First impressions

Once in a while I come across an app that’s been around for some time, yet I’m only just discovering it. Just when I think that I’ve covered the majority of the award-winning or weird and wonderful apps out there, I find something new that has previously escaped my notice.

This week, I stumbled upon Tengami – a beautifully designed puzzle game built to look like the pop-up books of old. I’ve always like pop-up books and puzzles, so really, it could be the perfect app for me.

I balked a little at the $4.99 price tag, because I’ve become spoiled by how inexpensive amazing apps are these days, but then it doesn’t hit you with in-app purchases. Those things can add up to some serious dosh if you’re not careful.

After surveying the screen shots and counting up my pennies, I thought I’d give Tengami a try. Besides, I didn’t have anything else waiting in the wings, and the deadline for this column was fast approaching.

Look for the Tengami symbol in the App Store.
Look for the Tengami symbol in the App Store.

How it works

In my experience, there are apps that are very helpful, with lots of instruction, hints and tutorials; and then there are the ones that basically leave you for dead. Tengami sort of falls in the middle. In the beginning, you’ll probably be so taken with its design that you’ll need a moment to drink it all in. After you get over that emotional rollercoaster, you can get stuck in.

The music is very soothing, and fairly non-repetitive, so you may want to keep it playing as you try to navigate the screen.

You’ll meet a samurai-looking character early on, and the app shows you how to move him (double-tap where you want him to go). You’ll realize pretty quickly that if you try to move him somewhere and he isn’t budging, he isn’t meant to go there or you have to find a different way around to get him to that point.

Look to the wind chimes, my friend.
Look to the wind chimes, my friend.

As you go through the book, puzzle, whatever you want to call it, you’ll see glowing circles on the left and/or right hand side of your screen. They indicate that you can swipe and “turn the page” in that direction. There are also glowing circles that show up in other areas. These usually indicate that you can reveal a hidden pop-up nearby, maybe revealing a bridge or a set of stairs to help your character on his way.

Although it’s not explained in an introduction, it seems that gathering or finding pink flowers is pretty important when playing Tengami. It will take you a while to get used to opening doors, finding items that you need to advance, and understanding that all may not be as it seems at first glance.

If you’ve played other games like The Room, Lumino City and Monument Valley, you’ll have an advantage with this app, in that you’ll be used to dragging and swiping to find hidden treasures.

Beyond the challenge that Tengami presents, it really is a beautifully designed app. The way it acts like an advanced pop-up book is constantly enchanting, and with that music, you may find it to be more of a Zen experience than other puzzle games.

Pink flowers feature heavily in the story.
Pink flowers feature heavily in the story.

When I tried it

As I’m quite familiar with the apps I mentioned earlier, I had a fairly good handle on where Tengami was taking me, although I still found myself surprised as I went along. For example, the paper-pop-up secrets were new to me, and I was pretty elated when I discovered each one (I know, my life is so empty).

Just like Lumino City and Monument Valley, I loved the beauty of the design and the attention to detail. Supposedly the app is telling a story, but as I write this, I haven’t quite gathered what the story is all about. I know there’s a guy with a penchant for pink flowers, and that’s about all I can say.

From time to time, the cog icon in the top left hand corner changed to a “?” symbol, which meant the app was willing to give me a hint. I definitely took advantage of that option when I felt stuck or impatient. The hints are helpful and cryptic, all at the same time. That is, you won’t get help in plain language – you have to interpret what it tells you.

One other helpful piece of information I can give is this: there are walkthroughs available on the Internet if you really hit a wall. My advice would be to give it a chance before you cave, but at least you know that you’ve got that as a last resort.

Interestingly enough, if the time on the full YouTube walkthrough is correct, it seems that you can get through the entire Tengami app in just over an hour. I’m already way behind.

The graphics are truly beautiful.
The graphics are truly beautiful.

Final thoughts

Tengami has won a number of awards, which is not surprising. It is beautiful, challenging and calming all at the same time. It may not last very long, but considering the work that’s gone into it, I’d definitely say it’s worth its price of $4.99.

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