It’s very important to point out from the start that Tengami is not your typical video game. In fact I originally had a lot of difficulties deciding whether to give it a low score or not because there is very little gameplay. On the other hand the title never claims to be anything else beside what it is, which is an atmospheric adventure game. Personally, I would describe it more as an interactive pop-up book with minor gaming elements and so with that in mind, let’s get into this review.
The game is set in a traditional style paper pop-up book themed in Japanese art. To avoid ruining any part of the experience, something happens at the beginning of Tengami which gives the main character a purpose to seek out 3 items and return them to their proper place. As you embark on your journey, you\’ll have to solve puzzles using the GamePad’s touchscreen to flip, slide and turn different pieces of the book. Unfortunately you can only use your touchscreen to move your character or control anything in the game. Any interactive piece of the pop-up book will always be lightly highlighted to ensure you\’re not confused with what you can do or just tapping everywhere in a frantic guessing game. This mechanic serves as both a pro and a con to the title. While the player will never have to worry about searching around what to do, it does feel like you\’re simply guiding your paper man from one glowing spot to another. This tends to feel very dull and unchallenging but in the game’s defense it is meant to be a relaxing, stressfree and slow paced game. However watching a paper man traverse a screen at such a slow pace is more boring than relaxing to me.
The game is mainly fragmented into 3 sections, each one offering new atmospheres and puzzles to explore. This does lead to an overall short game, but again the game market’s itself as being an experience to complete in one or two playthroughs. It took me about 2 hours to complete the game, and out of all the puzzles, I found about 2 that were challenging and kind of ingenious. While the game makes no secret of its length, I do wish it would have kept going a bit longer. The experience felt similar to sitting down at a beautiful restaurant and being served a delicious appetizer only to be told that you\’ve just eaten your entire meal as your bill is served.
On the artistic side of things the game’s visual aesthetics are absolutely beautiful to look at. The developers made a fantastic job at creating a peaceful, scenic and relaxing atmosphere via the sounds, music and graphics. As mentioned earlier, the whole game is presented as though you were holding a pop-up book and, at a full 1080p, the visuals really pop. When the pages turn, and the paper art pops open, you can hear the creaks and cracks of the book as though you were flipping a real one. Waterfall scenes are joined by the calm sound of water infinitely falling, and travelling in a boat will serenade you with the back and forth creaking of the wood against the waves. All of this plays to a subtle and soft Japanese inspired soundtrack. While I write this I\’m realizing that setting the GamePad on your night stand and leaving the game running would help any insomniac fall into the world of dreams.
Lastly the game offers a bit of replayability via its 10 hidden Miiverse stamps. Throughout the book, searching the nooks and crannies will reward players with a Japanese themed stamp to use on Miiverse. The ones I did find weren\’t too difficult to locate, some hiding in plain sight if you just walk from one edge of the book’s pages to another. It may not prove much of a challenge, but it is there for completionists and those looking to add a bit more time to their playthrough.
In closing if you\’re looking for a fun and exciting game then look elsewhere, Tengami is for those looking for a deeper spiritual experience. The title is an artistic masterpiece to experience but offers very little gameplay. Interacting with the book is interesting but offers no real challenges. A few puzzles will have you scratching your head but they are so few you could find a better value puzzle game elsewhere. If I had to rate Tengami as a game, then it would be a low failing score. However, as an interactive story-book, it fares better.