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Tearaway: how Media Molecule plans to light Vita up

Thursday, 31 January 2013 00:09 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Can Media Molecule rescue Vita with its considerable creative talents? Jack Arnott visits the Guildford studio to see new IP Tearaway, finding something beautiful and unique. There’s hope yet.

“Looking around at our titanically messy desks we realised we were building a landscape around us. As concept art got screwed up and thrown on the floor, those paper balls started to take on a life of their own.”

Wandering around the Media Molecule studios you’re reminded of that curious aphorism about pets looking like their owners – there’s something inherently pleasing about the idea of a developer beginning to resemble the games they make.

Imagine it – Treyarch and Infinity Ward’s offices replete with crumbling, cratered walls and long, meandering corridors with solitary entry and exit points. Epic Games providing convenient areas of cover for hard-pressed programmers looking to avoid their project manager. One can only begin to imagine how they’d get any work done over at Rockstar.

The truth is a little more prosaic but, in the case of this Guildford-based team, it’s hard to ignore the correlation between the nature of their projects and the environment they work in – colourful, playful and bursting with creativity. And, it seems, the process works both ways. The studio’s Creative Lead, Rex Crowle believes the inspiration for new IP Tearaway came precisely from this “mad intersection” – where real life bleeds into that of the gaming world.

“Looking around at our titanically messy desks we realised we were building a landscape around us. As concept art got screwed up and thrown on the floor, those paper balls started to take on a life of their own. They could be boulders, or platforms. It’s from here that Tearaway was born.”

Sony-owned Media Molecule opened its doors to journalists earlier this month to show off a few new features of its forthcoming Vita-only title, of which little has been heard since it was announced at last year’s gamescom. Despite the project still being some way off, it looks to be shaping up into a striking offering for Sony’s somewhat neglected handheld.

Paper-chase

Of course, you’d expect solid (if a little cutesy for some tastes) platforming fun from the makers of LittleBigPlanet. But it was the innovative streak at the heart of Sackboy’s adventures that made LBP such a success. Tearaway follows in the same suit, but where LBP explored the new, connected world of PS3, its little brother is keen to show off all the features of its own system: Sony’s Playstation Vita.

For the first time we have a game that really makes the most of the front and back touch screens, uses the gyroscope and integrates the camera and microphone into gameplay. At various points your fingers appear in the game, tearing through its paper fourth-wall to pull switches, open doors and flick enemies away. It’s a clever conceit, and challenges the very nature of identity in gaming – when we play Mario we are Mario. But in Tearaway you very much play with your character, Iota. It was notable that the designers and developers I spoke to more than once used the term “buddy movie”.

The camera is used at various points to capture real-life images in order to wallpaper different objects and environments, while the microphone allows you to blow on the screen and see the wind you’ve created affect the environment underneath it. You’re offered such a complete tour of everything the Vita can do, in fact, that you can’t help but wonder why Tearaway wasn’t a launch game. Perhaps this much innovation just couldn’t be rushed.

While much has been made of the game’s exploration of the Vita’s functionality, spend a few minutes in Tearaway’s papercraft world and it’s the strength of the game’s animation and design that really stands out.

It’s a cute and cuddly developer tearing up the rulebook with violent abandon. It’s a game of exciting contradictions that should light up the Vita just as LBP did the PS3. I only hope that by the time it comes out it won’t be too late for the console to provide it with the audience it deserves.

We were shown the island of Sogport, reminiscent of an early 20th Century harbour town, and introduced to one of the game’s main enemies – the Wendigo. Drawing on real-life folklore but interpreted through the lens of the game’s paper world, the ambling creature – which Iota must escape from or trap as he navigates his way through the game – represents everything that’s so impressive about the Tearaway’s philosophy and genesis.

Love and affection has gone into every aspect. From the sea-shanty soundtrack to the way the paper grass delicately folds back and forth as you run across it, no stone has been left unturned in an attempt to fully realise a world in which every aspect drums to the same (papery) beat.

