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The first thing to stand about a game is its art style. Regardless of how much the gameplay or story are discussed in the marketing and lead up to release, every video and screenshot will showcase how the game looks, how it moves, and how determinedly realistic or proudly off-kilter it is. Every game wants to have a distinct factor to it and the most noticeable is the visual aesthetic. While most strive for realism to show their consoles true power or impress with the level of detail, this can lead to a lot of them blending together. Thus, when one goes above and beyond to be unique it highlights itself from the crowd. While that can sometimes lead to alienating the older crowds, who’ll pass it off as a simple kid’s game, they’re often just missing out on something truly original.
Tearaway is a PS Vita platformer, later re-released with new levels and content on the PlayStation 4 as Tearaway Unfolded (which is the version that’ll be referred to here). Tearaway Unfolded is a game entirely visualised to appear crafted from paper. Taking the concept of Paper Mario but dialing it all the way up to 11 the game makes it look like you’re playing a pop-up book. Even in a narrative sense this concept revels in itself, with no fourth wall to speak of, characters constantly reference the in-game events of the story and talk directly to the player and protagonist as separate entities.
Every character, location and object is completely formed of paper in a joyously consistent world that breathes charm from its wonderful presentation. Somehow with the limitations of the art style, the games events and atmosphere do not suffer at all. The first chapter particularly has superb lighting and shadows to create a very calming and relaxing area for the introduction, immediately offset by an enemy’s mere appearance crowding the world in unappealing newspaper. The brightest of nights, the most vibrant of mornings and the darkest depths of either are beautifully portrayed like no-where else. The paper-crafted environment lighting up, the ripples of water being white strands of paper, snow and rain being pieces of confetti; the creativity on display by the developers and artists who worked on Tearaway Unfolded is clearly seen and heightens the game beyond your average platformer.
It’s not just in-game though. An unlockable treat guides players on how to build models and characters from the actual game in real life. Through tearaway.me you can learn to create just about anything seen in game and share your in-game and out-of-game Tearaway Unfolded experiences with other players in the community. It’s a fun way of involving the player in the creativity that Tearaway Unfolded encourages through the uniqueness of its world. Seeing these lands and this cast of characters and knowing they can be made by hand from something as common as paper, it’s natural to peak your interest as to whether or not you could make it. Tearaway Unfolded embellishes in being creative and to share that with the player beyond just the in-game experience is pretty cool.
One of the most distinct aspects about Tearaway Unfolded’s presentation is its ingenious incorporation into the gameplay. As stated before, Tearaway Unfolded has no fourth wall and the player is directly referred to. The player can use the touch-pad as a drum, swipe it to create wind, the six-axis to control certain sections and shine the PS4’s light onto the world and in the Vita version, use the touch-pad on the back to poke their fingers into the world of the game. But with the use of the touch-pad the player can draw and create paper-crafts for in-game use. Some are just decorations for the land and your character but others are useful tools. Further emphasizing the encouraged creativity between the game and player.
Presentation isn’t just visuals and how they’re integrated, it also encompasses music and Tearaway Unfolded’s soundtrack is absolutely harmonious. I took my time in the game’s first area and at some points outright stopped and put the controller down to bask in the peaceful and somber sound the game presented. It’s positively wonderful stuff.
Tearaway Unfolded’s presentation is timeless. While realistic graphics will age over time, the art direction of Tearaway Unfolded is beautifully simplistic yet painlessly detailed in its own right. It’s a gem that’ll never age and always have its place among the PlayStation library regardless if future installments are made. While more games in the series would be welcome, there’s not really much they can add to the aesthetic which could lead to a sequel feeling samey as the integration of gameplay and presentation is one of the game’s driving forces. This isn’t to denounce the desire for a sequel, that’s still very much there, but in terms of what could artistically be added to the visuals wouldn’t go beyond greater graphical capabilities leading to more detail and florescent lighting effects as the game’s potential in style has been reached. Real world paper isn’t going to get more interesting to look at than it has here. Which shows the point of how excellent the style is. Any improvement is superficial but the core elements help it stand alone.
Tearaway Unfolded is gorgeous and for the cherry on top, the actual game is pretty good as well.