Review: Papo & Yo – New Gamer Nation

One of the outstanding aspects of Minority's PlayStation Network debut, Papo & Yo, is the ease with which it tells such a compelling narrative with little in the way of actual conversation; indeed, what speech there is comes from an invented language the developers call “Latin gibberish.” It is at once both a tale of a child suffering through the torments of an abusive father, and an exploration of that child's innocence. Using much the same template as Guillmero Del Toro' s Pan's Labyrinth, Papo & Yo has you enter a world of imagination fueled by the desire to escape a miserable reality.

The concept for this game is drawn from creative director Vander Caballero's personal experience, and some might level an accusation of heavy-handedness – the need for the game to speak for itself, rather than be (in part) semi-autobiographical – yet in doing so, the thirteen core developers at Minority have a crafted a title with a concept rarely touched upon in gaming.

Papo & Yo is emotive in a way few games are (or try to be), and even if you cannot relate directly to the game's allegory, you will nonetheless feel for those affected by the conclusion. This theme of evoking a response – while never dwelling on darker moments – is wonderfully accompanied by La Hacienda Creative's soundtrack for the game, which perfectly captures the mood of your journey through a South American-esque favela.

Not too long into the game, you meet the Monster, a manifestation of an abusive father. Lured along by coconuts and enraged when eating frogs, the Monster is a complicated creature. At times docile, even sleeping, and at others, intent on chasing

e-11683″ title=”papoyyo2″ alt=”” src=”×159.jpg” width=”300″ height=”159″ /> you down and hurling you into the air to land some distance away.

In essence, Papo & Yo is a game of chasing. A girl summons you onward, towards a cure for the Monster; towards the shaman's cave. You always have a clear goal, but getting there can be tricky. Players can rearrange certain parts of each level, shifting gears to move houses around to form a bridge, for example, or luring the Monster onto a pressure plate with coconuts.

There are no moments that better show this complexity then when you kick a soccer ball toward The Monster. He will pick it up and throw it back. These docile moments are no doubt a reflection of the times when Caballaro's father did not abuse alcohol, which is to say those periods when his father was what a parent is supposed to be.

However, Papo & Yo is not flawless. Though it possesses a distinct aesthetic flair, the graphics are often sub-par, while the frame-rate can drop noticeably on occasion. Also, it feels like it's not quite long enough for the entry fee. Yet, these are the biggest faults and are easily overlooked in light of what Minority has created.

Papo & Yo is not a challenging game – the puzzles usually take no more than two attempts; even so, it is a hard game. A game that makes you think; a game that makes you feel. Minority has crafted a game that will stick with you long after you finish it. It is a game that shows a child desperately attempting to save what cannot be saved, and it is a game that sets a benchmark for how to tell an interactive story so simply, yet so powerfully. In that aspect, it recalls Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Papo & Yo is well worth a look in spite of its flaws, and there can never be enough games like this – games that make you feel; games that make you care.

[xrr rating=8.5/10]

This review is based on a retail  copy of the PlayStation Network version of Papo & Yo by Minority distributed by Sony. 


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GuestPost represents the work of past New Gamer Nation writers. Though they may not be with us anymore physically, we know they are with us in spirit.