“Do you need a guide? I don’t think so.”
With that, Keita Takahashi handed me a controller and watched as I played Wattam, an upcoming puzzle game that was scooped up by Annapurna Interactive after Sony dropped it. Colorful, weird, and nebulous, Wattam fits right in with Annapurna’s stable of off-the-beaten-path adventures, and within moments of starting I couldn’t help but recognize the Katamari vibe.That’s hardly a surprise, considering Takahashi is the mastermind behind the beloved Katamari series. Wattam isn’t about rolling around a giant ball of stuff to become an even bigger ball of stuff, but it’s similar tonally and artistically. A quick text briefing lets you know that the world was once full of wonderful things, but is now… not. You’re a sad green cube sitting on a patch of land with the sky above and the void below, crying because you have no friends.
But then you realize you’re not alone on this world. There’s a little rock. And a bigger rock. You hold hands. Slowly, the world comes back to life. An acorn becomes a tree, the tree eats the mayor and turns it into an apple, the apple uses the bomb in his bowler hat to make everyone laugh. Some more autonomous objects join the party—a table, a fork, a knife, a… mouth. The mouth eats the wandering fruit and turns it into poop; doing this enough times welcomes a toilet back to the world.
The objectives are a bit nebulous, but that works in Wattam’s favor, and I can see why Takahashi wanted me to discover them for myself. You can take control of any of the objects in the world, moving between them at will. At one point, everyone had to join hands, form a circle, and dance around to trigger the next event. The mechanics revolve around simple actions like this, and somehow it all causes a chain reaction that brings back the good things this world has lost.
I only saw part of one stage, and Takahashi told me that there’s a world for each season: summer, spring, winter, and fall. The only thing that bugged me was that the camera was mapped to the triggers instead of the thumbstick, while the thumbstick is used to switch between active characters. As a result, I often found myself jumping from apple to rock to poop when all I wanted to do was turn the camera around. It takes some getting used to and goes against instinct.
That aside, I had a smile on my face for the entire 30 minutes I played Wattam. There’s something so sweet about its simple message of making the world better through friendship. It doesn’t shy away from bright, vibrant colors and isn’t afraid to be completely absurd. I’d expect no less from the maker of Katamari.
Images: Annapurna Interactive