Designer Keita Takahashi blew up our consciousness in the PlayStation 2 era with the release of Katamari Damacy. He may not be the most productive creator on the market, but his creations are catchy both because of their simple aesthetics and because of their strange, almost strange game ideas. Is it fun to roll a huge sticky ball around? For sure! And even if I finally didn’t understand the meaning of Katamary Damacy’s successor, Noby Noby Boy, it was a while for me to enjoy putting my character in his colorful world. Wattam offers more structure than some of his experiments, but encourages players to explore and browse around to see what they can discover.
We start with a meeting with the mayor, a green cube with a mustache and bowler hat. He is alone in the world after a catastrophic event, but soon discovers that not everything is lost. By walking over a floating platform and interacting with objects, he becomes friends with anthropomorphized creations such as rocks, flowers and toilets. You can switch between these new friends at will. Aside from the kick you get when you are able to spot a golden poop, mouth, acorn, or countless other characters, there are few reasons for this.
Mayor has a great trick at his disposal: by pressing a button, he raises his hat and exposes an explosive gift underneath. Other characters really enjoy being blown up and no one is hurt by these detonations. Wattam feels like you’re dealing with an interactive picture book, and explosions are a common occurrence in the early moments. These soft moments in which the more surreal impulses of the game come to fruition.
The simple interactions that trigger these crazy sequences may not be particularly exciting – most begin with the question of a newly introduced character, “What’s up?” – but moments like inserting a balloon to get the phone out of the sun , made me smile a lot from the game. Funomena picks up the already pretty memorable setup and adds even more silly levels, such as the fact that the balloon is afraid of heights and that its later journey up is accompanied by an unusually energetic rock soundtrack. There are a lot of moments in Wattam’s short duration that stack on similarly weird elements, and most of them are delightful.
Wattam is best when it encompasses its toy-like qualities. There are times when an attempt is made to be more of a traditional game where it stalls. Although your actions are generally limited to holding hands with your friends, climbing objects (including your friends), and switching control between characters, there is a lack of precision. It’s easy to miss if you just explore the world and experiment in the toy box. However, an unfortunate encounter with a boss shows that Wattam’s controls are no match for more demanding tasks. You cannot die or fail, but it is boring and inappropriate. This fight and an overly long polling sequence at the end are lows in an otherwise simple and happy time.
The charming graphics and messages of compassion and collaboration make Wattam a great game to play with younger family members in either co-op or pass-the-controller sessions. Even if it doesn’t stimulate meaningful conversations about the importance of friendship – which is quite possible – there is a good chance that you will find a lot of stupid fun together.