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Tearaway: postcards from Valleyfold - preview

Tearaway's latest preview build has sold VG247's Dave Cook on Media Molecule's concept. Take a trip to the charming world of Valleyfold and see what all the fuss is about.

There's a certain brand of playfulness beating at the heart of everything Media Molecule produces. The quaint innocence of LittleBigPlanet had a way of letting you regress to your youth and act like a big kid rummaging through some long forgotten toy-box. It's a distinct flavour that returns in the studio's PS Vita debut Tearaway. The game speaks to anyone who remembers picking dried PVA glue off their fingers in art class, grey winter evenings spent entertained by Tony Hart and Morph on the BBC, and trying to guess whatever massive piece of art Neil Buchanan was making in Art Attack.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a new preview build while on holiday, and it brought all of those feelings and memories bubbling to the surface once more. Using the in-game camera I was able to document my travels across the vibrant land of Valleyfold. I didn't quite figure out the filters and lighting, so please do excuse some of the washed out photos below. The game is bloody colourful honestly.

So without further ado, welcome to Dave's Big Tearaway Preview Adventure.

Valleyfold is a place that thrives on whimsical stories, music and creativity, but unfortunately the keepers of the realm have become uninspired. They decide to extend an invitation to the human world so I could help the land blossom once more. I was asked to help plucky courier Iota ferry the message to a great portal in the sun which - thanks to the PS Vita's front-facing camera - always displayed my face.

Here's Iota now, taking a selfie. What a cheeky chappie. Hebegan his quest in a lush forest called The Standing Stones. He ran down a path and looked to the sky, where he saw my face. All he had to do was get there and deliver his message. It doesn't look like it was that far, right?

It was clear that Valleyfold itself would be one of those rare game worlds that has as prominent a starring role as its central characters, and much of that could be chalked up to its hand-crafted veneer - imperfections and all. Parts of the scenery were coming unstuck, while others lay ripped or torn. Cardboard flowers toppled as Iota banged into them, while dainty paper bridges crumpled and sagged under foot.

There was a real tangible quality to the colourful world that increased my immersion and lent interactivity apace, but all was not well however. Iota came across a sad man quivering in fear like a big bowl of wobbly jelly.

He was afraid because gangs of mischievous creatures called Scraps were running amok, draining colour from the world and interrupting a theatre play. The curtain was down and the people were hiding in their homes. It was a disaster. Someone had to stop the Scraps, or the show simply wouldn't go on.

Luckily, I was able to help Iota and the man by pressing my fingers against the PS Vita's rear touch pad, and burst them through the paper floor. I was then able to slide them around to topple the Scraps' cardboard towers and send them packing. With the bad guys smooshed and colour restored to the world, the theatre was open for business once more. Iota ran inside.

The path to Wassail Orchard lay beyond the stage, but first, Iota simply had to give a family of wandering gophers a big old hug to let them know they were no longer in danger.

They were so happy in fact, that they let Iota throw them through basketball hoops in exchange for Confetti, which is Valleyfold's currency. I used it to redecorate Iota's face and put a bee in his bonnet. I also gave him a snazzy tie because he means business. What do you think? Was it an improvement?

Looking sharp, Iota continued on his merry way and entered Wassail Orchard where he was dismayed to find that a great drumming ritual was being interrupted by Scraps. The chief didn't look too happy, neither did his squirrel chum. Something had to be done.

Cheer up fellas, help is on the way. The chief told Iota that he'd be able to ascend the orchard's many hills by bouncing on drums. All he had to do was stand on them while I tapped the Vita's rear touch pad to send him flying into the air. In fact, anything that could be manipulated with the back of the device was painted like this.

Simple no? There were a lot of drums like this in the orchard. Just look how high up we got. Be careful if you're afraid of heights now.

Scary huh? Well, Iota bucked up his courage and made the climb. At the top of the cliff we came across another squirrel who had lost his crown. Using Tearaway's creation kit I grabbed a piece of yellow paper and drew a crown shape. I then used the scissor tool to automatically cut it out. Then, I was free to select other wild colours to make jewels and stick them down. Once the crown looked shiny enough, I approved it and stuck it down on the furry monarch's forehead. He was delighted.

Even though the squirrel king was only a foot tall, it was the first time Iota had met royalty, so he simply had to get in the shot. Smile!

Iota used his bouncing technique to climb high above the trees, defeating Scraps as he went. He learned that the trick to sending the blighters packing was to wait for them to attack and then move out of the way at the last moment. He then picked them up and threw them around like a used bus ticket, causing them to explode in a shower of streamers. Pressing on, he came across this mysterious cylinder of power.

There was nothing powerful about it at all. I just didn't have the heart to upset Iota. Using bounce pads, he was able to stand on top of the object. I then burst a finger under the ground and rolled it to create a makeshift bridge while Iota ran on it like a treadmill. It took great coordination between my fingers and the Vita's left stick, but we made it to the other-side unharmed. We found another gang of gophers at the top of the hill.

They didn't believe that I was helping Iota from the skies above, so they asked for photographic evidence. I pulled my most helpful face and snapped a photo. It was love at first sight, as you can see. After defeating all of the Scraps and restoring music to the orchard, Iota ran across some DJ decks while I scratched them with my finger to help him along his way.

