There’s nothing quite like it on the iPad. A bold statement to be sure, but it was the first thing that struck me when I sat down to play Tengami yesterday. Tengami is the debut title from newly formed Nyamyam Games
(well, I say 'new' but they’ve been around since 2010 and have been working on Tengami for nearly a year). Based in Tamworth, England, Nyamyam is made up of three ex-Rare employees; Philip Tossell, Jennifer Schneidereit and Ryo Agarie. What's clear is that while the Nyamyam team have moved on and developed their own unique identity, a lot of their background at Rare shines through in the production values and the design philosophies of Tengami. Eschewing the usual quick-fix mentality that so many of its contemporaries on the iPad adopt, the game is slow, peaceful and demands investment on your part and that really makes the game stand out from the crowd as a result. There’s a very palpable feeling of quality over quantity here and it looks to be shaping up to be a deep and engaging experience; definitely not some two minute time-waster on the bus while going to work, and that is something that I’m personally very glad to see. It’s something that the iPad lacks and if the platform is really going to gain traction with core gamers, more games like this are needed.
I was able to try out a short demo version of the game that takes in the first portion of the opening level and what is immediately clear is that this is shaping up to be a very involving adventure / puzzle game hybrid. A large Shinto Temple dominates the title screen and instantly gives you a flavour of what to expect. Set sometime in Japan’s ancient past, Tengami presents you with a world based on historical fact but with some mystical and spiritual influences added for good measure. The finer details of the plot are yet to be revealed, other than you’ll be playing as a yet-to-be identified man in rather fetching turquoise attire. The level opens up in a forest at night, the surrounding trees all depicted in a pale blue hue, and everything you see is presented as a pop-up book made from Japanese washi paper. A wolf stands on a hilltop in the distance howling at the moon as you make your way across the scene and it really is a beautiful and haunting opening.
The big feature of Tengami that Nyamyam are understandably very eager to highlight is the dedicated technology they have developed specifically for the game. Each scene is presented as the double pages of a pop-up book, and moving your character from scene to scene sees the pages fold over with all of the background paraphernalia folding in and out beautifully. Nyamyam have gone so far as to enlist the services of a professor who specialises in the field of ‘pop-up’ to ensure that everything has a grounding in what is possible, and not just there because it looks good. The technology is such that it mirrors real-life paper folding perfectly so, given a bit of time and skill you could sit and make all of these scenes yourself with paper and it would look and fold in and out identically as it does in-game. Knowing that only adds to the sheer joy of seeing these backgrounds opening out before you in one fluid movement. There is a real sense of depth to what you see and the artwork is stunning.
You move your character around by double-tapping the screen at the point where you want him to walk to. Control is intuitive and, while the character moves at a fairly sedate pace, I find it quite refreshing that Nyamyam have done this as it is in keeping with the tone of the game overall. Each scene will host a puzzle or some kind of environmental obstacle to overcome and, as per the paper / pop-up book theme, there are some ingenious ways to solve them that strike just the right balance between posing a tricky challenge, yet being surprisingly simple once you’ve worked out what it is you need to do. I do not want to spoil the game by revealing the solutions, but an impassable river – unless you can find a bridge – and a very neat poser involving wolves and wind chimes are the main highlights of this demo.
Solve these puzzles and the path will lead you to an old shack which really does look lovely, as far as old shacks go. The amount of detail and sense of real-life architectural accuracy to the shack is very nice, despite its appearance. The ‘pop-up book’ presentation of the shack unfolding only adds to the beauty of it. Again, another puzzle presents itself in order to gain entry into shack and it’s at this point that the demo ends.
So then, the demo serves as a tantalising glimpse into what Nyamyam have planned and the amount of potential here, both in the design and in the implementation of the puzzles, is vast. A quick word too on the music which is really very nice. David Wise, also formerly of Rare, has been brought on board to provide the soundtrack and what I've heard so far is excellent, totally in keeping with the ancient Japanese theme and it's very atmospheric.
I came away feeling that the game is a welcome breath of fresh air in a market full of tower defence titles and Angry Birds variants. Nyamyam estimate that the game will take three to four hours to play through. In many ways it would be an ideal fit for the 3DS, such is the look and style of the artwork and the pop-up effect is crying out for 3D, but as things stand, an iPad version is due first, hopefully by the end of the year, with PC and Mac ports to follow shortly after.
There is still a long way to go before we're likely to see release but I will be keeping a close eye on developments. It's a charming title that looks to offer a nice and substantial adventure. In this day and age that instantly sets it apart from the crowd and that, more than anything, is reason enough to give it a try.
Categories: iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, Previews