Polygon's Games of the Year 2013 #10: Tearaway

Tearaway plays like it's too good to be true. It feels like a daydream — fragile and unreal, that splash of technicolor playing on the underside of your eyeballs that isn't quite reality. But nothing about Tearaway is fragile, and everything about it is very much real. We would go so far as to say the little world inside your Vita screen is one of the most real places you'll go in gaming this year.

It's almost crazy that a video game can build its success on creating a world out of paper, a form that requires no cables or controllers to speak of, at least in the real world. But Tearaway takes that idea of playing with paper and makes every tap, swipe and button press mean something to that medium. Every inch of the Vita is utilized, down to the camera to take silly selfies of yourself in the sun (which, if you played Tearaway correctly, you did often).

And not only does Media Molecule's commitment to the paper idea stretch across mechanics and glossy landscapes, but it's in the audio as well. There is something inherently satisfying about hearing paper presents pop open, folds rip and scraps flutter in a gentle breeze. That rustling papery noise, combined with watching protagonists Iota or Atoi traipse through this gorgeous folded together world, is comforting.

Otherwise unremarkable mechanics are used in a remarkable space, and coupled with players' godlike abilities to manipulate the world for their adorable paper companions it feels like uncharted territory. Not to mention the game's set of creation tools are deeply satisfying to tinker with; putting crazy eyes on your character and decorating them with stars, or creating your own pieces and sticking them to your hero is just plain fun.

Ultimately all video games depend on player involvement, but in Tearaway the player's involvement is absolute. You move the world, you create things within it, you guide your little messenger and decorate them and their environment and take photos and hunt for collectible decorations — everything hinges on you. Tearaway inhabitants even refer to you as "You," the supreme you, the world's mover and shaker. Media Molecule lets players own Tearaway in a way most games don't — Tearaway lets you in, and lets you run free.

Tearaway makes you feel like you're in the middle of a fresh-out-of-the-dryer blanket burrito. The game's single idea, its singular devotion to crafting a world of paper, permeates every movement, every moment you play. There is no deviation, and it is this unwavering immersion that kept me glued to my screen. If a game is so beautiful, both in function and form, that it keeps you up at night and makes you late for appointments — then that is a game that has been made right.

In the world of big guns and QTEs, Tearaway is an excellent reminder that beautiful, unique things can be wrapped in the smallest of parcels. It's also the game that best demonstrates what the Vita is capable of, demonstrating a remarkable mastery of the system. Media Molecule has figured out how to create warm fuzzies in game form, making Tearaway a game not just for your fingers and eyeballs, but for your heart.

Polygon's 2013 Games of the YearMore

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