The lights are on
You may remember pop-up books as fun, simplistic relics from your childhood, but developer Nyamyam is adding a new fold to the formula with its upcoming puzzle game. The Wii U and iOS versions bring the tactile aesthetic to life, letting players turn digital pages and pull on virtual tabs. I played through sections of the game and walked away impressed by the novel experience.
Tengami has an ethno Japanese aesthetic, with cherry blossom trees and oceans with a hand-painted look. The story is subtle and up to interpretation, revolving around a man who resembles an ancient warrior and a tree. The game begins by tapping on a single flower on the tree, which floats down and falls into the protagonist’s hand. An unobtrusive cue pulses on the edge of the iPad 2 screen I was playing on, indicating I should turn swipe as if I were turning the page of a book.
I enter a forest area at nightfall, with wolves prowling the folded paper backgrounds. You walk through the environments by double tapping the screen. The man moves slowly, allowing you to take in the pretty setting. More touch-cues littler the area, indicating you can pull a tab that turns a bush into a staircase. Eventually a group of wolves bar your progress, surrounding you near a large tree decorated with wind chimes. The puzzle is solved by activating the wind chimes in order of tone, or by the sizes of the wolves. It’s a simple puzzle, but things get more complicated as the game goes along.
A more involved puzzle is found later on when the hero is at sea. The protagonist glides through the construction-paper waters, searching for bonfires to light in order to open up a gate. The key to access one of these bonfires is hidden away in a wrecked ship. The key is stored away in a box behind a Kanji-coded lock. One Japanese character is shown clearly on the outside of the ship, and another is written along the side. The other two pieces of the code are cleverly hidden in the folds of the pop-up structures, requiring players to slowly turn the pages to spot them. These hidden symbols are sneaky, but encourage players to take their time playing the game.
Tengami is not for the impatient. The beautiful environments, hidden puzzle clues, and even the walking speed of the protagonist demand players take their time. Move too fast and you’ll miss something crucial. Exploring and interacting with the pretty world is a simple yet meditative experience, and something that should be on your radar. Tengami hits iOS devices this year, with the PC and Wii U versions arriving next spring.
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