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Review

Papo & Yo Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

The gameplay of Papo & Yo won't grab you, but its imaginative portrayal of a young boy's struggles makes it a worthwhile and special experience.

A child's imagination is a powerful thing. It can imbue the world with wonders, taking the mundane and making it magical. It can also help a child cope with real-world fears that are much too big and scary to confront otherwise. For Quico, the young hero of Papo & Yo, his imagination serves both purposes. The game is wise and knowing about the ways in which a child's imagination can empower, and the ways in which it can obstruct, when push comes to shove and reality needs to be faced. As a puzzle-filled adventure, Papo & Yo is too easy to offer the stimulation and satisfaction that come from working out the solution to a perplexing conundrum. But as a journey into the world a child creates as an escape from the pain of reality, Papo & Yo is a beautiful experience that addresses serious issues with a deft, graceful touch.

As Quico, you follow your sometimes helpful, sometimes playfully cruel sister through a Latin American village that's made up of realistic pieces; the structures look as if they might be ordinary homes that ordinary families live in. But this is no ordinary place. From chalk outlines drawn by your sister on walls, doors spring into existence. By turning gears, you can make stairs slide out of walls. By pulling levers, you can peel back layers of the world. The gears, levers, keys, and other objects you can interact with give Quico some measure of power and control in this place--an important thing for a boy who, as an opening scene suggests, has little power and control in his unstable home life.

Quico's abilities are also empowering to you as a player. In an early puzzle, you come upon a vast divide separating you from where you need to go, and somehow, you must use the small boxes in front of you to bridge the gap. The instant you lift one is a magical moment, as it immediately becomes apparent what the boxes do. By moving the boxes, you are also moving large buildings around, restructuring the world to fit your needs and creating platforms that you can leap across to reach your destination.

This sensation of wonder is repeated again and again throughout the game in ways large and small. It is almost never challenging to figure out what you need to do to advance. Turning the available keys, pulling the available levers, and trying out anything else in the area that you can interact with generally makes the solution to your current predicament clear. But there's a tranquil pleasure in going through the motions and observing the magic that takes place, in seeing a stack of buildings grow taller and taller until you can twist it like a snake and run up it like a giant staircase. Unfortunately, technical issues might occasionally make you feel powerless rather than empowered. We fell through the ground in a few spots, leaving us no recourse but to quit and start from an earlier checkpoint. A day-one patch may alleviate these issues, but it's not yet clear how effective this fix is.

Murals give some areas of Quico's world a striking burst of color.

Quico is not alone on this journey. He has his toy robot and trusty friend Lula, who can zip to faraway switches, help Quico jump farther, and offer words of encouragement. And then there's the monster named Monster, who is not just a companion in this story; he is at its thematic and emotional core. He's an imposing presence with his hefty frame and his sharp horn, but he's usually a docile creature, prone to dozing and easily led about with tantalizing lemons. Quico sometimes needs to bounce off of Monster's big belly to reach high places, or get him to stand on a specific spot to trigger a switch. Through these situations, the game creates a meaningful relationship between Quico and Monster, which is necessary for this story to have any power.

You see, Monster has a dark side. Frogs hop around in certain areas, and Monster can't resist eating the little critters. But whenever he does, he becomes a frightening, fiery creature who chases Quico and flings the poor boy through the air. There's no penalty for being caught by Monster--Quico can't die--but it's still painful to see him being savaged by the normally friendly beast. Only by finding rotten fruits can you purge Monster of the madness that overtakes him. Like all the other puzzles in Papo & Yo, those involving Monster's frog-induced rages aren't particularly challenging, but they have real emotional impact.

The changes Quico brings to his surroundings may inspire awe and wonder.

Quico's quest eventually requires him to seek a cure for Monster, and to say too much about how that progresses would risk spoiling the story. But suffice it to say that Papo & Yo doesn't disrespect its audience or trivialize its subject matter by offering easy, falsely comforting answers. Like all good fables and fairy tales, this story about a boy using his imagination as an instrument of perseverance in a painful world confronts painful truths in order to offer a realistic foundation for hope. It's that rare game that's good for children, not just as a distraction or a piece of entertainment, but as a nourishing tale that helps to make sense of a world that sometimes makes none at all. But you don't have to be a child to be enchanted by Papo & Yo. Even adults need to see the world through a child's eyes once in a while.

