Wattam Review: Wattam I Even Playing?
Keita Takahashi already has a pretty wild track record. He’s the man who somehow conceived the insane worlds of Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy. Both these games specialize in adorable yet bonkers realities where the King Of The Cosmos can force his diminutive son to reassemble the stars after his drunken bender destroyed them, or a worm-like Girl can stretch across the entire galaxy.
So, it’s not surprising that Takahashi’s latest game continues his trend of bizarre, intergalactic adventures. While Wattam is a lovely, mind-boggling experience, it’s less of a video game and more of a living toybox with an abundance of poop jokes.
Wattam does have a story, and it seems darker than you would expect considering this game’s cutesy exterior. There was once a planet that was attacked and destroyed by a giant, evil entity, scattering its inhabitants across the universe. You play as a green cube wearing a derby hat named Mayor who’s sitting all alone, lamenting that they have no friends. Soon after, you discover a small living rock, who then leads you to a larger living rock. From there, you meet more and more new people who arrive on flying ships that look like a bed, a cake, or a giant toilet. These people include walking flowers, a sentient mouth that eats people and turns them into poop, and an acorn that grows into a giant tree that eats people and turns them into fruit.
If you think this sounds insane, you are correct.
The game feels like a Teletubbies-esque kids show where the main lesson of every episode is that sharing is caring and friendship is important. The sun is even an active character in the game, so I’m shocked there isn’t a Laa-Laa or Tinky-Winky cameo somewhere. Everyone runs around playing and laughing, climbing on trees, and blowing each other up. It’s very charming, but you’d be foolish looking for a deeper narrative in a game where you have to help a balloon with their fear of heights.
So Much Poop
The gameplay of Wattam is a little hard to explain. Essentially, the various characters that show up each have a different ability that can be used to solve a puzzle or to just screw around. One of the earlier puzzles requires you to stack golden poops as high as a tall golden bowling pin. There are some delightfully bizarre moments, like when a piece of sushi loses its children, so your character suddenly pulls a detective hat out of nowhere, grows a five o’clock shadow, and begins aggressively questioning people. It’s like Takahashi dropped acid and had someone transcribe his trip for game material.
It makes for a unique experience, although after a while, you can start to see the seams a little. I was initially thinking that this might be the craziest game I’d ever played until I noticed the pattern that repeats over and over. Each level is a different season, and you have a similar set of goals each time you switch over. You figure out why the level is sad – because the level itself is a character – you make it happy, a tree grows, more people show up, and then things move on from there. There are some neat missions like being the detective or one that involves re-attaching the various parts of a doll’s face as it runs around, but the vast majority of the game can get pretty repetitive, which is a shame since the game isn’t very long either.
The Banality Of Insanity
It’s a little unfair to compare Wattam to Takahashi’s previous work, but it’s simply not as fun as Katamari Damacy or as interesting as Noby Noby Boy. You just blow each character up using Mayor’s hat bomb – which is referred to as “kabooming” and usually ends in everyone vomiting rainbows – or hold hands and spin around in circles until the next story bit begins. The game was supposedly created when Takahashi’s son wondered what it would be like if all his toys were alive, and Wattam does feel like we’re seeing the imagination of a kid taking a bunch of inanimate objects and smashing them together.
It might be the perfect kind of game for a child to play, except that it doesn’t control as smoothly as you’d hope, which would likely make it pretty frustrating for younger audiences. I played it on PC, and there were some distracting framerate drops that occurred throughout the campaign. The camera is awkward to move around with the left and right triggers of a controller, the walking speed can be unbearably slow, and grabbing and climbing other characters felt finicky and unintuitive.
Wattam has that trademark Takahashi art style and world-feel that looks like something that’s either from the mind of an innocent child or the happiest drug-fueled hallucination. If you’ve played any of the Katamari games, then you already have a pretty solid idea of what to expect here. Lots of rounded shapes, crayon colors, and simplistic facial expressions. Everything looks like a toy, and everyone is happy and ready to play. Even when they’re sad, the entire community seems to band together to cure that depression, even if it involves explosions and bathroom humor. Wattam is all about good vibes and positivity, so even if the controls sometimes fight back, it’s hard to not smile just a little at the message it’s trying to send out into the world.
Even Madness Needs A Point
As an experience, Wattam certainly is something worth taking a look at. It’s unlike any game I’ve played before. Even with my prior Katamari knowledge, I was unprepared for the child-like insanity that Keita Takahashi was about to throw in my face. Seeing a living telephone get its receiver stolen by the sun or flying around on a giant rubber duck were just some of the events that will probably not leave my brain any time soon. However, Wattam sadly doesn’t offer up much in terms of compelling gameplay, and it feels a little half-baked at times in terms of progression. It’s ostensibly a game designed for kids, but at times, it feels too complicated or unpolished to the point where I can see kids having fun watching it, but not really wanting to play it.
If you’re feeling the need to have your concept of reality stretched a bit, then spending some time in this world should stimulate the same parts of your brain as a designer drug. But in the end, Wattam feels like a bunch of toys playing themselves rather than a cohesive game.
A PC copy of Wattam was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Wattam is available on PC and Playstation 4.
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