Torn Away is a poetic and unfortunately very timely look on war through the eyes of a child. Set during World War 2, it places you in the shoes of ten-year-old Asya, a Soviet girl that escaped her fate of becoming a labor camp worker and is now facing the greatest battle of all – crossing Germany and Poland to return to her family. She doesn’t fight, but she can sneak and hide in this touching side-scrolling adventure that mixes stealth, platformer, puzzles, and cinematic first-person segments.
This War of Mitten
With a deep focus on narrative while taking you into this melancholic and desperate setting that feels all too real, Torn Away is more about telling a story where you are leading Asya and less about trials that test your skills to the limit. While there are challenges that may take you some time to accomplish, the tale often progresses in a smooth and captivating way.
Asya is not alone, contrary to expectations. Or perhaps she is, because her only companion is the always trustworthy Comrade Mitten which, as the name implies, is the single glove that she uses to shelter her right hand from the heavy snow. Serving both as a helping hand and a clever narrative device, Mitten will make opportune remarks and occasionally point you in the right direction for some puzzles.
Speaking of puzzles, especially those that unfold in first person view, the diversity is quite enjoyable, they are often very creative, and you almost feel immersed in a VR-lite game. You must perform motions as if you’re there, pulling drawers, pouring coffee, shaking wood planks to set them loose, and a myriad of other actions that really place you inside the game.
Torn Away mixes these clever first-person puzzles with side-scrolling storytelling, often with a nice balance of urgency and nervousness to the sections. Sometimes you must make a run for it as German soldiers mercilessly shoot at you, trying not to trip on the treacherous snow; other times you must sneak your way behind rocks, bushes, or crates to escape the guards’ flashlights. There’s always something to look forward to, but as the theme implies, there will be some harsh shocks along the way.
Rendering the atrocities of war through bleak snowstorms but also using comfy spaces such as an abandoned cabin with a fireplace and a rocking chair, Torn Away brings a very personal touch. It’s 3D but with a 2D feel to most of the side-scrolling sections, and the grainy appearance, often supported by some terrific lighting work, makes for some locations that look better the more time you take to let the details sink in. Asya’s animation could be more fluid in some respects such as running, or how she chains the movement from walking to climbing, but overall, it’s great visual work. Audio is also of high quality, with very immersive Russian voiceover for Mitten – it is recommended to choose this due to the origins of the main character, but there’s English as well.
My major complaint would be Asya’s lack of ability to run indoors. Some interiors will have you exploring the place back and forth, but you can only do this by slowly walking, so it can become unnerving if you can’t find an item or trigger that you need to progress.
Army of Two
Torn Away is a heartfelt and gritty look at the horrors of World War 2. This is a successful blend of genres that will keep you on your toes, hiding the brutality and horrifying nature of its subject behind a cartoony look that overflows with personality. It will deeply touch you and make you think about this dark period of our history, but you won’t regret following Asya in her memorable journey back home.
- A deeply touching historical setting and storyline
- Interesting puzzles and mechanics
- Art style chockful of identity
- Asya’s animations aren’t always the best