Review: Tengami – An Adventure in a Japanese Pop-Up Book

Tengami, a puzzle/adventure game, was an official selection for Sense of Wonder Night 2012, a finalist at IndieCade 2012, on the shortlist at Develop Showcase 2013, and was a 2014 SXSW Gaming Awards Finalist.

Watch the trailer:

Plot

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Tengami is an atmospheric adventure game, full of wonder and mystery, set in Japan of ancient dark fairy tales. You explore a beautifully crafted pop-up book world, with an art style inspired by traditional Japanese arts and crafts. Flip, fold, slide, and pull parts of the world to solve puzzles and discover secrets.”

At the beginning of the game, you open the pop-up book and quickly discover that dreams (yours, or maybe everyone’s) are dying. You’re sleeping underneath a dead tree, and your task is to find cherry blossoms to revitalize the tree (and thus the dreams). The plot is thin, but it’s not especially important. I thought it was interesting that the character design is androgynous; you could be playing a man or a woman.

Graphics and Sound

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Tengami really does look like an intricate pop-up book. Everything is 2D, and when your character turns they become a line for a brief moment. It does absolutely wonderful things with color that suggest lighting, there’s steam coming off water in the caves, you create tiny ripples in the water with your taps – in short, it’s is gorgeous. Everything is quite detailed, as you can see from the picture above; that house has multiple layers and depths. Manipulating the pages and pull-tabs is smooth.

The beautifully ethereal music was composed by David Wise (Donkey Kong Country series, Diddy Kong Racing, and Starfox Adventures) and contributes to the overall relaxing atmosphere of the game. You can play in a multitude of languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, Danish, Swedish and Turkish. There’s very minimal writing, but it’s still nice that what writing there is has been made accessible. There is no voice acting, which I think is a plus for the atmosphere.

Gameplay

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You can do everything in Tengami with just one finger, through tapping. The puzzles are logical, and challenging enough that I felt smart when I solved something, but I never wanted to pull my hair out (I did look at a walkthrough a couple times, however – a few of the puzzles are obtuse). Something I really appreciated was how often the environments changed; every section managed to have a different feel. Some puzzle mechanics do repeat, however, which was a little disappointing. It was always fun to find new aspects of the environment to manipulate to solve the puzzles and move on in the book; it’s a very tactile experience.

Final Thoughts

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Tengami is a gorgeous, artistic, relaxing puzzle game that’s worth it based on the art alone. If you’re not a fan of “art games,” you’ll probably want to look elsewhere; the artistry is the most important aspect of the game, and the puzzles are a means to propel you to the end. It’s also quite short for $5, which you might want to take into account; I finished in about an hour and a half.

Score: A-

Get Tengami on the App Store here for $4.99. It requires iOS 7.0 or later, is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and is optimized for iPhone 5. Visit the official website, like them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and subscribe on YouTube. The game will be available in the future for the Wii U, Windows, and Mac.

[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]

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