Over the course of my life, I have been so intrigued by certain games that I acquired a system just to play them. The NES for Super Mario Bros. 2. A PS3 for Little Big Planet. An Xbox One for Fantasia: Music Evolved. A 3DS for Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
And a PS Vita for Tearaway.
I’m a little in love with Media Molecule. They capture a particular brand of whimsy that speaks directly to the squishy parts of my heart. In the Little Big Planet series, there are so many delightful touches it’s baffling.
If it seems like I’m throwing around a lot of pleasant adjectives, it’s because I am. I can’t say enough about Media Molecule.
When I first laid eyes on Sackboy, I thought, well now look at that. Could there be a more adorable character (oh my goodness, I’m turning into Chandler)?
Turns out, yep. There is.
It’s Atoi / Iota.
For those who didn’t get a chance to play Tearaway, you play as a papercraft message: Atoi (if you choose the female version) or Iota (if you choose the male version). The point of the game is to deliver that message to “The You.” In this case, they truly mean you, the player.
(From here on, I will refer to the character simply as Atoi for brevity.)
From the moment you step into the world, the art style is overwhelmingly beautiful. Never have I wished so badly for a game to be visible on a bigger screen (which was why I was beside myself when Tearaway: Unfolded was announced last year for the PS4), and for an art book to be produced.
Getting one wish out of two isn’t a bad ratio.
Over the course of the story (which is terribly inventive), you can customize Atoi with stickers (in reality I am a bit nutty over stickers), and this only adds to the personalization to help connect you to this character.
Her jaunty gait and envelope smile can only serve to cheer you. When you walk past certain elements of the environment (e.g.: flowers, grass), they respond to you. The grass will unfurl. The flowers will lean to you. As someone who already finds great meaning from nature, I found this to be magical. If I could have stepped into that world, I would have in an instant.
Now I know I’m speaking more of the game as a whole rather than Atoi individually, but the experience is seamless. You may be playing in third-papercraft-person, but it’s as though you are there.
There is a scene in the desert that was one of the most beautiful I’ve come across in any game. The papercraft effects are remarkable. It appears as if the sand is shifting in the desert wind, and yet it is all done through paper effects.
As you make your way through this world of intense beauty and marvelous sound (there are those glowing adjectives again!), you interact with other engaging characters. Some you must photograph or design “clothes” for, thus putting your stamp on the game even further. At points, you have to use the camera on the Vita to take your own picture (I wasn’t thrilled to see my weird face plastered all over the world, but hey, a small drawback), which would integrate itself in many ways.
At the conclusion of the game, I was treated to an experience unlike any other. It was a storybook of my own particular experience, set to one of the most moving scores I’ve heard (just thinking about it is getting me choked up). It was such an unexpected experience, delivered in such a deeply whimsical way, it was as though someone reached through this tiny screen and showed me a beautiful childhood memory that I’d forgotten.
It’s the only way I can describe it.
I am in no way ashamed to say I was sobbing at the end. It was a masterpiece of effect by Media Molecule.
Atoi was charming, adorable, whimsical, and to a degree, she was also part of me. I was trying to get this message to myself. And how often does that happen successfully? Getting a message to ourselves?
The experience of the game would never have been the same without Atoi (or Iota), and for that, she remains one of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered.
To anyone who hasn’t played the game, I highly encourage you to look into Tearaway: Unfolded if you have a PS4. I know the game will be slightly different due to the shift in platforms, however I feel confident that the magic of the game will remain.