Wattam isn’t a very long game. The latest work from Keita Takahashi, who is known for titles like Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy, is a lighthearted romp that sometimes feels like it only briefly explores ideas and concepts that could have been fleshed out or repeated throughout the Mayor’s journey to bring everyone together again. There are these moments where concepts come in and feel special, but then turn out to be one-off activities that are never returned to.
One of the more notable puzzles involves transforming Mayor into Detective to find the missing Ikura kids. There is a moment in Wattam where, in order to stop a camera from crying, you have to help an autumn tree regrow its leaves. It won’t flourish again until it eats Ikura sushi. Except Ikura is plain sushi rice with seaweed wrapped around it when it arrives. Mayor swaps his normal hat for one that turns him into a Detective, flies up to the sushi, learns the salmon roe children are missing, then goes to different landmasses interviewing people of interest with his new context-specific ability to reunite the family. So they can be eaten, by a tree, to make a camera happy. It’s a wonderful extended puzzle that involves using a balloon and trickery to reach Ikura, then explore to collect the kids. But, sadly, you only get to do it once.
The second sort of puzzle involves a key sword. Yes, the Mayor is canonically a keyblade master. (Who knew?) Once you get the sword, you get exactly one chance to really use it in “battle.” A doll without facial features is among the returning characters, with the eyes, mouth, and nose that appeared earlier being the missing bits needed. Once the doll arrives, these body parts terrorize it into running around in a panic, mocking it as they do. Mayor then has to beat the character up with the key sword until it calms down enough for each part to climb back up to reconstruct the face. It is surreal (and maybe feels a bit mean), but brings in a sort of gameplay that is totally unexpected for Wattam.
Which brings us to a final sort of challenge that is briefly included, but could have been better explored throughout Wattam. At one point near the end, a house appears to help solve a mystery. The Mayor can’t find the final answers he is seeking unless he helps the house reunite with different friends it lost along the way. However, the house doesn’t seem to exactly remember the friends exactly. This leads to the Wattam equivalent of “Who’s that Pokemon?” You get a shape and have to bring up the character you’ve reunited with to the house to meet up again. Initially, these shapes are incredibly obvious. The number 3 is especially easy to pick out. As the quest chain goes on, the hints become more vague and it starts making you think harder about who could possible be the correct individual, which makes for a really nice final salute to a game that keeps shifting objectives.
There is one thing that can be said about Wattam: it never draws the experience out. Ideas and concepts are introduced, performed well, then disappear when they have had their moment. These activities are fleeting glimmers of potential. While each one is a delight, there’s also a sadness in knowing that was it. You had your chance to do that thing, and now that opportunity will not happen again. Perhaps in a way, that makes them, the experience, and Wattam more precious.
Wattam is available for the PlayStation 4 and PC.