I had a chance to try out Tengami’s forest level at PAX East last year, and I loved it. Something about the watercolor-esque visuals, tranquil music, and calming gameplay added up to an enjoyable experience even amidst the chaos of the convention show floor. At PAX Prime a few weeks ago I got my hands on Nyamyam’s beautiful title once more and this time tried out the ocean level I never had the opportunity to play at East. Creator Jennifer Schneidereit explained to me that the ocean level from East wasn’t living up to their expectations, so they actually scrapped the whole thing and rebuilt it from the ground up, proving their wholehearted dedication to making this game as perfect as they can. I sat down with an iPad and dove in with fellow writer Alec Frey.
Alec, who had never played this game before, was absolutely entranced with the concept of the game. For those that don’t know, you play as an ancient Japanese character in a replication of a pop-up storybook. As the player, you navigate your character by double-tapping destinations on the screen, and you manipulate the world to let him proceed. If your character can’t cross a river, for instance, there may be a bridge nearby you must “slide out” from behind the pages for him to move on. Each time you interact with the world it feels unique and innovative due to the fact that Nyamyam is constantly introducing new ways to manipulate the storybook as you move through the levels.
After we nailed down how to “control” the pop-ups and turn the pages of the book, we moved our character forward until we came to our first puzzle. Several sets of staircases were in front of us, but in order to make it to the top, we had to constantly move our character while flipping available staircase options to create a viable path. It took us awhile (the puzzles in this game can be surprisingly challenging), but we never got frustrated. The calm setting and lack of tension brought by the fact that you can go at your own pace with no fear of punishment had us smiling once we finally figured out how to reach the top.
As we continued, we came across more puzzles, each one different than the last. In one instance, we had to drag fire with our fingers from one burning pyre to other unlit ones in order to illuminate a lighthouse. To expose the lighthouse, however, we had to get on a small boat and sail to a drowned ship, go inside, and find a code to unlock a chest that contained a crank to open the lighthouse. We often got lost and had to think about what to do next, but I believe that’s half the point. Nyamyam’s game forces you to slow down and use critical thinking to succeed, all without making you feel anxious or frustrated, which is quite an accomplishment.
After several minutes (and a little help from Jennifer herself), Alec and I successfully completed the level and exchanged congratulatory handshakes. I never had a chance to play the original ocean level Nyamyam demoed at PAX East to see how much it’s changed since being recreated, but Nyamyam’s dedication to constructing such an atmospheric puzzle game makes it apparent that the developers are putting their hearts and souls into this project.
Tengami is scheduled to release on the iPad later this year and on PC, Mac, and the Wii U in 2014, so it won’t be long before you’ll be able to experience this wonderful and artistic journey for yourself.