Has there ever been a developer you want to love, but can’t simply because its games were not for you? For me, that team was Media Molecule. For the longest time, I was able to appreciate the LittleBigPlanet series from a distance, but found the act of playing it less than enjoyable. It allowed players to express their creativity in remarkable ways, leading to some entertaining user-created content, but it ultimately wasn’t for me. Recently, it released its first Vita title, Tearaway. LittleBigPlanet demonstrated some of Media Molecule’s undeniably charming ambitions, but Tearaway feels full to the brim with its specific brand of creativity.
I’ve covered many reasons why Tearaway is a wonderful experience in my review, but there’s more to be said about it. This is especially true coming from someone who couldn’t muster the same enthusiasm for Media Molecule’s past works as most people seem to. What makes Tearaway special? In terms of pure mechanics, it doesn’t rely too much on one single thing. There is platforming, combat, Vita-specific puzzles, plenty of creative expression and even some light adventure game elements. It tells a story, but the story itself isn’t about the hero’s journey; it’s about crafting a world to call your own.
You could speed through Tearaway, only completing the most basic tasks assigned to you and be done with it in a handful of hours. It’s a fairly linear game, with mostly-simplistic roadblocks to overcome. It’s not about that, though. If you take the time to explore, to add to an already rich and detailed world, you’ll understand exactly what makes Tearaway such a success. It provides you with a way to express yourself without making the game entirely about doing so, which is where LittleBigPlanet stumbled, at least for me.
In LBP, it’s all about creating your own levels, objects to fill said levels and challenges for other players to overcome. The fun of that game is creating everything yourself; at least that’s how it was always advertised. There is plenty of game for you if you’re not interested in attempted to create something of your own, but the awful jumping physics make it less enjoyable than most platformers. So, in the end, you have to make your own fun, because relying on the game to do it for you or provide you with that fun only leave you cold. Some enjoy it, but nothing about the experience struck me as particularly enjoyable.
Tearaway establishes the foundation for you right away. It gives you the tools and makes them easy to understand, as well as pushing you toward being creative without forcing you to do so. It establishes its rules early on, but never attempts to beat you over the head with them. It eases you into a game with plenty of potential to be inventive, but only requires the bare minimum. A lot of the talent comes from the folks at Media Molecule themselves, who finally have a chance to fully demonstrate their abilities as a studio while still allowing the player to undertake the role of stamping this already well-crafted world with their own personality.
While I appreciate games that allow you to create your own levels, characters and worlds, the ones that allow you to add your own personality on an already-established world are the best. If it’s an online game, like an MMO for example, I want people to visit some part of the world and say, “Andrew was here.” Don’t ask me to create something from scratch or using some tools; just give me enough to make something I didn’t actually create my own. There’s enough room for both experiences, isn’t there?
Not every game can be (or should be) Tearaway, but Media Molecule provided me with an exciting look into its world while allowing me to add something of my own to the mix. It’s both a companion piece to LittleBigPlanet and also a stark contrast. It provided a middle-ground between full creative expression and well-established game world that I rarely see, and it’s an experience I won’t soon forget.