Relaxing, serene and gorgeous, Tengami lands on Android with a soft rustling of the falling sakura flowers. If you take a look at our list of the best games like Monument Valley, you can count Tengami in. Don’t expect anything of it, though. This is a game, or rather an experience and a work of art, that is best approached without expectations and assumptions. However, it’s on a rather expensive side, so if you want to know what you’re buying, bear with us during the next three minutes.
A feast for the eyes
The first invaluable asset of Tengami is its unique 2D – 3D design. To say that it’s beautiful would be an underestimation, and most importantly, the screenshots may not convey the charm to its full extent. When this flip book comes to life, most unexpected effects start unfolding. The book has a life and breath of its own, and offers a world of exploration full of inter-dimensional travel, mysteries and dazzling landscapes. There are several chapters, each with a color palette of its own. The colors and hues are soft pastel, easy on the eyes, and create the perfect atmosphere for a calm and slo-mo exploration, introspection and meditation.
An amazing soundtrack by David Wise sets the mood. Listen to it, and if you get the pace you will get the knack of the gameplay.
No rush, no fuss
If you like the games with a conflict, an adversary, traps, danger, deaths and scare jumps, Tengami definitely won’t satisfy you. But if you stop chasing goals and try taking in the philosophy, you might actually see the story and the goal and the challenge.
Dreams. Fading. Gone. State the first pages of the book. A man in a seated position is sleeping behind a blossoming cherry tree. Suddenly, the flowers fall and with the last fallen petal, the man awakes to an empty dry tree. His entire adventure has the aim of finding the three cherry flowers that will revive the tree and bring back the beauty of his dreams. You can think of it as an allegory, but I see it as a rather straightforward story that does not need much decryption. For one, everybody goes through the time in their lives when we get disillusioned and disappointed, and forget about the dreams we had of what our lives would be like. It’s the depression, the loss of hope that sucks the color out of life. Many people get stuck in this mud and spend the rest of their lives with broken hearts of stone. Only the daring venture out to recover the lost dreams and hopes, and only the daring make their dreams come true.
So, there you have it. One interpretation from a myriad, and the best part is anyone can see something to relate to in Tengami. A lone samurai on a quiet and thoughtful walk through the world of the lost dreams.
Each flower is hidden and locked, and to unlock it, you will have to guide the samurai across the landscapes built from paper and solve the riddles and puzzles here and there. The funny thing is the developer’s website states everything in this game can be built with the help of the paper, scissors and glue. The interactive elements can be unfold and fold back in, sometimes in layers of several items, and the effects are so pleasing I found myself toying with the folding pieces just for the sake of fun, not solving puzzles. Enter the puzzles.
Is Tengami a brain teaser? It falls within the puzzle genre, definitely, but it’s more of an atmospheric Zen exploration, if there is such a thing. Why not? The initial area is quite simple, and you will make your way with ease through the contraptions with the wolves and bells. If you should encounter a befuddling situation when you don’t know what to do or where to go next, don’t rush to use the Hint (and there is a generous Hint system). Instead, try to walk around and look for the new elements that could shed light onto the riddle.
At some point, eventually, you will have to use the hints. The game is a premium title with no IAPs or in-game currency or points whatsoever, so there is just a limited number of hints per each puzzle. You can see them all when they become available by going to the Hint menu, or you can use just one to still be able to have that “Eureka!” moment for yourself. I have had quite a few rewarding moments with Tengami’s puzzles, and enjoyed the gameplay enormously.
However, the fact that it’s a game implies the escalating difficulty, and that’s where Tengami fell short for me. Yes, the final two or three puzzles are enormous and time-consuming, and difficult, but not in a way of an elevated mind challenge. The difficulty is rather in the amount of the symbols you have to memorize and make some sort of sense of them. It’s the finale of the game that urged me to look for the walkthroughs online because at some point, I got tired and felt I was sinking, the mystery and charm around me fading and giving way to aggravation. When I solved the final puzzles, I was not ecstatic but rather “thank goodness!”-kind of relieved. The final scene did convey the climactic resolution of the trials, so the overall impression is still very powerful and vivid. Yet, the final puzzles seem to take away from the pleasing side of the game.
The overall game is well worth the highest praise. I am definitely keeping it for the times I have the right mood. Provided I forgot how to solve some of the puzzles immediately after I solved them, there is still some challenge left in the fruit. However, the main replayability juice of Tengami is in its aesthetics. Take it for what it is. The game is about 1.5-3 hours long, and I bet it in a single go (I am not the ace of puzzles, mind you, and I felt compelled to take a sneak peek at the walkthrough of the final two puzzles). If you think that’s not enough to be worth $5, you may have a point. It is somewhat expensive. If you think of it as of buying an interactive painting and a contemplative adventure, you will see Tengami is totally worth it for the audio-visual masterpiece it is.
I have played Tengami on an older KitKat-powered Tab 3, and it ran flawlessly. However, there are reports on Google Play of the game not loading at all or failing to load half the items like menus and the interactive elements, including the protagonist. According to the developer, the problem affects the Intel Atom CPU devices. Hopefully, it will be fixed soon, but in the meantime keep it in mind.
- Gorgeous looks
- Unique mechanic
- Smooth, fluid controls
- Amazing folding effects and a cinematic soundtrack
- Mostly accessible and smart puzzles
- No violence, appropriate for the players of all ages
- A subtle symbolic tale waiting for your own interpretation
- A generous hint system and a complete walkthrough on the developer’s website
- The final couple of puzzles feel more tedious than mysterious or enjoyable
- A glitch on Intel-based devices, the game won’t run on them as of now
Tengami is a work of art mobile gaming industry can take pride in. In my personal experience, it’s one of the best games this year, easily recommendable to the fans of Monument Valley and Silent Age. It’s also great for the kids and children, but they will ask for your help at some point inevitably. The last couple of puzzles may seem needlessly over-complicated, but the overall experience is by far one of the most aesthetically-pleasing and relaxing ones. Yet, not everyone will feel the magic touch, and I can see where these players are coming from, too. If symbolism is not quite your thing, and you expect the thrill of slaying a dragon from an adventure game, you have come with the wrong expectations.