Papo & Yo Review

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. This PC version looks a little better and plays a little more smoothly, but it doesn't improve significantly on the already lovely PlayStation Network release of last year. Still, if you couldn't experience this meaningful game on the PlayStation 3, you should seize the opportunity to do so now.

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.

Quico has no control over his chaotic home life, but his imagination lets him escape and feel empowered.

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.

There's no penalty for getting caught, but you still understand and empathize with Quico's fear of Monster.

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
7.5
Good
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Discussion

45 comments
Redman1984
Redman1984

Maybe a strange question, but does anyone know what the title of the game 'Papo & Yo' means?

Snipper68
Snipper68

At 44 years old I found this game wonderful. I don't get the time to play as much as I would like. It's something different. I've had enough of time limits, running out of lives/energy and admittedly my reactions aren't as primed as they used to be for many games now. I have a collection of half finished games. I was happy to pay £10 for a game that I could play half an hour at a time, come back to it when I liked without worrying that I'd forgotten half the button combos or some sh*t like that. I've just completed it and it's the first game that I have finished where I've continued to sit and watch the credits to the end. Most of you will be hardcore gamer's, I just wanted you to see it from a different players angle.

devastator1991
devastator1991

Another indie piece of crap that will probably win game of the year on here. smh Wake me up when it's done.

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

A game where it's impossible to lose gets nearly an 8. Yup...bs...called it then, calling it a year later.

eesounds
eesounds

I pre-ordered Papo&Yo on steam and am gearing up to play it this weekend. I never expected a hard playthrough, especially at such a low cost for a game. I am more interested in experiencing the story that Papo&Yo created. I will still wait to say whether the game is good or not, but I expect it to be worth the money.

Afonsop
Afonsop

AHHHHH no video review!!!!!

mkdms14
mkdms14

I was going to say this game came out almost a year ago on PSN.  This is just the same review posted a year latter.  Lazy on their part if you ask me.

DiamondDM13
DiamondDM13

Wasn't this game out a long time ago? And I'm pretty sure it had scored higher...

consumed_chaos
consumed_chaos

These guys are gr8 they deserve better than this!!!im really looking 4wrd to this game as LA Noire was totally a new expierience for every1 and was off the hook!

anakvunky
anakvunky

@devastator1991 Why everyone is hating indie game... if everyone who hates indie game can make one game and release it worldwide then they can make a comment like that... 

pip3dream
pip3dream

@devastator1991 the reason you find indie games, and games that think outside of the proverbial box winning GOTY against AAA million dollar titles is... just that, they are different.  Aren't you tired of playing the same game, year after year?  Don't you want to see the idea of what a game is evolve, mature, and grow? I'm not even talking about COD, or BF here - I'm talking about 80% of games that come out (especially FPS style) is a man's hand, holding a gun, accomplishing the same thing, killing the same things, game after game, after game, just reskinned.  Even Bioshock infinite, with it's wonderfully engaging story, and forward thinking narrative, and beautiful world, had gameplay that boiled down to the same thing we've been doing since DOOM came out on shareware.  Cheers.

carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle staff

@chipwithdip Not every game needs to involve challenging the player. This is a story about a child struggling to cope with a parent's alcoholism. Surely that is a worthy subject matter for any medium to attempt to deal with. The puzzles here are about the way Quico uses his imagination to feel like he has some sort of control--a very important feeling for a child to have when their home life is chaotic, scary and completely out of their control. It is more important that the puzzles here feel empowering than that they be challenging.

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

@DiamondDM13 For the PSN, yes, but this is a review for the PC version.  Also, no.  Both version scored the same.

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

@carolynmichelle @chipwithdip A video game that doesn't involve "challenging the player"? You mean like a sport that doesn't involve "challenging the players"? With no penalty of failure involved, this might as well been more of a "Youtube movie" game than Asura's Wrath. I understand that you might have personal connections to the game, but it does NOT merit getting even a 7. A "game", where one can not "lose"? Hell, even Heavy Rain and Journey had SOME room for failure of some kind. It's hardly engaging, and it'd be better off as a book.

mkdms14
mkdms14

@hector530 @mkdms14  I don't know what your point is by saying "PC review."  If you compare the two review psn vs. pc you will find they are identical in every way.  They didn't even make an effort to say something to the effect of "looks much better on pc", or "lack the same easy controls as its psn counterpart."  That is what I meant on lazy on there part.