The game engine makes use of its own, in-house animation platform which ensures every item in the game could be made from a single sheet of cardboard if so desired. In fact, Media Molecule has offered flatplans on its website of a few of the characters and enemies unveiled so far to allow fans to bring parts of Tearaway into their own world. These flatplans will be unlockable in the game as “real-life trophies” to collect and display proudly to your friends – as Crowle puts it, “playing the game is just the starting point”.

Personal message

More detail was also revealed about the game’s main quest – your ultimate goal is unlocking a personalised message, individual to each player – and a new playable character was announced, Atoi, a more feminine incarnation of your envelope-headed companion Iota. While finer details remain up in the air, you can be sure that the implementation of these features will be as thoughtful as it is well-executed.

After all this effort to create such a unique gameplay environment, I wondered if there were fears that Tearaway would still simply be remembered as ‘that game you put your fingers in’ – the fine line between innovation and novelty is a difficult one to tread. Technical director David Smith addressed such concerns.

Exclusive gameplay footage.

“Above all we just want to make a good game – nothing’s done just for the sake of it. Say you’re shouting into the Vita, that’s cool to do once or twice but any more than that it would get annoying. When you get to use a new feature you’ll be excited – the innovation should always be at the service of everything else.

“Novelty and innovation are an important aspect of making any game. Everything is there for a reason and tied together. I’m actually quite proud that we’ve axed some innovative features that just didn’t fit in with the rest of the game.”

It’s innovative and fresh, and yet thoroughly traditional and familiar. It’s a cute and cuddly developer tearing up the rulebook with violent abandon. It’s a game of exciting contradictions that should light up the Vita just as LBP did the PS3. I only hope that by the time it comes out it won’t be too late for the console to provide it with the audience it deserves.

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9 Comments

  1. Dragon246

    This game is definitely a day one buy for me.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Beta

    Finally genuinely happy I bought a vita! ;)

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Cort

    Unfortunately “beautiful and unique” usually only sells when it’s 79p on iTunes. But good luck to MM, I hope they succeed with the game. The only thing that will make a difference to Vita however is a sub-£150 price point.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Seraphemz

    I will definately be checking this game out!

    #4 2 years ago
  5. theevilaires

    ^ I agree Cort I was thinking the same thing last night when reading the KZ Mercenaries articles last night. The game looks great but its not going to sell much. SONY would be smart to get Gaikai rolling asap where you can buy many of their games and play them on smartphone/tablet devices via the PlayStation Mobile app/suite.

    Some how its completely ok to buy a $400 iphone and buy/play cheap lame $1 games but a $250 device that has these awesome cool games are not.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. ManuOtaku

    Iam interested in this game a lot, i hope is in the lines of little big plannet, like that game a lot too, but i hope they could improve the platform part a bit, i think this is what vita needs besides a price cut, vita only games with a handheld mindset IMHO.
    p.s i like this style of graphics a lot, artistic over realistic any day IMHO.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Deacon

    This will undoubtedly be a great game. MM are clearly talented and know how to make something fun.

    With the current state of play though it’ll probably leave a bitter taste when they don’t sell half as many copies as they should, due mainly to the install base being so damn small. This might be a system seller to some, but I doubt people are going to buy the console just to play an adorable looking SP adventure game – even if it DOES use the hardware features better than any other game out there.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. LuLshuck

    Dont see the hype towards this, looks shit

    #8 2 years ago
  9. ActionGameKing

    This was the game that originally sold me on the promise of the PS Vita. Tempted to buy one for this and PS Plus perks. Media Molecule is damned creative, i’m blown away.

    #9 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    This week’s Deals with Gold titles for Xbox Live subscribers is a good mix of modern games and old favourites. The list of discounted games through this week’s Deals with Gold is live with discounts on Assassin’s Creed Unity, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and more. The deals are live now […]

  • Destiny guide: how to maximise your Grimoire Points

    Destiny players regularly compare the size of their Grimoire Points. Learn how to make yours the biggest. Destiny guide: how to earn Grimoire Points In Destiny, earning most Grimoire cards is just a matter of playing the game, maybe a little more attentively than usual. You’ll either need to complete a certain number of actions […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows will let you play as a baddie

