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Tengami is a beautiful journey through heavenly paper


Jennifer Schneidereit is one of three developers who worked with legendary game developers Rare on Kinect Sports. That same group of three later created their own company, Nyamyam games.

They started work on their first title, Tengami, about two years ago. Since then, it has been honored with awards at Indiecade and the Tokyo Game Show. Now, it's finally coming to the Mac and iOS. Schneidereit kindly stopped by for a quick talk with me at GDC, to show off the game and say we can expect it this summer.

Tengami is beautiful. It's moody and subtle, and felt like the kind of peaceful, quiet game that invites introspection (unfortunately the crowded room was too noisy for me to hear the game). Schneidereit told me that "Tengami" means something akin to "heavenly paper" in Japanese, and that's a fitting title for this one. The game takes place inside a pop-up book and tells a Japanese fairy tale through exploration and mood rather than written words.

The game begins on just a book, and you drag across the screen to flip it open. Then turn the first page and, just like in a real pop-up book, the folded "paper" image slowly opens to reveal itself. In this case, it's a samurai sitting quietly beneath a small tree. Turn the page again (subtle glowing prompts to let you know when a transition is ready), and the scene changes slightly, as the samurai's tree slowly starts to fade away. Turn the page yet again and you're suddenly brought into a larger, rocky outcropping, where you can tap around to send the samurai exploring.

There is some gameplay to Tengami. One section features a maze puzzle, where you needed to flip sections of the page up and down in exactly the right way to try and open a path for the samurai to continue through. But much of the game's charm is in its beauty.

The team scanned real paper to use as textures in the 3D world they created, and the look turned out just great. The first chapter takes place in a forest (where you enter a Japanese temple by flipping a page), and the game's gorgeous art is dazzlingly implemented. The second chapter features a wide ocean environment, and the third is a mystery that players must solve for themselves.

Schneidereit says that when development on Tengami started two years ago, she felt that "mobile games were treated like garbage." Nowadays, she admits that's changed a bit, but Nyamyam is out to prove that statement wrong completely. I'll be looking forward to seeing the fruits of their work when Tengami is finally ready later on this year.

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