With its first birthday just around the corner, we’ve taken a small step back in time to rediscover one of 2015’s best games on mobile and tablet. Developed by UK indie Nyamyam, Tengami is the brainchild of three Rare alumni on their quest to create beautifully crafted titles that are as meaningful as they are fun.
With its striking visuals and tranquil setting, Tengami was quick to garner praise from fans and critics alike, eventually making its way to Android as well as PC, Mac, and even the Wii U. Being just over a couple of hours long, there’s a host of richer, more complex games available elsewhere in the mobile market yet Tengami remains a noteworthy addition while also marking a strong debut from Nyamyam.
One aspect that immediately stands out is the game’s aesthetics. With games like Tearaway tapping into similar artistic influences we’d be strained to call Tengami’s look original. However, that doesn’t take anything away from its gorgeous papercraft backdrops, all inspired by the blissful retreats of rural Japan. There are also some historic themes at play, helping to create a calming sense of isolation as in games like Journey and The Witness. Of course, Tengami’s tranquil aura is galvanised by a soothing soundtrack.
In a way, gameplay is tied to this visual core. Aside from serving up plenty of eye candy for the player, the game’s origami/collage stylings have a practical use in solving Tengami’s puzzles. Although there’s a focus on exploration and simply absorbing your surroundings, there are parts of the world that can be manipulated by swiping away at the touch screen. Quite often, players will need to drag their finger from one side to the other and, in doing so, they can change the landscape entirely. The visual effects used replicate the opening of a pop-up book as trees, mountains, and period structures suddenly spring to life.
The puzzles themselves are actually quite fun even if a handful of them seem too easy. Where some can be solved by simply manipulating the world around you, others require a bit more thinking and maybe even a bit of note-taking. Still, they’re fairly uncomplicated and, more importantly, lean on the game’s stronger visual elements. For example, one puzzle tasks the player with inputting four symbols in order to open a door to the next area. After a few seconds of head-scratching, the penny will drop as they inevitably start to move around the area, tinkering with the pop-up mechanic to spot the symbols
As touched on before, exploration is the second part of the Tengami experience. Although linear with next to no diversions or sidetracks, there is plenty of scenery to soak in as you move from one area to the next in search of a rare pink blossom.
The only issue I see players having with the game is a lack of content. What’s there is fun and enriching though, beyond that, there’s little else on show. Tengami is certainly one of those that you’ll finish and then return to somewhere down the line yet there are no incentives to immediately replay it. Needless to say, some will no doubt be reluctant to pay the price of admission but that hasn’t affected Tengami growing popularity. It’s a game with a strong sense of individuality and one that will court the more sophisticated, art-loving player. That said, Nyamyam leave the door open for anyone wanting to experience this papercraft pilgrimage.