    Shovel Knight owners will benefit from the generosity of Kickstarter backers quite soon. Because Shovel Knight was overfunded during its Kickstarter campaign, developer Yacht Club Games committed to releasing free content updates. The first of these, Plague of Shadows, has now been detailed. The expansion stars baddy Plague Knight, who turns on his former allies, […]

  • GTA controversies, from Hot Coffee to PR manipulation

    GTA has a long history of controversy. The latest Did You Know Gaming tells the full stories behind the sensational headlines. Grand Theft Auto is such a byword for controversy that it’s easy to forget the full context of what actually happened to bring mainstream press, politicians and interest group awareness to the Rockstar series. […]

  • Infamous 2 one of five new PlayStation Now additions for March

    PlayStation Now will expand to the tune of five new games this month. The March PS Now additions are Infamous 2, Twisted Metal, R-Type Dimensions, Alone in the Dark: Inferno and Operation Flashpoint: Red River. PS Now will set you back $20 per month or $45 for a three month subscription. It offers all you […]

  • Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster gets PS4 release date

    Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster hits PS4 in May. The PS4 release date for Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster is May 12 in North America and May 15 in Europe. Gematsu reports a special pre-order bonus calendar with art by Yoshitaka Amano is available through the Square Enix Store and participating retailers. In Europe, pre-ordering […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare getting 15 new Prestige levels

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players can now aspire to the ranks of Grand Master Prestige. Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games will add 15 more Prestige levels to the latest Call of Duty, giving players at max XP a chance to grow even further. According to the Sledgehammer Games blog, when you enter Master level […]

  • Destiny: Crota’s End recreated in Minecraft

    Destiny’s toughest challenge gets even nastier if you throw Creepers into the mix. The ultimate Destiny challenge – for now – is the Crota’s End raid. Taking place in an alternate dimension accessed through the Hellmouth on the Moon, the Raid takes Guardians through a pit of darkness to the resting place of Crota himself. […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3D trailer introduces the Heir to the Monado

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3D protagonist Shulk is the Heir to the Monado, his distinctive red sword. Let this trailer fill you in on what that means. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D releases for New 3DS on April 2 in Europe and April 10 in North America. As well as all the content of the Wii original, it has […]

  • The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod covers Morrowind, Oblivion and more

    The Elder Scrolls: Total War is a terrific mod allowing you get get intimately involved with the history of Bethesda’s detailed fantasy universe. The first release of The Elder Scrolls: Total War dropped on the weekend, giving players their first chance to try out LoRdNazgu1‘s creation. This version runs from 3E 427 to 4E 45, […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 out now on Steam

    Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 is out now. Yes, we’re surprised too. You can grab Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 on Steam for $8. Developer Scott Cawthon really doesn’t mess about; the game was only announced in early January. Here’s the blurb: Thirty years after Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza closed it’s doors, the events that took […]

  • EVE Online heister makes off with $13,000 worth of goods

    EVE Online is a hotbed of villainy, espionage and backstabbing, but one intrepid corporate thief has made waves even in this setting. The thing about EVE Online is that it’s a true sandbox: the game’s rules are very loose, and allow players to make careers out of theft, piracy, assassination and espionage in addition to […]

  • Marth Amiibo getting a stock refresh in North America

    Nintendo of America has announced a fresh supply of the difficult to find Marth Amiibo. The Marth Amiibo will be back in stock in the US in late April, the platform holder said on Twitter today. Planning to pick up Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. and don’t have a Marth amiibo? More are headed to stores in […]

  • Skyrim beta update upgrades creation kit file size

    Skyrim has been granted a new beta update – more than three years after launch! – to improve the experience for modders and those who use them. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim released in November 2011. I think that’s worth noting before we discuss the beta update that dropped today, even as Bethesda is working […]

  • Paradox’s next epic RPG is, uh, Knights of Pen & Paper 2

    Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is very serious business so please enjoy this very serious trailer. “Return to the dicey world of Knights of Pen & Paper for a new turn-based adventure, where players get to take on the role of players, and also of the game’s encounter-designing, rules-laywering GM in a fully customizable […]

