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Tengami Review

Refreshing Pop-Up Puzzles With A Few Hiccups
by Tim Turi on Feb 20, 2014 at 11:23 AM
Reviewed on iOS
Also on Wii U, PC
Publisher Nyamyam
Developer Nyamyam
Rating 4+

Nyamyam’s new offering folds a pop-up book world together with exploration and subtle puzzles. If only it played as good as it looked; I like the gorgeous visuals and puzzle variety, but they are held back by tedium and iffy design.

The construction paper settings are colorful and beautiful. These carefully crafted structures spring into existence as players swipe their hand across the touchscreen on the iPhone or iPad, much like turning the page of a book. Locales vary from serene woods with trickling paper waterfalls to a lighthouse standing high above the seashore. Each turn of the page is an exciting revelation, providing new areas to wander and puzzles to solve.

I enjoyed slowly soaking in the pretty scenery near the outset, but the main character’s ponderous walking speed gradually wore on me. While players interact with certain sliding elements of the world directly, the protagonist is controlled by double tapping on where you want him to walk. Nyamyam deserves kudos for his reliable pathfinding abilities, but his plodding pace is especially annoying when backtracking through environments for puzzle clues. Part of Tengami’s appeal is its relaxed nature, but moving at a snail’s pace you’re already struggling with a puzzle can be a drag. 

Tengami’s puzzles are tests of intelligence and observation, communicated with vague environmental clues rather than spelled out objectives. Players might have to drag flames across a series of bonfires or find clues for a safe combination between the paper folds, for example. I don’t want to spoil any puzzles for potential players, but these head-scratchers provide a satisfying challenge and tasty eureka moments (save for a few duds). The aforementioned misfires include an unclear bell-ringing puzzle I solved by dumb luck and an aggravating symbol scavenger hunt.

Depending on how often puzzles stump you, Tengami can be completed in a few hours. I enjoyed my time with the game when I was making steady progress and taking in the wonderful ambient soundtrack by David Wise (Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye). It’s a beautiful, original concept that falls just shy of something special.

Note: Tengami launches on Wii U and PC later this year.

Explore, solve puzzles, and flip pages in a Japanese pop-up book
Everything from the calming sea to ornate houses look like they’re built with folded construction paper. It’s a beautiful effect
A soothing, versatile ambient soundtrack by David Wise of Donkey Kong Country fame
Turning pages to reveal new pop-up structures and peeking between the nooks and crannies feels natural
The aesthetic is captivating, but the character’s sluggish walking speed and overly cryptic puzzle hints hold back its true potential

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