Tearaway Unfolded: Preview

Unfolded’s not quite a remake, but nor is it a sequel, and that’s far from the only unconventional thing about Tearaway’s translation to PS4. Media Molecule certainly has a few unusual ideas about how to use all the extra horsepower the console offers over Vita. “We’ve got a few levels that have infinite cauliflowers being chucked around,” says creative lead Rex Crowle, before explaining how the vegetable has fallen out of favour. “They’re hard to buy these days,” he says sadly. “We’re trying to bring them back.”

That’s entirely in keeping with Tearaway’s plucky underdog spirit. Adored by critics but widely overlooked, this inventive papercraft platformer was an ode to the unfashionable, as much a love letter to its host hardware as to the material its world was built from. It’s strange, then, to see it being brought to another platform, particularly when Crowle admits “we really wanted it to feel almost like Tearaway had always been inside of the Vita, and somehow it was just revealed to you when the game launched”.


Unfolded came to be after Media Molecule saw its game on the biggest of big screens on Sony’s stage at E3. The boldness of the art held up, and the subtle details and environmental animations were easier to discern across a larger canvas. So the studio knew that visually Tearaway would shine  on a TV screen, but how would the game itself and, perhaps more pertinently, its control scheme translate?

Rather than remapping features, Crowle was keen to take a fresh approach. At first, he invited his team to treat DualShock 4 not as a videogame controller, but as an alien artefact. “Imagine you just found it and [were] trying to investigate it, and work out what it’s for, and you don't necessarily have all the baggage of what it’s supposed to be used for.”

Crowle says it was equally crucial for players to still feel they were able to influence the game world without being able to directly push their fingers into it, which presented a challenge. Using the DualShock 4 touchpad as a touchscreen replacement made no sense, given the extra degree of separation between the player’s digits and the game world, yet the notion of paper moving and transforming in the style of a popup book was considered an essential part of the equation.

The trick to solving this particular dilemma, Crowle explains, was to honestly address the hardware differences and acknowledge the space between the player and the TV screen. “There is [now] a gulf between the character in the world and you outside it, and we’ve played with that a little more,” he says. “That’s where one of the core mechanics comes from the idea that the messenger can pick up items and then throw them out of the game for you to catch in your controller. But obviously, as the game goes on, we want to give that feeling that the distance between the two of you is slowly decreasing, that you’re getting closer.”

After several early ‘feature jams’, the new wind mechanic was born. You can use the controller’s touchpad to send powerful gusts into the world, parting seas and sending Atoi or Iota the game’s returning pair of envelope-headed player characters flying through the air. You’ll be passing over the same environments as before, but they’ve been expanded significantly and offer greater rewards to tempt you from the beaten track.

Elsewhere, the controller’s light bar can be shone into the world, enabling you to illuminate and investigate darkened areas and to reveal pathways for your messenger to traverse. And yet with the player’s almost deific presence in mind, it’s much more than just a torch. “There’s nothing very heavenly about a giant Maglite,” Crowle admits. “I wanted to play up the awe of the world, like in a religious painting where you see the god rays streaming down.” Though he’s reluctant to reveal all the ways in which the mechanic will be used, it’s clear that the game’s creatures are set to spend a little  more time in the spotlight. Some will be terrified by your godlike influence, while others will relish their chance to show off.
 “We wanted to push the comedy element further to bring out more personality”
Meanwhile, the Scraps, Tearaway's impish antagonists, can be hypnotised with the light and then dragged around the screen. It’s part of a more playful, slapstick approach to the game’s already mild combat that emphasises the reactions of your enemies. “We didn't want to suddenly stick in an Arkham Asylum style combat system,” Crowle says, “[but] we wanted to push the comedy element further to bring out more personality in both the characters you’re dealing with and the powers you’re using on them. So with the Scraps, you can cause a lot more mayhem in their plans, rather than just having to run around picking them up and throwing them off cliffs.”

 What  Tearaway  loses in intimacy in the translation to Sony’s home console, it looks to more than compensate for in character and scope, taking a markedly different route on its way to a familiar destination. It’s certainly more than just a simple port, with Crowle and his team evidently keen to make Atoi  and Iota feel as much at home within your TV set as they ever were inside a Vita.

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