  • Amplitude looks amazing in new gameplay trailer, has a team multiplayer mode

    Amplitude may have been delayed but we still get something this March: a fine new gameplay trailer. Amplitude is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 sometime in northern summer. It’s a reprisal of Harmonix’s classic rhythm action game, a forerunner to its later efforts with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and was crowdfunded. Update: Turns […]

  • DayZ creator’s “crazy”, “esoteric” next game developed with Improbable

    DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall has dropped the first vague details of his new game project. “I do not want to make safe games. I do not want to make games the way we have been making them. What if the most experienced video game staff in the world collaborated on the most esoteric and […]

  • Battlefield Hardline will support AMD’s Mantle

    AMD has confirmed what most Battlefield fans thought. Battlefield Hardline will indeed support Mantle. Battlefield Hardline will support Mantle, AMD has confirmed. Some players weren’t sure whether the retail version of the game will support AMD’s API, due to its absence from the recent PC beta. AMD did not say whether the feature will be […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 GDC 2015 sizzle reel shows what the tech can do

    Unreal Engine 4 is a pretty versatile bit of tech, as this new sizzle reel shows. As one of the more ubiquitous engines, Unreal will be on show at GDC this week. Developer Epic produced the following sizzle reel to quickly demonstrate what it can do – cutting edge graphics (there are very few games […]

  • Survarium’s latest patch removes limit on battle ammo, rebalances experience gain

    The latest Survarium patch has readjusted the value of experience and reputation points gained and removed the limit to the maximum amount of ammo you can use in combat. Survarium developer Vostok Games has released patch 0.27a to the public, having recently finished testing it. The patch is a major one and covers changes to […]

  • The Hunt Begins in new Bloodborne TV spot

    Bloodborne is so close you can almost smell its coppery tang on the wind – and also you can watch commercials for it. Bloodborne arrives on PS4 at the end of this month (March 24 North America, March 25 Europe, March 27 UK) so excitement is starting to build. Sony isn’t helping keep us calm […]

  • World of Warcraft: you’ll soon be able to buy game time with gold

    Blizzard will soon allow World of Warcraft players to exchange in-game gold for game time and vice versa. Blizzard has announced a new system that will launch soon for World of Warcraft. The system is called WoW Token. Using this system, players will be able to buy game time using in-game gold. Here’s how it […]

  • 3D Realms’ Bombshell returns with the first gameplay trailer

    Remember 3D Realms’ Bombshell? The isometric ARPG that was announced last year? Well, it’s back, and we get to see gameplay footage. The game stars Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a bomb technician turned mercenary with a mechanical arm. She will embark on a quest to rescue the president and save Earth, all while shooting aliens. The […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 is now free for everyone to use

    Epic Games has made Unreal Engine 4 available for anyone to download and use, for free. Unreal Engine 4 is now free. Anyone can download it and start using it, the developer announced today in a blog post. The download features the the full set of tools used by Epic, and includes 100% of the […]

  • Call of Duty European Championship winner announced

    The winner of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship has been announced. This past weekend, 28 teams representing UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the rest of Europe and Middle East attended the final of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship. UK team Epsilon eSports was crowned […]

  • GOG brings back Insomnia sale with discounts up to 90% off

    GOG.com is bringing back its Insomnia sale event with even more games. GOG’s Insomnia sale is back with double the amount of games. This year, there will be two sets of games available at once. The sets are seasoned classics and fresh new titles. Each set will feature games with discounts up to 90% off, […]

  • 2K is shutting down NBA 2K14 online servers, won’t affect career save files

    2K will be shutting down the servers for NBA 2K14 this month. The publisher revealed yesterday that online servers for NBA 2K14 will be turned offline on March 31. “You will no longer be able to play ranked games/online association,” reads the announcement. NBA 2K14 relied on online servers to store save files for MyCareer […]

  • One Dead or Alive tournament organiser is proposing ban of “over-sexualised” costumes

    A Dead or Alive tournament organiser has suggested a soft ban on some of the game’s “over-sexualised” costumes, and not everyone is happy. Tournament organiser “The HuBBs” took to the FreeStepDodge forums to suggest a list of rules that other offline tournaments can follow. The list goes over stages, characters, moves, which is certainly in […]