Tengami dev discusses pop-up book style, Wii U

By Ozzie Mejia, May 15, 2013 11:45am PDT

Indie game developer Nyamyam was founded in late 2010 by former Rare developers Phil Tossell and Jennifer Schneidereit. While their experience has consisted of Microsoft first-party titles like Kinect Sports, their first indie title appears to be much different. Tengami brings an atmospheric adventure to a pop-up book world. Originally set to come to iPad, Nyamyam recently announced that the game would also be coming to Wii U. To learn more, Shacknews talked to Schneidereit about the game and this recent news.

Off the bat, Schneidereit noted the importance of the game's pop-up book setting. "As a lone wanderer, you explore the pop-up book and come across puzzles and obstacles that you solve by folding or unfolding parts of the book," she explained. "For example, early on in the game you come across a seemingly impassable river. If you look closer into the river, you can notice something a little off. Manipulating that area allows you to unfold a bridge that allows you to cross the river. Tengami is the first game to explore the concept of a foldable world as a game mechanic. Rather than being a traditional adventure game though, Tengami is about the experience of being in a pop-up world and the sense of wonder you feel as you fold the world to reveal what was unseen before."

Tengami will also play out with a sense of minimalism. The game features very little text, leaving most of the narrative up to the player's imagination. The reason for the paper presentation goes beyond that, however. Nyamyam also hopes to convey a unique sense of outside culture.

"When we decided to pursue the idea of a game inside a pop-up book, we looked for cultures with a rich history in paper-making," said Schneidereit. "Japan has a long tradition in handmade papers and, since all of us at Nyamyam love traditional Japanese culture, we started to experiment with different Japanese papers until we arrived at the current look of the game. The art style is very minimalist, yet strikingly beautiful. The pop-up on the other hand is very complicated and on its own not very appealing to look at. It is really the combination of art style with the pop-ups that make Tengami visually stand out."

The world of Tengami features a grand sense of fantasy, but it's far from a fairy tale world. Part of the reason for that is simply the general nature of Japanese fables. "Unlike Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Japanese fairy tales can be quite dark and sad," Schneidereit added. "They are also more nuanced when it comes to the concepts of good and evil or right and wrong. Japanese fairy tales often have a message or warning for the reader. Tengami's narrative follows these patterns, without wanting to say too much about the actual plot."

Tengami has been in development for several years, making appearances as recently as October for IndieCade. Schneidereit notes that it was designed for iOS, specifically for the iPad. She explains that the larger screen is better suited for the game's world manipulation mechanics, but the touch screen on both devices will utilize a page-turning mechanic that helps add to the book-like presentation. While the source material may be somewhat heavy, Schneidereit says that the game's first and foremost purpose is to be relaxing.

Tengami's unique appeal has not gone unnoticed. Nintendo contacted Nyamyam at the end of last year, as part of their continuing efforts to reach out to the indie community. After informally polling their fans on Twitter, Tossell and Schneidereit began collaborating with the publishing giant to see how they could translate Tengami from tablet to console.

"The Wii U GamePad has undeniable similarities with the iPad and we feel confident that we will be able to adapt the game to work beautifully with it," Schneidereit said. "We have previous experience developing for Nintendo consoles and feel confident that we can deliver a good game for the Wii U, despite only being a three-person team." Schneidereit adds that this represents somewhat of a homecoming for Tossell, who previously worked as Lead Programmer for Star Fox Adventures back when Rare was under the Nintendo umbrella. Nyamyam hopes to put significant development time into the Wii U version of the game, so don't expect it to arrive alongside the iOS version, which is set to arrive this summer.

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