My face in the sun was getting closer, but our journey wasn't over just yet. Iota knew he'd have to reach the top of that mountain in the distance in order to get high enough. Lucky for him, he was taught how to jump on his own. Take that height! He then hopped on a cable car and rode it down into a new area.

Once there, Iota raised a tent. Rumour has it that while these shelters look quite flimsy, they can withstand anything, even a pair of scissors. In Valleyfold, tents act as checkpoints for travellers who want to take a break from all their adventuring and pick up their journey another day. Once he was well-rested, Iota carried on and ran into an interesting predicament.

We saw two farmers chatting. One of them explained that his friend's pig wasn't cute enough to be friends with his own pig. The animal was clearly upset. It was heart-breaking. But with a little paper-craft magic we were able to give him a pair of massive, glassy eyes and just like that, he won best in show. Huzzah for the pig!

He was so happy with his new award that he let Iota ride on his back to the next area. We sprinted along lovely grassy fields, smashing through crates of Confetti and tackling Scraps that burst forth from the undergrowth. Nothing could stop the dream team. It was a huge step for paper-pig relations, but the treaty was cut short as we reached the end of the trail.

The next location was huge. It was filled with Confetti, a carousel and plenty of hidden goodies. We even saw an elk walking around. Fancy that!

The base of the mountain lay through this rocky cave, but steam from the waterfall and a gang of angry crows were blocking the path. There used to be a scarecrow here, but its head had fallen off. We could have just scrunched up a paper ball and glued eyes to it, but as luck would have it, Valleyfold crows are only afraid of the freshest, most orange pumpkins in the land. We'd have to work together to grab one from the nearby barn.

As we Iota approached the barn something started to smell. It was a little bit like bad feet, but everyone knows that paper-people don't have sweat glands. They'd get all soggy if they did. What on earth could be causing that horrible pong? We stepped inside for a closer look.

Peeeee-yeeeew! Smelly cheese ahoy! Luckily, this little mouse was allergic to the stuff so he asked us to use Iota's new rolling attack – just like Samus in Metroid – to smash the cheese to pieces. He thanked us with a big present full of Confetti that I pulled open using the Vita's front screen. Together we worked our way through the barn to find a fresh pumpkin head, but all we found were these new Scraps.

Lucky for Iota, those spindly legs could be destroyed easily with a simple roll attack. Once they were defeated we pressed on. Iota then hurled acorns into scales to lower platforms, and I even helped him by winding up the barn's milling engine with my fingers. The machinery sprung to life and conveyor belts made getting around easy. However, we got stuck in a dead end, but thankfully those mice had chewed holes in everything big enough for Iota to roll under. Thanks guys!

At the top of the barn we found a pumpkin. I used the art suite to glue a pair of scary eyes and a mouth to the front. We then took it outside. Those crows didn't know what was about to hit them.

Raaaaaaaaawr! I roared into the PS Vita's microphone and using Valleyfold's sound-magic my voice was transferred into the pumpkin head. Iota plonked it on the body and the scarecrow frightened all of the crows off. Iota thanked the chap and strolled through the cave to the mountain's base.

It was so high. Iota wasn't sure how he was ever going to carry his message to the summit, but using the Vita's front screen I was able to fold objects with my fingers to make ramps. In fact, anything painted with a finger print design could be used to help him on his way.

Just like this see? Using this new skill we crossed big folding towers and perilous walkways. We even uncovered a few secrets tucked away behind walls.

Hello in there?

I even helped Iota clear away some yucky cow-webs. Luckily there were no spiders around. In fact, do they even eat paper? Iota didn't stick around long enough to find out. We eventually encountered another elk, but this time he was plain white. He was in danger of being camouflaged by the snow too well. We didn't want him to be come invisible to his friends, so we helped him out using the Vita's camera. I snapped a photo of the nearest plushie toy to hand and in a flash the same pattern appeared on our new friend.

The pattern worked so well that all of the elk's friends started copying his style. It didn't take long for Iota to set a new fashion trend in the mountain, and full of confidence he continued his ascent. It wouldn't be long now. We also helped out the local tribes by designing them a new banner. For some reason we went with a person being stung by bees. It was Iota's idea, I promise. We even offered to jazz up the falling snowflakes in a hot pink color. The tribe loved it.

With one last final ounce of strength, Iota reached the top of the mountain. He had defeated many Scraps along the way, solved puzzles and worked with me to clear the path. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. In fact, Iota was making new friends everywhere, so they had set up a catapult to help him reach the sun. Would it work? Would Iota successfully deliver his message into our world? That's a story for another time.

I've thoroughly enjoyed helping Iota on his quest so far, and I think that's because art is powerful. It lets us take something simple like a plain piece of white paper and make magic. That single sheet can become any number of things. Using that premise Media Molecule has created something that, while quite easy and perhaps targeted at younger players, also applies to the young at heart.

It'll be interesting to see if the challenge ramps up much beyond the stages I've played, and to see how wild the studio's imagination has run. For now though, I'm suitably charmed and eager to continue my trip into Valleyfold. I hope you've enjoyed looking at my snaps so far.

Tearaway releases on PS Vita November 22.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this article, Sony sent Dave a download code for Tearaway's latest preview build. All images were taken with the in-game camera.

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