Papo & Yo PS3 review – Turns out childhood trauma is great source material
I’ve been playing Papo & Yo for about an hour when dep ed Joel walks in. “Why are you teasing a skinless rhino with that coconut?” he asks. “How are you moving those floating buildings? What are you doing with those glowing cogs? Why did the entire favela just fold in half?” It hadn’t hit me before now, maybe because I was entranced by all the pretty colours, but now it does – Papo & Yo is an incredible oddity.
Papo & Yo PS3 review
I guess an allegory about substance abuse told through the medium of fantasy platforming was always going to walk that tightrope between bizarre and unfathomable. At times, it feels like you’re invading creative director Vander Caballero’s most private childhood memories: this is, after all, a game about the complex relationship between him and his father, an alcoholic who could flit between loving and aggressive in an instant. It’s a relationship you experience first-hand through the interactions between your character Quico and the manifestation of his Papo, a monster known as, well… Monster.
He, your toy robot Lula and a mysterious girl who guides you through the ever-changing streets are your only company though Papo & Yo’s affecting and surprisingly sizeable journey. Each character has their own useful mechanics, such as the jetpack on your toy robot that’s used for Journey-esque double jumps, and frequent switches that only Monster can hit to help you progress, but there’s a deeper message from Minority Media in the sparse cast. Lula forms an important part of Quico’s life because he’s lonely and neglected by his father figure. Monster is your only real enemy, but you love him unconditionally as only a child can, and the quest to take him to a shaman and cure him of his evils is heartbreakingly naïve. Maybe I’m overthinking a platformer’s story a bit, but Papo & Yo will do that kind of thing to you.
If it entrenches itself deep in your heart for its uncommonly touching yet incredibly light-handed story and bold South American stylings, it latches on with almost as much vigour with its imaginative and downright odd puzzles. Essentially you’re manipulating favela buildings to build bridges or reach switches that allow you to progress, and although that sounds as innovative as steam power, Minority has a knack for making those puzzles satisfying.
If you can’t stand to see the words ‘game’ and ‘art’ in a sentence together – cuddling up, judging you – you might not be enamoured with Papo & Yo. There are some great puzzles in here, but they’re presented with more of a spit-shine than actual polish, lacking the precision of larger studios’ games and suffering clipping woes. But as a curio, a breath of fresh creative intent and a piece of leftfield storytelling, Papo & Yo beats games with ten times the budget and manpower.