It’s hard to count the amount of times Tearaway Unfolded forces an unexpected smile, largely because they begin to blend into one prolonged grin.
You can always tell a great game for kids by the way it keeps adults entertained. Children don’t need to be patronised, they’re simply less interested in the grim and violent worlds that entertain many older gamers.
Tearaway Unfolded is beautiful. The whole game world looks like it’s constructed from folded paper and the effect is simply fantastic. There’s something so very tactile about the graphics, as if you could reach in to the screen and start folding.
A well timed snap of the in-game camera even produces papercraft blueprints that can be printed and folded to create everything from pretty flowers to cheeky squirrels.
The game engages and acknowledges the player from the very start. The narrators actually speak to the “You” that’s pushing all those buttons and staring at the screen. It’s not so much a case of breaking the 4th wall as extending the 4th wall to include your room.
The motivation for the adventure is a familiar one: there’s nothing on the telly. The narrators want to send a message to our world, telling us to get our imagination and creativity house in order. It’s a clear dig at trends in TV and mass media in general, as the villains of the piece are scraps of newspaper that have infiltrated the game world from our own.
The You’s greatest tool is light. Players use the controller’s sensors to shine a movable light in to the game world. The light causes paper flowers to grow, paper people to smile and paper scraps to be mesmerised. Again, it’s the player’s real world movement that directly affects things and there’s a real sense of the player’s creativity coming to life.
Control innovations continue throughout the game. Pressing the touchpad causes drums to beat and a swipe will cause a gust of magic wind. The barriers between worlds is further reduced with the ability to throw a squirrel out of the screen and in to your controller, to be played with and thrown back later.
Throughout the game the You is asked to draw something – using the touchpad – and it suddenly appears animated in the real world. It genuinely feels good to have drawn a butterfly and then see it floating around.
There’s a huge amount of customisation and drawing that can be done, but this will either be a short distraction or lengthy occupation depending on the player. Thankfully, the quality of your creations has no effect on the game. Those butterflies seem to survive just as well as flapping turds.
The music is intertwined with the folksy feel of the game. There’s a definite Celtic vibe throughout, albeit the French side of the Celtic family tree. At points more modern influences creep in, but always underpinned by the folk sensibilities.
The denizens of the world are an interesting mix of paper bipedal animal people and more traditional animal forms. Squirrels play a big part of the game and are just as likely to give you advice as throw an apple at your head. I’m unsure as to whether the apple throwing is play or if it’s deep-seated squirrel rage.
All this beauty and creativity only goes so far, of course. Backing it up is a really good platforming experience. We’ve probably seen it all before, but there’s something about the folding paper elements that make challenges feel fresh.
One small gripe is the tendency for the camera to occasionally go wrong, but it’s a seldom occurrence and one that doesn't overly hamper enjoyment.
A companion app for smart devices allows players to take photos to insert into the world (Playstation Eyetoy can also be used) and characters can be further customised when away from the game. The app goes some way towards recreating the sense of holding the world in your hands that the original Tearaway on Vita achieved, but still this game is a different big screen animal.
With Tearaway and Little Big Planet franchises, developers Media Molecule have gone a good distance towards establishing themselves as the name for great family friendly games.
The creativity, imagination and all-encompassing theme brings a decent platformer up to the level of great. This is a genuinely positive game for young minds and one that parents will probably be sneaking a go of when kids head to bed.
(Tearaway Unfolded is available now on Playstation 4)
(Playstation 4 version played. Copy supplied by publisher.)