touchpad features, just as it originally did on the handheld. Normally this can often equate to very gimmicky features that can feel forced just to have an extra bullet-point on the back cover. Thankfully that is not the case at all here. Think Super Mario Galaxy and the way that title took full advantage of the Nintendo Wii‘s controls.
Seeing this game in screenshots is lovely and charming enough, but when you see it in motion that big Chesire Cat smile will spread widely and won’t go away for while. Animation can often be a very tricky art to master, especially simple subtleties. Here is where Media Molecule have done a marvellous job. From the way paper grass waves in the breeze to how full levels literally unfold as you progress through them, this is a visual feast and it’s easy to see why that BAFTA for the Art team was so deservedly won.
The other triumph as mentioned previously are the controls. Everything from the controller’s Light Bar, Touch Pad, Camera, Speaker Mic and Companion App are all utilised to great effect. My favourite of which is without question the app. Here you can sync your smartphone or tablet up with the game to give you a bigger screen to draw new doodles and import them directly in to the game. I found this essential as using the touch pad for this same function can be quite fiddly. Moreover, this allows you to make the game completely unique to you and you alone. On one play through I was asked to draw clouds to appear in the world, so just for a laugh I drew a bat-signal. Low and behold after that the sky was filled with Batman emblems! Of course from that moment on I just HAD to create a Batman costume for my character and continue to do bad Kevin Conroy impressions.
The flexibility to create you own elements in the game means it makes experimenting and messing about part of the core experience. One that very few other games come close to providing. It is not perfect however, the scope for which you can change and influence the world is limited to certain parts only. So it’s not like you can randomly change huge parts of the levels at will. Also the colour palette and drawing tools are extremely limited, but keeping everything simple is also part of it’s charm.
Platforming in Valleyfold
With lots of collectibles and crafting components in each level to unlock, coupled with a hugely entertaining and varied story, this is one essential and unique game you won’t be able to tear yourself away from.