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

@pip3dream @chipwithdip @carolynmichelle 

1) No one said painfully grueling and intense. I did say there should be SOME FORM of failure and success. You think Journey was hard? All it was was walking forward and occasionally jumping for for a couple of hours. People loved it, but you could, in some form, fail. This game doesn't have even that much.

2) Once again, if this game is to be liked for things outside of "game play", why not make it as a movie or book? As a game, it's a failure. It's literally something you can be in the middle of, throw the controller down, eat a sandwich, come back, and not be penalized for it. For a game, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, and no amount of "storytelling" and "experience" is going to change that fact. There's no need to "try it before slamming it", because the problem with the game can't be fixed by "trying it".

pip3dream
pip3dream

@chipwithdip @carolynmichelle With that kind of attitude, how do you expect games to ever evolve past there simplistic immature roots?  Games don't have to be painfully, grueling intense experiences - although I can enjoy a game of Dark Souls too.  I also enjoy strong, narrative, emotionally engaging experiences like Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, Journey, Dreamfall / Longest Journey...  This game sounds like an engaging and wonderful experience, and I think if you're not use to playing this kind of game, you might have to give it a try before slamming it.

carolino
carolino

@chipwithdip @ixmardukxi @toderascu23 @carolynmichelle Played the demo last night and felt mentally refreshed at the end. Im 28 playing games for about 15 in a regurar basis. No its not boring , its calm and charming.

DuaMn
DuaMn

@hector530 @mkdms14 and you write shitty comments, what's your point? What the hell "she ports reviews" means? If it reflects everything that needs to be said, who cares?

mrsbernardes
mrsbernardes

@hector530 @carolynmichelle

She did. It is assumed that you need a controller, even for the PC. Having said so, Carolyn focused on what was truly relevant: the game itself.
"Just be aware that poorly implemented mouse and keyboard support makes playing the game that way much too unwieldy; the game demands a controller."

wavelength121
wavelength121

@mkdms14 @hector530 What a pathetic, petty thing to be upset about. If game reviews mean that much to you, my only advice would be to get a life. Or, get a professional job reviewing games, since you apparently know more than the professionals (lol). Actually, I've only read a few comments by you and I'm already sick of your petty, entitled attitude, so no, please don't become a professional writer.

Spectralfire0
Spectralfire0

The reason why the PC port of Dark Souls is rated highly is because the quality of the port is only one aspect of the entire game.  When a game is realeased on a differnt platform, the review should still reflect the game as a whole as opposed to just port quality. 

carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle staff

@hector530 I didn't review it modded, and to call it "a blurry mess" without mods is a tremendous exaggeration. Nor did I call it a positive that "a mod had to fix the game." I don't know where you're getting this stuff at all.

Dark Souls is one of the most incredible games I've ever played. My review reflects that. 

hector530
hector530

@carolynmichelle @mkdms14 @hector530 you also reviewed DS modded....... the only "professional" review i have ever read that reviewed a modded game and worse listed it as a positive that a mod had to fix the game.

DS didnt look better on PC without the mod it was a burly mess without it, it was poorly optimized, it was unplayed with a keyboard and mouse.

none of those were negatives....  

carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle staff

@mkdms14@hector530Actually, right in the first paragraph, I say: "This PC version looks a little better and plays a little more smoothly, but it doesn't improve significantly on the already lovely PlayStation Network release of last year. Still, if you couldn't experience this meaningful game on the PlayStation 3, you should seize the opportunity to do so now." The game is essentially identical to the PS3 release, and I'm very happy with the review I wrote then. I think it says everything I want to say about the game. Why find new, perhaps less effective language to describe the exact same experience?

Papo & Yo

  • PlayStation 3
  • PC
Follow Quico's fear-filled journey to find a cure in Papo & Yo.
ESRB
Everyone 10+
All Platforms
Fantasy Violence
Check out even more info at the Papo & Yo Wiki on Giantbomb.com