What always surprises me when I play independent games is how creative they are. They aren’t always a win, but every now and again you come across a game that looks and feels like a game is an adventure and something so completely different from the norm. Games like Limbo, Brothers and Journey are perfect examples. Is Tengami worthy of similar praise?
The opening scene of the game is an empty room with table at the front. On the table sits a book, a book that serves as the vessel for the story. As the book opens, the game begins. However, this isn’t a written book, it’s a pop-up book and that’s pretty much what the game looks like – pop-ups. You play an unnamed man who is brought back from death after the cherry blossom tree he lay under lost all its flowers. It’s his duty to collect the three flowers and restore the tree to its rightful glory.
I’ll admit, it’s a little cheesy, but your journey is actually quite the opposite. You’ll face various challenges (though not ‘challenging’), solve puzzles and traverse various landscapes to find the three missing cherry blossoms. Each section moves onto the next like a new page from a book, exactly what you’d expect from a pop-up book game. Some parts of the screen can be moved, usually platfoms to help you navigate the screen, as well as various objects in order for you to solve a puzzle. Everything blends in really nicely and fits the visual aesthetic of the game.
The style of the game is one of the highlights of the game. It’s remarkable that a game that quite literally looks like moving pictures, can look so real and full of life. What truly brings it to life is the music. The background music and sound is composed wonderfully and matches the game almost perfectly.
In keeping with the theme of turning pages and manipulating the objects on the screen, the entire game is played using the touchpad section of the gamepad, giving you the feeling that you’re guiding the hero as a third party person, rather than becoming the hero himself. This makes you feel like you’re in the game, but merely as a reader and not another character. You control the characters much like you’d control a character in a point and click adventure. Simply click anywhere on the ground and he will walk to that spot. If you see any lit-up areas it means you can perform an action. This usually means turning a page, altering the atmosphere (in one of the puzzles), moving to the next section of the stage, or accessing a new puzzle. Everything is done with a tap, a swish or a flick of the stylus.
While I did enjoy the game, there were a few things that drove me up the wall. Personally the character moves incredibly slowly, and for one of the world’s most impatient people, this was one thing that really made me claw my fingers. I won’t mark it down for it, but just be aware that he moves at his own pace. Secondly, the game is very short and there’s almost no reason for you to play it again. There’s not much in terms of replay value, unless you want to see the journey again. All in all the game is about 2 – 3 hours long. You can finish the game in one sitting if you’d like. There are a few collectibles, but you can find them in your first playthrough. Another minor issue I had were these little aura wave thingies that tell you that you can move a certain object. Sometimes they are hard to notice, especially if you’re not looking for them. The puzzles also aren’t particularly difficult, which is a shame as the idea of some of them were really good.
Tengami is a very creative and unique game. Its use of visuals and music is great, but it does fail in the puzzle areas. The story is a bit simple, but it’s nice to see the lengths the hero has to go to in order to save the cherry blossom tree. There’s also a lovely poem that makes sense of the story and it, too, is beautiful. There’s not much else you can do once you’ve finished it, but if you get the chance to play it, then give it a try.