Friendship and poop can save the world. That’s the message behind Wattam, which veers between utterly charming and mildly disturbing.
One minute you’re reuniting a family of living sushi, the next you’re crafting a fecal Mr Whippy. It’s not surprising this action puzzler is so utterly hatstand since it’s spawned from the mind of Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi. It also shares that game’s beautiful, bizarre aesthetic – and while you’re not rolling up whole cities, there’s enough adorable madness here to keep you (and an optional friend) hooked.
There are a wealth of characters to control; some have their own unique abilities, while others are there just to be delightfully ridiculous. There’s a disembodied mouth who devours characters and expels them as sentient dung (leading to the aforementioned ice-cream horror), a green cube with an exploding hat and a talking electric fan to name but a few. Refugees from a destroyed world, it’s a joy to see them pop into existence as a result of your loopy labours.
Restoring them to life isn’t a particularly taxing endeavour. You may have to switch characters or roam between Wattam’s four arena-style levels, but you’ll rarely be left scratching your head. There’s a smattering of combat, but puzzles are typically solved by bringing the right individual to the right place at the right time. Or, linking hands in a thoroughly appealing manner, you can escort multiple characters across the map.
Assuming that is, you can drag yourself away from Wattam’s random shenanigans; there’s so much fun to be had just messing around. You can balance characters atop each other, hold hands until you’ve got a massive string of followers, explode yourself into the air and dive into the hidden mini-activities. If you’re looking for Professor Layton-level brain scratching, you’re not going to find it here, but if playing Wattam doesn’t make you grin like an idiot, you should check you still have a heart.
Heart, in fact, is woven into Wattam‘s very fabric. I rolled my eyes a little when the game began, expecting I was going to be patronised into submission. But it’s impossible not to fall in love with Wattam; sure, there are times when you’re controlling a green poop, but that poop is so appealingly animated that you’ll still want to reunite it with its stinky siblings. I never got tired of watching Wattam‘s cast burst into laughter when they were hurled across the map, or watching them grin when I solved their problems.
Likewise, the characters’ joy at seeing their new world take shape is utterly infectious, so much so that Wattam doesn’t need to smother you with cutscenes. The few, beautifully crafted cutscenes you do get have a real emotional punch and perfectly compliment Wattam’s core message. By the time I was done with Wattam, about four hours in, I felt thoroughly enriched. I almost forgot about the time, at the game’s request, I shoved The Sushi Family Robinson into the maw of a ravenous tree.
Wattam‘s excellent soundtrack is the icing on the cake. It’s not quite as catchy or in-your-face as Katamari Damacy‘s, but it compliments the game’s chilled atmosphere perfectly. You’re here to reunite friends and dwell on the meaning of home, not cackle like a maniac as you roll a city’s populace up into one horrible, screaming ball of misery. It’s a mercy that Keita Takahashi has left the Katamari series behind because I don’t want to think how the King of the Cosmos could mess up Wattam’s wonderful world.
Wattam isn’t without its flaws; in particular, the more characters you gather, the harder it is to quickly switch between them. But even when your journey’s done, there’s more than enough here to draw you back in, whether you’re tackling the game in co-op mode, hunting for those few elusive characters you’ve missed or just diving into this daft and wonderfully charming world.