Wattam Preview — The Power of Friendship and Fun
We got some hands-on time with Keita Takahashi's new game, Wattam, and it's just as amazingly weird as you hoped.
Way back in 2004, Katamari Damacy released for PlayStation 2, and it captured the hearts of many with the three key elements that the development team felt should be core to the experience: novelty, ease of understanding, and enjoyment. At PlayStation Experience 2014, creator Keita Takahashi teased the development of a new project with aspects that hearken to design choices that made Katamari Damacy so endearing. The name of this new title is Wattam.
At PAX 2017, I had the chance to sit down with a demo of Wattam, and I have to admit that, despite a little trouble in fully understanding how to progress the game and a technical bug that ended the hands-on experience early, I found myself grinning ear-to-ear the whole time through.
Wattam is a difficult game to describe not because its gameplay is complex (far from it), but because there is so little about it that doesn’t feel abstract. In Wattam, you begin by playing as the Mayor, a green cube with a face, a top-hat, and a very important moustache. At the game’s start, the Mayor resides in an open square field in the sky, alone, and pretty unhappy-looking as a result.
Just as you’re about to feel sorry for him, something miraculous happens in the Mayor’s world: light shines down to reveal a rock. It may not seem like much, but in Wattam, everything happens for a reason. The Mayor’s lonely days don’t last for long.
The rock comes to life and is later joined by a much smaller rock, an acorn, a set of flowers, a tree, a disembodied nose, and many many more friends! From that point and onward, Wattam becomes a joyous exploration of friendship, if a little odd in its execution.
When a new friend is introduced to the scene, they require a little interaction to really fit into the rest of the group and progress the game. The early additions are fascinated by the Mayor’s hat, which tends to explode into harmless confetti whenever the Mayor greets someone or they try it on for themselves. Later characters have much different levels of interaction with one another, some going so far as to eat others and poop them out into a completely different form. Not to worry, though! Everyone is all smiles in Wattam, even when they’ve been digested.
It was at this point of the demo when I was looking for the next piece of the puzzle. I had eaten utensils, flowers, a giant tree, little colored turds, all manner of oddly shaped and colored things happily frolicking around the scene, but I was without a clue as to what I was supposed to do next. In an attempt to move me along, I was told to locate the Mayor. I said, “I think I ate him and pooped him out already.” I couldn’t help myself from saying it with a grin. “Was I not supposed to do that?”
It turns out that even when the Mayor changes form, he retains that telltale moustache. So, we searched around the commotion for a little green turd with facial hair. He wasn’t there.
Sadly, I was informed that sometimes the Mayor falls off of the world and can’t be brought back. It was a bug in the game that was in the process of being addressed, and I wouldn’t be able to continue the demo without his presence. I thought that would be the end of it.
However, that wasn’t quite everything the team had prepared to show. I was also introduced to a cute little mini-game where I had to guide balloons through an obstacle course of rotating spikes threatening to prevent me from rising to the end. Although not wholly original, it was an interesting addition to the game that showed Wattam potentially has a lot more still to come.
Wattam is a game that is certainly trying to win back fans of Katamari Damacy with its absolutely ridiculous nature, but it’s really a game for anyone who just wants a game full of pure joy. I still don’t completely understand what was going on or where it was going, but it still was a brilliant journey, and I can’t wait to see more.