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Wattam has been in and out of and then in development for quite some time. But despite the slightly confusing aura that may surround it, it’s still very much a game from quirky designer Keita Takahashi, who is known for Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy. Weird only begins to describe these titles but they have fit themselves into the greater gaming pantheon. Wattam looks like it is trying to do the same thing. It’s similarly hard to describe yet is an experience about everything and nothing, a game and a toy, and full of poop but not actually crappy itself.
Poop is central to Wattam despite being more of a means to get to the end goal. You play as a sentient green cube with tiny appendages and a bowler hat who also happens to a mayor that is quite loney, which is his most relatable trait. To make friends, the titular Wattam does what any cubed loner would do and blows up people. But instead of getting sent prison with and then getting acquitted because he knows a guy, Wattam makes more friends the more he explodes as his victims take a liking to the explosive theatrics.
These courtships play out in a puzzle-like fashion on a large, flat floating square. For example, you’ll have to cry on the plants to get them to sprout to make the tree grow so it can turn the cast into fruit so they can, well, be crapped out and morphed into poop to appease the toilet. Look, we all have that one picky friend. Each being can be controlled and most have different traits. Wattam’s is his bombastic hat, the acorn can grow into a tree, and so on.
Wattam Preview | Getting by with a little help from your friends
Fitting all of these different abilities together in quirky ways triggers the next set of potential friends and makes up Wattam’s core gameplay. Thinking outside the box and within the game’s bizarre logic works as that process is just so different than in other games. Whereas you have to shove keys into keyholes in other titles, you might need to stack up polished fruit and other items to progress or feed a hungry mouth. It’s cute, absurd, and unlike anything else out there.
While it may not fit a more strict definition of a video game for some, it doesn’t matter. And famed designer Keita Takahashi admits to not knowing that that differentiation is anyway.
“I still can’t define what a ‘game’ is and what a ‘toy’ is,” he says. “For me, there is no barrier between toys and games. So when people ask me about my games feeling like a toy box, it’s always tough to answer for me. I’m not sure what is a toy and what is a video game.”
That differentiation is a bit besides the point as it blends the best part of both. The video game parts allow you to play around with each being’s unique abilities and let you progress through its light but silly story. Although, this can be a little difficult given how the controls can be a bit unwieldy at times. The camera control is on the shoulder buttons, after all.
However, the lack of pressure alleviates most of this issue, which is where its toy box nature comes in. This laidback approach also helps remove the pressure of having to press on and incentivizes that you to take your time and explore its bizarre little world. Seeing what everyone can do and how their unique hats can interact with each other is incredibly reminiscent of the zen-like nature of Noby Noby Boy, which was Takahashi’s previous console game.
Wattam Preview | WELCOME TOILET!
And like Noby Noby Boy, Wattam embraces toilet humor. That is a literal term since there are actually toilets in the game. The mouth, once it has been fed, will crap out poop versions of whatever it eats, which you can then polish. Since most characters and their abilities appear to be necessary for progression, poop has a gameplay purpose, but it more serves the tone than anything else.
Poop is inherently hilarious in most situations to pretty much any age group. And while Wattam isn’t impeding on Kevin James’ signature brand of comedy, it adds even more levity to a game that’s already about not taking itself seriously. Wattam can be played cooperatively and since it doesn’t rely on fail states or any other conventionally gamey things, it can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. The poop is symbolic of that wide-ranging appeal as it can be hilarious to kids, but also to anyone with eyes and damn soul. It’s hard not to at least chuckle when a huge mouth craps out a giant, emoji-like turd.
Takahashi, however, just thinks it needs to be represented because it is part of our everyday lives. Or at least part of our lives five or so times a week.
“We always see our poop, right?” says Takahashi, stating the truth we all need to hear. “Always. Every day. For me, why don’t other games do these things? Like show poop or show farts? It’s a funny thing, right? It’s one of our natural things.”
Games are usually so obsessed with death that they rarely take time to tackle parts of life like pooping. It may seem like a joke, and part of it is, but this approach helps define the wholesomeness present in Wattam. The act of making friends with inanimate objects was funny, charming, and downright bizarre in ways that Takahashi’s games always are. Unorthodox controls always come packaged with this unique style but, given how endearing that style is, it doesn’t seem like it will distract much from the vibe Wattam is going for. You will just probably have to into that sort of thing going in.