Wattam, this is the last curiosity of Keita Takahashi, the original spirit behind Katamari Damacy. You remember ? This big ball that we roll and that collects, like a snowball, everything that is in its path, to end up as big as a planet … With backgrounds like Katamari Damacy, but also Nobi Nobi Boy, and first visuals who showed us colorful cacas playing with sushi in an environment worthy of the Teletubbies, we could be both curious and worried. Original but hollow concept, or “real” game?
(Test of Wattam made on PC with a commercial copy of the game)
The crazier we are…
At first, there was nothing … Well, yes, a funny little cubic character, wearing a mustache and bowler hat, desperately alone. So alone that he spends his days crying with boredom. Until he realized that there was not quite anything. There was a pebble there, not far from the corner where Le Maire was crying (that’s the name of the cubic character). Approaching the stone, The Mayor awakens it: it will be his first friend! And from there, nothing will be the same…
Friendship snowballs (the Katamari heritage), and after this first friend, it’s a second, then a third that will disembark, and little by little, the small island of the Mayor will repopulate, leading to the passage different game mechanics in the form of puzzles. Some new friends arrive with new possibilities, allowing the game world to evolve. The Mayor, already, will quickly discover the power of his hat, which explodes with joy (you have to see it to understand!). Then some little friends (acorn, pine cone …) can plant themselves to become trees which, by eating objects, can transform them into fruit. Fruits that the Mouth will be happy to digest to make… cocas! The toilets then take care of the cocas to do something else … And all, trees, fruit, cocoa, toilets, are as many small inhabitants of the world of Wattam that the player can (must) control. Locals who also sometimes arrive with concerns, which their new friends will try to resolve.
All together, all together, yeah! Yep!
Once the main game mechanics are assimilated, we will have to try to take advantage of the different possibilities offered by the inhabitants to solve the problems of some of them. Wattam then presents itself as a puzzle game with riddles. The problem is often exposed via a small icon to interpret, then it is a question of finding the mechanic (s) which will allow us to arrive at the goal. For example, fairly quickly, we will come across a rather proud golden keel, which will challenge us to be as tall as it is. It is up to us to create enough golden cacas (by making fruit with the trees, fruits which will be digested by the Mouth to make colored cacas, cacas which will be collected by the toilets…), golden cacas which will pile up on each the others until reaching the size of the keel. “Et voila!”, As they say in English.
Enigmas and puzzles are never too complicated, neither to grasp nor to realize. However, the gameplay is sufficiently renewed to keep our interest. It’s a real pleasure to discover all these little guys, their animations, and the game mechanics associated with them. Minimalist animations, between stick figures and Nintendo Miis, but very meaningful and successful. And if one of the messages of the game is that it’s always more fun when we play together, it’s also true on the other side of the screen. So, Wattam will be a perfect game for a parent-child video game moment! The accessibility of its puzzles will allow the youngest (from 7 years) to rub it without knowing the frustration of being too fast and too often blocked, with a parent at his side to guide him during rare moments (a little ) more difficult.
The checks will indeed sometimes require a little patience. We often control two characters at the same time, which makes manipulations a bit erratic. And then the little creatures you don’t control live their lives, making the idea of placing a character in a specific place before going to do something else with one of his friends impractical: the first will be gone as soon as we will have left him a little bit of freedom…
Lucy in the Sky with Diamond
Like the previous works of Keita Takahashi, Wattam is worth almost more for the discovery of its concept and its universe than for the game itself. It may be the title of Takahashi which will have the most in common with, say, traditional games.
It is also a kind of interactive youth album, with these charming little characters, his flawless morals on friendship and mutual aid, and despite everything, his scenario, which we have not yet mentioned, but which exists. We are talking about a distant time, an imposing threat to the planet that will have forced everyone to flee. A word from elsewhere on very successful sound design, made of small pieces of music dominated by the piano, sticking well to the universe, infantile babbling, and other sound effects of circumstance, like the prouts! (well yes, poo is often mentioned in Wattam).
A fable which can also be read from the very current angle of the dangers which threaten the planet, ours. Disasters, wars, climate refugees … The parallel will be easy to draw. Besides, without spoiler, the end of the game offers a rather telling place to the game world. We can read a little mysticism too: the Mayor will find himself at various times in the adventure of visiting mysterious caves where he revelations about the world will be made, via a scroll or a book. Some will recognize obvious religious scenes. Amazing to be able to find so many things in a game that first offered us to play with pink cacas …!
Finally, we can also laugh in front a completely crazy work that is reminiscent of the animation series of the 70s, Chapi Chapo. A surrealist series where two little guys are lost in geometric decorations and will try to solve different problems that arise for them. A series released in the mid-70s with the famous credits composed by François de Roubaix, whose adventures with LSD are no secret. Wattam will also have this obviously tripping side.
Wattam is, as expected, a game apart. We can nevertheless, and this is the good news of the title, speak well of the game! The gameplay mechanics are as fun as they are numerous, and the game does indeed offer us a goal – which is not always the case in these difficult to identify video game objects. The game is easy, and rather short: we will overcome it in one to two games, for four to six hours of play. A little more if, as we recommend, we do Wattam a great adventure of parent-child collaboration (or big brother – little brother, and it also works with sisters). A short game, therefore, but dense: we will never be bored, we will laugh a lot, and we will create nice memories of the game with our little partner!