Critical Play: Puzzles in Tengami

For this week’s critical play about puzzle games, I chose Tengami, a beautiful single-player game by Nyamyam.  While it is available on Android, iOS, Wii U, Windows, MacOS, and Steam,  I played it on iOS on an iPad. Tengami takes place within a book of paper pop-up art. 

Each level features Japanese buildings and landscapes, accompanied by soothing instrumental music, the sound of falling water, and the chirping of birds and insects. 

The player guides a cutout character in traditional warrior dress to solve a physical puzzle embedded in the scenery.  The onboarding sequence introduces the first mechanic, sliding a highlighted area, to open the book.

Sliding is also used to manipulate cutouts embedded within the scene which make stairs, bridges, and objects available to the character. 

The second major mechanic is double tapping to indicate where the character should walk to next. The player uses this mechanic to move around throughout the scene. Obstacles such as water, cliffs, plants, and the edge of the page limit the areas that the character can access.

Many of the puzzles involve sliding cutouts to change the scenery to enable the character to reach the goal of the level, which is indicated by a glowing area of light.

Some levels involve collecting an item such as a token, a flower, or a piece of a dial, and taking it to another location. The walking and sliding mechanics cause the player to explore the full scene of each level, taking in the art and music. The fun comes from the challenge of solving the puzzle, the emergent narrative of travelling from scene to scene (the reason for the character’s journey is not explained), and the abnegation of immersing oneself in the art and music. The puzzles tend to be just challenging enough to maintain the player’s interest in seeing what comes next, while being easy enough to create a meditative experience while playing.

The hint system requires that the player click a white flower in the upper corner to open a menu and then click “show hint”.  While this was successful at allowing the player to decide whether and when to access hints, I found that it broke the flow of the game when I used it. I would suggest the designer make the hint available from within the flow of the game. It was sometimes not explicit enough to help me get through the level, and always showed the same hint, so a graduated hint system for when I was very stuck would have been an improvement. Overall, Tengami was successful in achieving its goal of meditative fun through mildly challenging puzzles.

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