Tear­away Un­folded


EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher SCE Devel­oper Media Mol­e­cule For­mat PS4 Re­lease Out now

On Vita, Tear­away achieved the im­pos­si­ble. It made sense of its host hard­ware’s mud­dled fea­ture­set, us­ing touch, tilt and on­board cam­eras in cre­ative ways. It was the game the strug­gling hand­held was cry­ing out for, show­ing the de­sign po­ten­tial in a suite of fea­tures many had writ­ten off as gim­micks. Tear­away and Vita were in­ex­tri­ca­ble.

No longer. Tear­away Un­folded is a strange prospect. Con­sole ports of hand­held games are rare enough, but Media Mol­e­cule has given it­self the task of re­build­ing a game de­signed for a unique mix of hard­ware fea­tures on another, very dif­fer­ent, de­vice. The stu­dio’s so­lu­tion is to move things over where it can, in­vent new ones where it can’t and, else­where, to sort of fudge it.

Take, for ex­am­ple, the use of cam­era. On Vita, since the lens looks up from the palm of your hand, Tear­away can show a close-up of your face in the sky – vi­tal in fos­ter­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the player (re­ferred to as ‘The You’) and the pro­tag­o­nist (Iota if you pick male, or Atoi for fe­male). On PS4, glanc­ing up at the hole in the heav­ens re­veals not the smil­ing face of a benev­o­lent god, but a wide-an­gle, low-res shot of a dis­tant fig­ure with their feet up, as­sum­ing you have a cam­era hooked up at all. Atoi or Iota isn’t form­ing a bond with a liv­ing per­son, but their cof­fee ta­ble.

Touch con­trols are also lack­ing, both within the game world and with­out. The DualShock 4 touch­pad is no match for Vita’s touch­screen when sketch­ing items into life on the cut­ting mat. Our cre­ations on Vita were never per­fect, of course, but that was all part of the charm; here, us­ing a workspace that’s one-fifth the size has you blam­ing the hard­ware in­stead of your un­skilled fin­gers. Sec­ond-screen sup­port (on a smart­phone, tablet or, weirdly, Vita) goes some way to rem­e­dy­ing that, and also lets a sec­ond player plas­ter the scenery with photos and fill the air with cus­tom-made con­fetti. For the solo player, how­ever, switch­ing back and forth takes you out of the game world fur­ther, and the sec­ond-screen con­nec­tion drops af­ter a few min­utes of in­ac­tiv­ity, too, tak­ing your pre­vi­ous cre­ations with it.

The Vita game’s de­li­ciously fourth-wall-break­ing use of the hand­held’s rear touch panel – where a tap on the sys­tem’s un­der­side would see a ren­dered fin­ger burst through the game world’s floor to in­ter­act with it – sim­ply can’t be repli­cated here. Nor can the way you would tap the rear touch panel to beat a drum skin and pro­pel Atoi or Iota sky­wards. Touch­pad presses serve the lat­ter pur­pose in func­tion­al­ity if not emo­tion, but the for­mer me­chanic is gone. To re­place it, Media Mol­e­cule does ex­actly what it did on Vita: finds a way to use a fea­ture other de­vel­op­ers have largely ig­nored.

Yes, it’s the light bar. The de­sign high-wa­ter mark for the PS4 con­troller’s bat­tery-sap­ping glow has, un­til now, been mim­ick­ing a po­lice car’s lights in GTAV. That it has now been sup­planted by serv­ing as the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for Un­folded’s Guid­ing Light (which re­lies on the gy­ros for func­tion) says only that this hard­ware fea­ture has been given a game­play pur­pose at all. Still, it is bril­liant: as well as light­ing the way in dark ar­eas, it’s used for spell­bind­ing en­emy Scraps and suck­er­ing them into walk­ing over sheer drops, restor­ing a dam­aged world to its pa­pery glory, and send­ing NPCs into rap­tures. It’s smart, flex­i­ble and goes some way to restor­ing the bond be­tween your world and the game’s.

So too does the use of the pad’s built-in speaker. While you can, as be­fore, pick up and throw ob­jects within the game world, tilt the DualShock 4 to­wards you and you can fling an en­emy or pro­jec­tile out of the screen and into the con­troller, al­low­ing you to hit tar­gets Atoi and Iota can’t reach. It’s handy in com­bat, and pow­ers some new puzzles, as well as a bizarre game of football be­tween two teams of Scraps, with well­timed throws stun­ning the op­pos­ing team for an easy score. Shake the con­troller be­fore throw­ing, mean­while, and you’ll hear your quarry rat­tling around in­side. There’s even a new use for the touch­pad, de­spite its func­tional sim­i­lar­ity to Vita’s touch­screen. Your swipes cre­ate di­rec­tional gusts of wind, used to ro­tate plat­forms, un­furl makeshift bridges and power flight on the back of a pa­per aero­plane, al­low­ing you to see fa­mil­iar ar­eas from new an­gles, al­beit at high speeds.

This re­veals the prob­lem at Un­folded’s heart: there is enough me­chan­i­cal nov­elty here to power a se­quel, but this is a re­make, and the PS4 game can only suf­fer in com­par­i­son to its bril­liantly re­alised fore­bear. By fo­cus­ing on hard­ware fea­tures, Media Mol­e­cule has also over­looked some of the fun­da­men­tals of turn­ing a hand­held game into a con­sole one. The pro­tag­o­nist is a tiny pres­ence on­screen, mak­ing busy com­bat sec­tions and the late game’s pre­ci­sion plat­form­ing a chore. While 1080p res­o­lu­tion on a big screen does won­ders for this tac­tile pa­per­craft land, the fram­er­ate can strug­gle to keep up. And the cam­era’s a dis­as­ter at times, get­ting stuck be­hind scenery or fram­ing a scene in such a way that two plat­forms with a fa­tal drop in be­tween look like a sin­gle stretch of solid ground.

Yet for all its lit­tle stum­bles on the jour­ney from Vita to PS4, and its odd mix of new ideas and an old world, Un­folded re­tains one of its pro­gen­i­tor’s most vi­tal in­gre­di­ents: buck­ets and buck­ets of charm. This, af­ter all, is still a game in which you de­light a squir­rel with a wonky pa­per crown, and fix the swelling on a pig’s eye be­fore rid­ing it across a field to a love in­ter­est – and now you can also trap a bad­die in your con­troller and tickle it, or snap self­ies while soar­ing through the sky on a pa­per plane. Any­one who can’t fall in love with that lit­tle lot is in need of a new heart. And if you don’t mind it be­ing flat, the wrong colour and a lit­tle out of shape, we’d be only too happy to oblige.

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