Emily dives into the visionary work of indie developer Keita Takahashi.
Let me set the scene for you. It’s the 21st of January, 4 am on a Tuesday morning. There I am, having a sleepless episode, innocently browsing Twitch in a desperate bid to find something that will send me to sleep.
I notice that Nerdcubed is streaming. Hm, I think, I’ll check it out, only to be bombarded with a monstrous doll being subdued so bits of her face can climb back into place.
Honestly, it was a lot for four in the morning. But here’s the problem; as horrific and strange and trippy as this was, it was also somehow compelling? I watched the entire stream, and went on to google more and more about this game, desperate for answers.
Things began to make more sense when I found out this was Keita Takahashi’s new game, the creator of Noby Noby Boy. You remember Noby Noby Boy, right? The one where you have to eat things to get bigger, then fart them out at extreme velocity and ping yourself around the map?
It has the most bizarre controls of any game I’ve ever tried to play; your character’s head and butt are controlled separately. The aim is to eat and grow wider so you could gain points by stretching Noby Noby Boy’s body out longer.
The points everyone playing the game earned were then sent to a character called Girl, who unlocked new levels once you hit certain milestones, filled with new things to eat and fart out viciously.
(Takahashi also made Katamari Damacy, but that one’s relatively tame compared to these two.)
Noby Noby Boy was an adventure alright, but it lacked a strong narrative. Your objective was to work collaboratively with other players around the world to unlock more content; it was a wholesome experience. It’s also labelled as a puzzle game, but there aren’t really any puzzles to solve. If an object can’t be eaten, it isn’t a puzzle why, you just know you’ve got to eat more smaller things and grow before trying again.
Takahashi worked with Annapurna Interactive to produce his newest masterpiece, Wattan, and as soon as I saw the stuff they’d previously worked on it all made sense. Annapurna Interactive made the stunningly beautiful perspective puzzle game Gorogoa, the hilariously dumb parody Donut Country, and the refreshingly replayable Outer Wilds.
(Bonus titbit: Did you know that Donut Country was based off of a tweet from a parody account of Peter Molyneux, the genius behind Dungeon Keeper and the idiot behind Godus? I didn’t. Now that’s a fun google spiral to go down.)
This is exactly the sort of unapologetically weird content they put out, and I love them for it.
Wattam is truly a wholesome puzzle experience. In order to unlock more characters, you have to solve their problems, and then bomb them with the glitter rainbows you keep under the mayor’s hat? Listen, it’s still very weird, but there are actual puzzles! You also have to unlock “seasons”; these floating levels that you have to travel to on these giant anthropomorphic objects with faces…?
That’s the thing, I can’t actually explain everything about Wattam. Every time I think I’ve summed it up, it’ll add another layer of weirdness, like a redemption arc for a moon or operating on a dual level system with flying toilets that can only move in two dimensions, and tiny little noses that can ride on said toilets and move in three dimensions. It’s too much!
The point is, Wattam is wonderfully weird. It’s got this charmingly indie feel to it; you just know that it was made with love. I wanted to shine a light on that love, on one of the strangest video games I’ve ever seen, and the wonderful indie gaming community that made it happen.
(Also, Keita Takahashi is a global treasure and should be protected so he can keep on making weird games that will confuse me for centuries.)