Do you remember games like Pac-Man or Space Invaders, where it was all about being fast, flashy, and slick? Today, video games have the opportunity to do much more than allow players to compete for a high score. Instead of a being a fast-paced game, new Android Puzzle game Tengami relies on its unique art style, based around the conceit of navigating puzzles inside of a Japanese pop-up book.
The controls in Tengami are very simple. Using the touch screen of your device, you double-tap the spot where you want to go. Your avatar, a Japanese samurai-esque character, moves to that spot. As you progress through the game, you’ll notice glowing points littered around the screen. Swiping these parts of the screen reveal a pop-up part of the level, either revealing a hidden area or unlocking doors. It’s nice to see the gameplay elements fit Tengami’s pop-up theme, adding much-needed depth to a nearly wordless story.
The game tries to throw tricks at the player by including a number of puzzles. One in particular has you turning over walls to reveal staircases, where they must form a path by swiping sections of the background up and down. Other puzzles involve locating Japanese kanji in order to unlock a box that contains treasure. The game’s puzzles are never too difficult, with the majority consisting of blindly swiping around or rotating objects until the player finds a path to progress. While some of the staircase puzzles are tricky, they really don’t take longer than five or ten minutes after trial and error. It’s unfortunate that Tengami fails to present a real challenge, yet the real focus of the game lies in its atmosphere.
The visuals of the game are by far Tengami’s most impressive aspect. The paper-cut graphics are as charming as they are beautiful, and the scenery flows like a painting in motion. A melodic soundtrack accompanies the picturesque scenery, creating a harmonious, immersive experience. Slowly but surely, you’ll be drawn into this world, and once you pick it up you won’t be able to put the game down until it’s done.
Even with its gorgeous style, Tengami has some setbacks. The first issue is that the avatar that the player controls walks very slowly. At times, it can be very frustrating when you just can’t figure out what to do, and you’re required to slowly walk back to the other side of the stage, count a number of trees or objects, swipe a few spots, and wait until they slowly return to where they need to go. After a while, the process makes the gameplay much more frustrating than fun.
Most of the time spent in the game seems to come from walking, rather than solving puzzles, leading to another unfortunate fault of Tengami, the length. While the game is gorgeous to look at, it is also quite short. The level design is mostly linear and many puzzles can be completed in minutes. Finally, there is zero replay value. Once the credits roll, the player is simply brought back to the title screen to see “New Game.”
Tengami is a visual masterpiece with some puzzles thrown in here and there. One must imagine that a game like Tengami was not designed to be like Pac-Man or Galaga, instead using art and atmosphere to evoke a unique gameplay experience. If you love the way this game looks, and are interested in the visual potential of game design, then Tengami could be for you. But for most of us, Tengami just isn’t worth the money. For this reviewer in particular, this pop-up book falls a little flat.
Is it Hardcore?
The game is visually one of the best I’ve ever seen, but ultimately falls short due to the lack of difficulty and length.