Wattam is friendship. Wattam is the warm feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time and know within seconds that you’ll be best pals. It’s the comfort you feel when someone smiles and waves at you, even if you’ve never met them. It’s also the shared joy in breaking stuff, poop jokes, explosions, and goofy surprises, showing that Katamari Damacy developer Keita Takahashi is still at the top of his game in making experiences that offer pure, unfiltered happiness.
Wattam is a game about making unexpected friendships in a world filled with bright, cheerful characters. From the beginning of the game’s demo, there’s only the mayor, a moustachioed green cube with a sharp hat. He’s able to walk into the spotlight, but that spotlight also turns out to be a character, the two cavorting around a plush field together. Then they stumble across a rock, but that rock is another character, the three of them getting along just fine, smiling and laughing together.
It sounds completely ridiculous, and it is. Wattam is a constant barrage of unexpected meetings with cute characters that can be trees, seeds, veggies, phones, or toilets, with players meeting new characters every few minutes. Each of these living objects, simple as they sound, are given a face and a cheerful personality, with their colourful forms and endless enthusiasm creating this desire to hang out with them. A smiling rock shouldn’t be this compelling as a buddy, but the way it bounces and grins as it wanders this equally colourful place makes the player want to know them better.
As new buddies show up, each friend brings with them a kind of adventure. At one point, the spotlight left, bringing all of the assembled characters to tears. These tears made the grass grow when it landed on it, and would soon grow a little seed friend, who could then be planted to grow a huge tree that would eat the characters, turning them into fruit variations of themselves. Not only is there an endless stream of charming characters to befriend, but each brings a new activity that reshapes how the player sees the world. What fruit will I become if I get eaten? What happens if I put on this hat? It all changes how the player interacts with the world, filling every moment with new and silly possibility.
This stuff is rarely predictable, either. After the fruit change, alien beings came by that would eat the characters and turn them into poo. A few moments later, alien toilets showed up to flush the poo people, turning them gold for some reason, which caused a hole to rip in reality while another new crew of beings showed up. This had all happened within the short demo, showcasing Wattam’s sense of humour and its ability to constantly surprise the player.
If players ever felt like they weren’t having fun with their new buddies, they could take the mayor’s hat off and drop an explosive present, blowing up everyone in range. This sounds vicious, but all of these colourful features loved it, flying around on shining plumes of smoke as they laughed. If that didn’t seem like fun, characters could hold hands and go for a walk, or all join hands with everyone around and sing songs in a circle. There are endless opportunities to be playful in this world, creating this place where unexpected adventure could always be found.
That friendship transcends language barriers, too. Many of the characters in Wattam speak Russian, Korean, Japanese, or other languages, and none of them are getting localized. Players may not know what the other characters are talking about, but just holding their hands, playing a bit in the green fields, or sharing a happy explosion would get these characters laughing and happy. It’s a delightful message of working together to break down the artificial barriers we put around ourselves, reminding us of our shared humanity.
This was the point of the game, according to Takahashi. Designed from his experiences seeing other cultures coming together despite differences in Vancouver, where he now resides, it is a charming look at how we don’t have to let our differences divide us, but instead, can see ourselves as humans. And mixing that with the fact that his kids like to wreck stuff (but adults kinda do, too), creating an experience that captures the simple joy of friendship.
Wattam expressed joy and friendship and constant surprise in its demo, taking players out of a world that seems designed to break us down and divide us. As a game, it offers lighthearted fun in colourful lands filled with charming characters and funny situations, one well worth soaking in the heartwarming mood. It promises to be a powerful, and powerfully silly, experience when the full version launches.
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