"Papo & Yo steps beyond the conventional implications of how a narrative is treated in video games and follows a more delicate path to convey its message."
At first glance Papo & Yo appears like a colorful and cheerful puzzle platformer with a giant pink monster that eats frogs and coconuts. Some might even play though the entire game without truly understandings its darker implications. This is why Papo & Yo is so spectacular and special. Its metaphorical tale that explores fear, abuse, and poverty is portrayed in such a creative manner that each player might take away something different from the experience. Some might simply enjoy its beautiful scenery and interesting environmental puzzles, while others will shiver at the allegory of a child raised by an abusive, alcoholic father. Much like the legendary Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Papo & Yo steps beyond the conventional implications of how a narrative is treated in video games and follows a more delicate path to convey its message. Papo & Yo is one of the most impactful indie titles this generation and goes to show just how powerful the medium can be.
"Papo & Yo should be approached as a story first and a game second. It’s a modern day fable that asks for your hand to guide you through its mysterious world."
It’s all in the details. Papo & Yo’s poetic narrative serves as a correlation to a discomforting reality. This autobiographical tale of creator Vander Caballero tells the story of Quico, a young Brazilian kid who escapes into his imagination to get away from his abusive father. Its dark opening scene is quickly overlaid with the beautiful, albeit poverty stricken Brazilian favela. Before long Quico meets Monster, a giant pink creature that craves coconuts and likes to sleep. Soon the boy discovers Monster’s dark side. By eating frogs, Monster turns into a fiery, enraged lunatic that runs around destroying everything in his path. Quico becomes determined to find a cure for Monster’s aggressiveness and it’s terrifying to picture their relationship as a personification of Caballero’s real life childhood struggles.
Papo & Yo should be approached as a story first and a game second. It’s a modern day fable that asks for your hand to guide you through its mysterious world. It’s an experience that relies on your curiosities to fill in the blanks and oftentimes leaves you with more questions than answers. Its disobedience to standard gaming trends lends itself to a more experimental gameplay approach that keeps the journey fresh and exciting throughout. At its core, Papo & Yo is a third person platformer comprised of environmental puzzles. Quico can manipulate objects and buildings by interacting with chalk drawings around the environment. Most objectives consist of solving puzzles to open new areas and collaborating with Monster to overcome various obstacles. Oftentimes you have to deal with Monster’s outbursts, which are equivalent to mini-boss fights, but he can be quickly subdued when fed a giant blueberry.
"The core mechanics are quite simple and I wouldn’t recommend playing this if you’re having itchy trigger fingers."
The puzzles themselves aren’t too complicated but it’s the level design that makes solving each stage a rewarding experience. Seeing the architecture transform as you morph buildings into transportation devices is startling. To get across greater gaps, Quico uses a little robot sidekick to hover from building to building. If you get stuck on a particular puzzle, drawings inside cardboard boxes tucked away in each level reveal clues to your objectives. It’s a brilliant idea but it definitely makes things easier, so it’s better to just figure out the solution on your own. The core mechanics are quite simple and I wouldn’t recommend playing this if you’re having itchy trigger fingers. It’s meant to be enjoyed like a good storybook and those thirsting for something different will get the most out of its sublime experience.
"The PC version of Papo & Yo is undoubtedly the definitive experience."
Papo & Yo is visually beautiful. Colorful environments are dissected with massive contrasting white shapes of chalk as you peel away layers of architecture and the creature design is both charming and grim. The dark tone that underlies this magical world is exquisitely balanced and the subtle rhythmical soundtrack serves as a superb companion while you hop across the rooftops. Technically, however, the game is a little unstable. Odd framerate hiccups and occasional clipping can interrupt the immersion, but it’s still a significant improvement over the console counterpart.
The PC version of Papo & Yo is undoubtedly the definitive experience. It beautifully balances a touchy subject matter with lighthearted puzzle solving and provides a noteworthy narrative that’s worth replaying over and over. It’s the Ico of our generation and I can only cross my fingers that Vander Caballero has more adventures in store for us as the new generation rolls around. I absolutely adored every second with Papo & Yo and recommend it to anyone craving something unique and memorable.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC