The brutality of war is always an ongoing theme in all kinds of games. Things that can sometimes be forgotten about are the impacts of war on the people among the destruction. But recently games have been coming out that discuss the other aspects of war. Not only the brutality but the different kinds of impacts war causes in people’s families and loved ones. Much like Gerda: A Flame In Winter, Torn Away explores war in a different light. It explores how a child is impacted by her family being taken away from her.
“The story of a child in World War II begins.”
Torn Away begins with Asya, the girl you play as, waking up from her bed to her toy friends, Madame and Arkady, keeping her company. After you explore her room and venture into the rest of the household, you discover your father’s missing mitten and that you’re alone. Asya decides she wants to mend it for him. But not before preparing things for her mother to come home to, as it’s her birthday after all.
After creating a drawing and preparing your mother’s favorite music through some first-person mini-games, you finally get to mend the mitten. With the addition of button eyes, your father’s mitten is now a new toy and comes to life as Comrade Mitten. But this happy moment is short-lived, as suddenly planes are heard outside the home, and before you know it Asya’s home in Stalingrad has been bombed.
This is when the story of a child in World War II truly begins, a moment that was instantly heartbreaking to experience. As Asya was doing something thoughtful, it was taken away from her in seconds. Seeing her so afraid and alone in a near-death experience was hard to watch. I held my breath waiting for the worst to happen. You’ll find yourself constantly wanting Asya to experience something positive throughout her story from this moment forward.
“There is kindness in the world still when times are so cruel.”
Torn Away shows the brutal impact of war, and how it impacts a child, as you experience World War II through Asya’s eyes. It’s a heart-aching game as you want the best for Asya but she keeps getting put through situations that a little girl shouldn’t. In the three years she is on the run she is continuously forced to grow up too quickly.
Despite these darker moments, Torn Away manages to showcase the more human and positive side obscured by World War II’s darkness. When she is going through her journey to find safety, Asya will find herself in some fortunate situations. She will go through so much turmoil, many things you couldn’t imagine, but the kindness of others helps her through some of these tougher moments. The characters you meet remind you that there is still good in the world even when times are so cruel. These sections are a much-needed breath of fresh air for both Asya and the player and give you hope for the rest of her journey.
“Asya gets the happiest ending she can get.”
Torn Away is a game that is only four hours long, but don’t let the shortness of this game deter you as it is full of quality storytelling and gameplay. You can play this game in one sitting, which is how I recommend you play Torn Away, as its story is perfect to experience all at once.
The only downside of Torn Away is that the ending feels unfulfilling even though it makes sense why it ends the way it does. Asya gets the happiest ending she can get, and although you are happy for her, you can’t help but wonder why it ended so abruptly. I felt it was unfulfilling that there was no true happiness for her in the end. Her journey of pain has surely ended, but her hope has slowly been crushed throughout her time running.
Another takeaway is that this game has the option for an English voiceover. However, I felt the best way to experience the story was in the original voiceover, which is Russian with subtitles. This way of experiencing Torn Away is much more authentic and immersive as it makes you feel more connected to the story being told. Initially, it was difficult to play as reading subtitles while simultaneously overcoming obstacles was challenging. But it was easier to maneuver through once you’re in the groove of the game.
“The art style captures the intensity of World War II.”
Torn Away is a side scroller, that incorporates simple but dynamic adventure games and first-person modes that ramp up your experience and the story. The cutscenes are done exceptionally well, and the art style captures the intensity of World War II. The simplicity of it suits everything. Especially in intense moments, it takes you by surprise how such a simple art style can convey such brutal scenes.
The art style expresses the reality of war but also Asya’s imagination. As in moments of despair, she’ll find herself imagining something remarkably positive happen. During this, it’ll be shown through vibrant colors and overly happy moments. These distinctively bright moments, compared to the usual dark themes, are a nice change up through the story. However, much like Asya, the realization that it’s not real leaves you feeling defeated.
“You’ll come across different game modes.”
Asya is trying to find her family as many people in World War II did. Her separation from her parents and her toys leaves her with one companion during her journey: Comrade Mitten. He’ll keep you company as he helps Asya in difficult times, starting conversations with her, reminding her of what her parents taught her, and giving her the courage to get through some scary obstacles. Also, keeping her company in some of the peaceful moments and reminiscing on the good parts of life. He keeps things not so quiet throughout your playthrough and is especially an important part of Asya’s life.
As you venture with Comrade Mitten, you’ll come across different game modes at heightening moments. For example, you’ll switch from a 2D side scroller to a 3D first-person mode, or even solve point-and-click puzzles. The switching of gameplay styles helped alleviate the repetition and I felt it was much needed during this predominantly side-scroller game. Not only does this bring a simple variety of gameplay, but it also helps to deepen Asya’s story by adding an additional layer of determination during her journey.
When in first-person mode, you will also go through obstacles, like trying to maneuver through icy wind in the snow. These sections immediately ramp up the game’s tension greatly, adding a sense of realism to her journey and making you feel more connected to Asya’s story. It also shows just how difficult her journey is as you are experiencing it with her. These are not the only moments you’ll find these types of obstacles, as you’ll also experience them when side-scrolling, like hiding from wolves and guards or breaking down trees to get across gaps.
“An impactful short narrative-focused experience.”
Torn Away is a side-scroller with innovative gameplay-shifting sequences that help tell the heartbreaking story of what war does to a child. It’s about how much determination children have just to be safe with their families. It’s a wonderful game to play for historic buffs but also if you’re looking for an impactful short narrative-focused experience.
Asya’s journey will bring moments of shock but also hope, and more importantly, will show you what’s important during hardship. Much like Gerda: A Flame In Winter, family is everything in this game. This game is definitely for those who aren’t afraid to see the darker side of war.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC; code was provided by the Publisher.
Torn Away Review
Torn Away is a side scroller that incorporates simple but dynamic adventure games and first-person modes to ramp up your experience and elevate the story. It is a four hour game, best played in one go, that takes you on a detailed journey of heartbreak and determination. It shows you the impacts of war on a child, especially on how quickly they must grow up to survive. Torn Away is definitely for those that love history but is also for those who are looking for a strong and emotional narrative.