The Good
Handles difficult subject matter wonderfully
Filled with magical, empowering moments
The Bad
Puzzles are too easy to be rewarding
Some technical issues
7.5
Good
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Discussion

0 comments
Royial20
Royial20

While the games easy. Its the story that kept me interested. I really wanted a conclusion to know if it was all gonna be OK. The game is worth it on that alone imo.

ScreamDream
ScreamDream

Loved the demo. Nothing great but a nice fantasy that's different.

monicker
monicker

Wow, IGN totally slammed this game calling it all but unplayable. I tend to like Carolyn's reviews so I'll check the demo and maybe give this a chance. I was hoping for something like Braid, Limbo/Journey, a new indie game to knock my socks off. Oh well.

UnwantedSpam
UnwantedSpam

Looks cool, I like creative games like this, but I'm still on the fence about buying it since everyone's opinions are so mixed...

walders
walders

Interesting how different reviewers get different experiences. The guys at IGN had some game breaking bugs in which they had to re download it and start it over.

Reuwsaat
Reuwsaat

wow 7.5! It may not sound like a lot, but many of the big devs fail to reach that score sometimes, and for a starting project of a new small studio, that's pretty good, at least in my opinion. Hope they get support to keep on making new games!

franzito
franzito

I just love games that deal with real life issues in a special way.

realdevilsalias
realdevilsalias

Good score, makes me want to buy it even more. I like my puzzling easy as Sunday morning.

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

A nice score. It has been some time since I have seen this game.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

"Puzzles are too easy to be rewarding"

"It's that rare game that's good for children"

 

Contradictory, much?

slainta
slainta

 @walders And still they forgave all the unbelievable Skyrim game-breaking issue.. 

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @c_rake  @Gelugon_baat  @franzito 

*sighs*

The point being chaps, that the game is rated for ages 10 and up - Caro doesn't seem to take that into account when noting the ease of puzzle-solving as a negative point against the game - I'm suggesting that aspect makes it *more* accessible to children, by virtue of that selfsame simplicity.

I notice that since making my comment, the score has been massaged up another 5 percent.

franzito
franzito

@s_h_a_d_o Read all the review first, the text is fluid, so, it's easy. Isolated statements doesn't make a contradiction.

c_rakestraw
c_rakestraw moderator moderator

 @s_h_a_d_o When you take it completely out of context, sure, maybe.

slainta
slainta

 @Gelugon_baat  here as well, I see.  Am I the only one under the impression that you attack anyone whom disagrees with a GS review? For PS3 at least.

ExplicitMike
ExplicitMike

 @Gelugon_baat You strike again. LOL how long have you been doing this? Can I take your place when you go?

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @Gelugon_baat 

"Well, I have said earlier that Petit's "good for children" statement is not referring to gameplay and, I add, accessibility too. That statement is referring to the game's presentation of its themes."

 

No - that statement is referring to the game's presentation of its themes *AND* it's performance "as a distraction or a piece of entertainment".

 

Read it again.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @Gelugon_baat 

'Maybe you would be more propitiated if this is added as a "Pro" to counteract the "Con"'

I think that is a sensible suggestion, yes.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @Gelugon_baat 

Oh, and by that same logic, the review can't be done by having just the adult in mind either.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

 @Gelugon_baat 

Of course, but how can one condone labelling as a *bad* thing, an aspect of the game that allows for (and most likely caters to) a younger audience, especially when one specifically draws attention to the fact that this is a "game that's good for children" - *that* is the contradiction that spawned my original comment.

Papo & Yo More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    Follow Quico's fear-filled journey to find a cure in Papo & Yo.
    7.3
    Average User RatingOut of 128 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Minority
    Published by:
    Minority
    Genres:
    Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence