Published on March 25th, 2013 | by Darik Kirschman3
Exploring the storybook world of Tengami
PAX East is something of a stressful event. Meetings and panels located on opposite sides of the convention center, loud noises, tons of things to see and not nearly enough hours to see them all. Amidst this chaos, sometimes a game stands out that sucks you in so dramatically that all the stress and craziness of the weekend melts away. For me, Nyamyam’s Tengami was such a title.
From the moment I approached their game at the Indie MEGABOOTH, the game’s visually arresting art style — evocative of Edo period Japanese tapestries mixed with the pop-up storybooks of my childhood — immediately pulled me in. Jennifer Schneidereit, Tengami‘s game designer, spoke about how her experiences living in Japan and being immersed in the culture colored her ideas of Tengami. The result is something very unique, especially in the independent development scene.
The game is a relaxed, point-and-click adventure title for iOS (and eventually PC and Mac) filled with puzzles, beautiful scenery and dark secrets. Led by a wonderful, ethereal soundtrack composed by David Wise of Donkey Kong Country fame, the player moves a young Japanese man throughout the world — one of fairy tales, magic and enchantments — and interacts with it as a pop-up book come to life. Controls are require only a single finger to play: double tap to stroll around the Japanese countryside and, when it’s possible, simply drag a corner to unfurl the next “page” of the story. While playing, I almost always had a smile on my face. This is a game that prides itself on immersion and beauty, delivering both in spades, while cleverly realizing extraneous controls or text would only hinder the experience. It was somewhat reminiscent of thatgamecompany’s magnum opus, Journey, in terms of pacing and what it wants to achieve. I get the sense that Schneidereit and Nyamyam are hoping to create a deep sense of emotional connection between the player and Tengami.
The main puzzle I encountered while playing one of the two available demos was challenging, without being obtuse. In order to scale a small hill, I had to flip through various scenery changes, shaping the environment in certain ways, such as adding a flight of stairs. Each change was brought on by dragging a corner of the virtual pop-up book’s page to watch everything unfold — literally. Tengami simply allows the player to experiment at their own leisure, never hand-holding or coddling, which leads to a very pleasurable gaming experience. The sense of achievement upon solving a particularly brain-bending puzzle is fantastic and helps drive the audience to continue on. The emotional and simply conveyed narrative also motivate the player to keep moving forward, in order to understand more about the beautiful world that Nyamyam has crafted.
Tengami is a title that fully justifies the iOS market. I’m incredibly grateful that Nyamyam has taken such a bold step forward with the platform. If the demo was any indication, Tengami will be an absolute joy to play, ushering players on a beautifully crafted journey filled with magic and wonder. It doesn’t hurt that the game is quite the looker! It’s been a long time since I’ve been so thoroughly entranced by a video game and, in all the years since the App Store’s debut, I’ve never felt so drawn to an iOS title. Everything’s come together in a wonderful marriage of art style and engaging, yet soothing gameplay. Tengami will pop-up on iOS devices this summer — hopefully to the fanfare as it so rightfully deserves.