Tengami, by Nyamyam, is short, sweet, and elegant. Once strictly a mobile game, Tengami was recently rereleased for Nintendo Wii U. In January 2015, it will also be released for Mac and PC. It’s rated E for Everyone.
Tengami begins with the opening of a pop-up book. Inside, there is a small man kneeling at the foot of a cherry tree. Using screen taps, the player guides him through paper-inspired puzzles with the goal of restoring the tree’s missing blossoms.
Along the way, the player encounters wolves, empty houses, wells, tunnels, boats, and rivers. The whole game is slow and thoughtful and emotionally evocative. There is light music playing, but no written or spoken dialogue. A few evocative Haikus are scattered throughout.
Tengami has a lot of great things going for it. As corroborated by Tearaway, paper-folding makes for an excellent game mechanic, especially when it comes to touch screens. Any time in Tengami that involved page-turning was particularly satisfying. Some puzzles required that I flip small sections of the page in the correct order, or that I carefully examine each paper construction as I turned the virtual page. These puzzles ranged from extremely simple to quite tricky.
The key to Tengami, I think, is being in the right mindset. Everything in the game is slow and peaceful, and so if you try to try to play while you’re keyed up, you can expect to get impatient. The little man who serves as your avatar walks very slowly. This gives you plenty of time to soak in the environment, but it can be annoying if you’re attempting to solve a puzzle and have to keep retracing your steps.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Tengami, but I was frustrated that the Wii U version is virtually identical to the mobile version (which I have also played). Yes, I had a lovely HD image of the game’s beautiful art, but because I could only control the main character by tapping the GamePad, I would have to look down constantly. If I could have used the GamePad’s joysticks instead, I would have been able to appreciate the visuals much more. Instead, I was forced to stare at the small screen in my hands—just as if I were playing the game on my iPhone.
Considering the game costs twice as much for the Wii U than in the iTunes store—$9.99 instead of $4.99—it was very disappointing to me that the developers didn’t attempt to incorporate any of the Wii U’s native features. I couldn’t even pause the game by pressing “Start.” Instead, I had to tap the pause icon on the GamePad’s screen.
That said, Tengami still attempts to do something lovely, and I believe that for a certain kind of evening, when you’re winding down before bed, or when you’re nice and relaxed after a hot shower, it could be perfect.
Tengami is the kind of game that I love to love. Its overall tone feels incredibly genuine and non-stereotypical. Pop-up books belong in touch screens, and this game makes that abundantly obvious. But when it comes to the Wii U, the basic mechanics of getting from place to place are lackluster, to say the least. While I think it’s excellent that the Wii U’s touch screen gives it the ability to host mobile games, I also feel that the developers have an obligation to adapt games to their platform appropriately, or to make it clear to consumers when they have not.