The PS4 drew in the big crowds, but this charming little Vita game tucked away in the corner of Sony’s booth might just be the best playable game that Sony brought to the show.
While I was playing the Tearaway demo at Sony’s booth, the guy playing the demo station next to me started to talking to the Sony rep nearby.
“I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do here.”
The Sony rep looked over and pointed to the back of the Vita. “You’re supposed to control that part by moving your fingers against the Vita’s back touch panel.”
“Oh! Wow, I forgot that the Vita even had that thing back there.”
Normally I would’ve laughed at the guy for being such a “noob,” but I couldn’t hold it against him: the Vita is a cool piece of hardware, but very few games released for it so far have actually taken advantage of its unique features, so I couldn’t blame the guy for forgetting that the rear touch panel was there. Most developers seem to have forgotten that it exists as well, after all.
The developers at Media Molecule, the creators of the popular LittleBig Planet franchise, haven’t forgotten about the Vita’s rear touch panel. Or its touch screen. In fact, Tearaway doesn’t just use these features, it actually figures out a way to use them well without seeming like a gimmick or being annoying, something that no other Vita game has managed to do (I’m looking at you, Assassin’s Creed III Liberation.)
When you start playing Tearaway, your character can’t do anything besides run around. Whenever you tap the Vita’s rear touch panel with your finger, it creates a bump in the game’s papercraft-looking world, almost as if you were poking your finger through the game’s construction paper landscapes. Tapping the back of the Vita while your character is standing on a drum-like surface will propel your character skyward, and for most of the demo, this was the only way you could jump over gaps and obstacles.
The game also makes extensive use of the Vita’s touch screen as well: there are parts where you’ll need to grab onto a piece of Tearaway’s paper world and pull it back like the pages of a book, or manipulate an object with your right hand while your move your character with the left — for instance, there were a number of spinning vinyl records in the stage I played, and as the records spun, they caused a nearby platform to move back and forth, too fast for me to jump on it. By holding down the record with my finger, I caused it to move slower, which made the platform also move at a pace that allowed it to be crossed.
The Sony rep I talked to about Tearaway said that the final game will also feature sections that require you to use the Vita’s motion sensor, microphone, and camera — obviously, since E3 is a loud, crowded place, they left these parts out of the demo since people wouldn’t really be able to play them properly here anyway.
Tearaway’s innovative features and charming presentation makes it seem like the Vita “killer-app” that the system should have launched with last year — Still, it’s better late than never, and Vita owners should definitely pick up Tearaway when it’s released this October.