n. A combination of the Japanese word (wa) and the Tamil word (vattam) for circle.
Wattam is the latest game directed by Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy creator Keita Takahashi. It’s an outwardly strange game that people don’t seem to understand based on trailers and images alone. Why does the cube man have a hat? Why is there a sentient mouth that eats people? What’s going on? Well, its an incredibly simple game whose story-line can be boiled down to its overarching theme – It’s about bringing people together.
Game Name: Wattam
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PC (Epic Games Store)
Publisher(s): Annapurna Interactive
Release Date: December 17, 2019
The premise of Wattam is that once the world was happy and full of people, but something strange happened and now everyone is gone. You start the game as a cube man with a hat called Mayor and slowly bring everyone back-from rocks, to plants, to entire seasons, and more. The core gameplay is interacting with others. Everyone has problems or a need. Sometimes there’s just a mystery to be solved. No matter the situation, there is always value in the world and each other. Each episode is its own puzzle and you have to make use of everyone’s unique purpose or traits to advance the story. Everyone has a face and just about everyone has legs and arms-which you can connect with the circle and square buttons on PS4 to hold hands. By spinning in a circle you can make certain miracles happen, like growing a tree straight from a fruit planted in the ground. There are also unique mechanics tied to certain characters like the magic bomb under the Mayor’s hat (which is more like a firework and doesn’t hurt anyone), a mouth that eats other characters and turns them into poop, trees that can suck people up and turn them into fruit, and more that I won’t spoil.
The world and its characters are delightful and colorful. Characters will speak in various languages from all over the world like English, Russian, and Chinese. They all speak with adorable voices and have childish laughter. The music also changes with each character you play as, like playing as the mouth changes the music to opera. Most characters need your help with a problem or to be happier. It’s ok to have problems or be unhappy, but you always want to help one another. It’s the entire drive of the game to unite people and bring the world together.
There’s a sense of wonder with your first playthrough since you never know what to expect. The joy of seeing chunks of the cast come bursting through a wormhole just to be your friends is something I’ll never tire of. Everyone is accounted for with dramatically presented messages or text boxes when they return and it’s a really nice touch. It’s like the universe itself is welcoming your return.
I prefer to revisit games to see how they hold up past the hype of an initial first experience and Wattam still keeps me motivated despite knowing everything. The game feels even lonelier when you know who’s missing and what little you can do. Those feelings of loss and loneliness only made me want to bring everyone together again-and the sense of mystery was replaced with wanting to appreciate each moment and person. It’s something the game’s narrative also accounts for-cherishing what you have before you lose it. Wattam is very masterful at intertwining its themes, gameplay, and story in that way.
Where Wattam fails, however, is that it sometimes suffers from performance issues. A day-one patch seems to address most of them, but there are still minor issues. The game will slow down when new characters enter the world and one time it was so bad, the game froze for me. Luckily the autosave function prevented me from losing any progress-although loading into the main menu that can take longer than I would have liked. It’s also problematic on how getting certain characters from point A to B can take a while.
As you get more characters, the scope of the game expands immensely from square-shaped islands to an entire hemisphere and then outer space. Certain characters like a table or a birthday cake are so massive they serve as vehicles. Otherwise, you can hold onto a balloon-which takes even longer. Other issues I had were dialogue boxes sometimes being obscured by other characters and not being able to see facial expressions since the camera was at a weird angle or because I placed my character too close to whomever I was talking to.
Wattam is not without its issues but it’s such a pure and wonderful experience. Its themes of bringing people together are present in both it’s gameplay and storytelling.
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Wattam is a unique and delightful experience that suffers from a few technical issues.