It’s difficult to describe Wattam without sounding like you’ve gone completely insane during lockdown. At first you play a lonely green cube called Mayor whose only wish is that he had a friend to share his existential misery with, but within a couple of hours you’re parping golden turds, sticking sentient eyes, a nose and a mouth on a terrifying doll’s featureless face, and flying across the vast cloud sea separating the game’s four islands on the back of a giant toilet. It’s exactly the kind of fever dream you’d expect from Katamari creator Keita Takahashi, but man alive if it isn’t one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played.
In truth, I wasn’t particularly won over by it when it first came out about a year ago. It was one of those very late end of year releases that got swallowed up by the bigger, shinier games of the year, and in the stark light of a cold, miserable January, I found its assortment of chuckling, giggling fruit, desk tat and turd-topped ice cream cones just a little too juvenile.
If Wattam had come out this Christmas, though, I think its colourful cast of over-excitable household objects would probably have had quite a different effect on me. After all, Wattam is a game about reaching out and making connections, regardless of language, shape and size – and we need a bit of that after this year, don’t we? It doesn’t matter what you are in Wattam – you could be a French seed pod, a Russian stapler, or juicy bit of Japanese cod roe (for each item has its own name and nationality); you’re all welcome in Mayor’s new republic of misfits.
There’s still a lot I wish Wattam did more of. While there’s a plentiful supply of objects you can combine to create new and weird reactions, such as making everyone fall asleep by bashing into them with a pillow, or making them cry by terrorising them with an onion, a lot of the game’s objectives only rely on a few key players. There’s so much missed opportunity for silly mayhem, and that’s a real shame – especially when Takahashi’s previous work (Katamari Damacy Reroll, I’m looking at you) seemed to take such delight in it.
If it’s mindless tomfoolery you’re after, Untitled Goose Game is arguably the better game for that (another reason why Wattam failed to land with me last year), but there is still plenty to like here. If you need a pick-me-up after this turd of a year, this winsome tale of hand-holding knives and forks and finding the good in literally everything and the kitchen sink, Wattam could be just what the doctor ordered.