Tengami is an adventure game created by former Rare staff members that just oozes beauty and a strange sense of tranquillity. I’m not saying this because this game was made by people that worked at Rare or that its soundtrack is composed by David Wise, but the best way I can describe this game is that it’s like the song Stickerbrush Symphony, but only in video game form; peaceful with a hint of fantastical.
You control a lonesome man through a beautiful world in order to restore life to a cherry blossom tree. The game behaves in a click-n-point sort of fashion where you tap the screen to make the character move to that spot. Tengami’s hook is that the world is sort of like a pop-up book, with this element acting as the basis for its puzzles. You’ll interact with the environment to solve various puzzles by changing the landscape with a swipe of the finger. For example, you need to cross a river but there is no bridge to allow you to do so, but like a pop-up book, there are certain things hiding behind the environment. Swiping down on a waterfall in the background reveals part of a bridge and you have to swipe other sections to complete it. It’s a really neat and interesting mechanic which provided some fun situations.
Tengami’s pop-up book mechanics works beautifully with its paper-like visuals. It impresses with each level and the visual style never falters. Even more impressive is the game’s music. Composed by the esteemed David Wise, its beautiful blend of soft, melodic Japanese instrumentals with the ambient sounds of nature makes for a truly wonderful and engaging experience. I highly recommend playing this game off-screen with a pair of headphones on. I cannot stress enough just how good this soundtrack really is. There was a moment in the game where the music and sounds were so calming that I actually fell asleep, headphones on and all. The soundtrack was easily the highlight of the experience for me.
I’m a sucker for open-ended games that allows me to inject my own story into the world and Tengami is just begging for a user’s imagination to fill the gaps. Unfortunately outside of a few haikus that are presented at the end of each level, there’s not much too really go on and it becomes difficult to make up your own narrative. Perhaps this game, only being comprised of 3 levels, is in itself a haiku. While this may be a beautiful gesture and idea as an art medium and form of expression, this is after all, a video game, and this is probably where Tengami falters the most.
The main problem with Tengami is that there’s just not much of it to go around. I completed the game in just over one and a half hours. Now I could’ve hunted a bit for all the collectibles to extend my playtime but I chose to rather take everything in for the sake of immersion, but just as I found myself really getting into things, it was over. I firmly believe that a game’s worth and quality should not be judged by the time it takes to be completed. If a game takes 2 hours to complete then there is and should not be a problem with that given that those 2 hours delivered a full experience. With Tengami there’s not enough of the world to get lost in nor is there enough narrative or puzzles to actually make use of its unique mechanics. By the end of the game I felt dissatisfied and was left wanting much more.
Last Updated: December 1, 2014