Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tengami (Wii U eShop) Review

Where do you stand on the "Is gaming art?" debate? I used to not think much of it, but it's honestly been indie developers that have changed my tune. Nyamyam's Tengami for the Wii U eShop is one of those titles that assists with my positive interpretation of gaming as art. See why with my review.

An emotional tale put into the fold

Art takes the form of many things. If throwing paint seemingly randomly at a wall can be considered art, then why not games as interactive experiences, too? That is exactly what developer Nyamyam strives for with their Wii U eShop release, Tengami. Not only is it a work of art, but it's also unlike anything else the Wii U eShop has seen before.

Tengami tasks those engaged with its unique experience of traversing a Japanese landscape-- through forests, waterfalls, and across oceans, looking for three unique petals to restore a weeping cherry blossom tree to its original glory.

How this is done is through guiding your character along the various pop-up book vistas of Tengami through taps on the Wii U GamePad's touch screen. Upon reaching certain elements in the game world, you slide your stylus across the screen to turn pages. Sometimes it's to completely change scenes, while others it is as subtle as changing the season of the current area you are in or entering the inside of a structure.

Without a doubt the biggest issue with Tengami is that it's a game that asks of the player to shut off their twitch reflexes and open up and turn on their minds. Puzzles are the main challenge that Tengami offers, and additionally the game offers a story with subtle meaning to it. In this intensely artistic and well crafted game you will find no uptempo gameplay to stimulate your adrenaline. You'll simply receive imaginative design in every crevice, corner, and page of Tengami's world.

Tengami's tale can be told in one sitting. The puzzles themselves are not too challenging by any stretch of the imagination. For instance, they involve flipping sections of pages in the world to arrange a set of stairs for your character to reach a high-standing cliff, or ringing bells in a particular order.

While Tengami can be completed in less than 90 minutes, it's indeed an engaging and minimalist story, opting not to hit the player over the head with the overt meanings the game's imagery and subtle storytelling delivers. It's something, like any good story, that needs to be experienced more than once, which in my view, makes it worth the asking price ($9.99 USD).

However, not to completely fall in love with Tengami, there is one other problem with the game and that is the screen of the Wii U GamePad itself. Your attention will always be on the GamePad screen, as you'll constantly be interacting with it. Thus, there's no reason to even have the television screen on, which is the one with the highest resolution and picture quality. Sadly, you're limiting yourself with a lower quality screen by using the GamePad, which, by the way, is the only means to play Tengami on the system. You're limited to touch controls. This translates to if you want to see a high quality version of the game, the Wii U port won't be the one you want to look towards. Even still, at least you can get great audio with headphones on and an insanely gorgeous David Wise (ex-Rare composer) soundtrack for your ears to cherish.

Further still, Tengami usually runs smooth like the water in a pristine Japanese garden's pond. However, during a late-game sailing section across an ocean, there are multiple slowdown occurrences that do happen. Nothing that ruins the experience, but it's jarring nonetheless.

Tengami isn't as much a game as it is an interactive artistic experience. It's the kind of work that furthers gaming as an artistic medium, and despite its extreme brevity, Tengami is definitely worth checking out. It's the type of game that you can play as a means to unwind before bed, have a lazy Saturday afternoon, or just sit down and in one enjoyable sitting. Tengami is an experience definitely worth having not just once, but again and again.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

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