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REVIEW | “Papo & Yo” Tackles Another Kind Of Monster

By
Posted on August 16, 2012 AT 08:36am

To say Papo & Yo is a personal project for creator Vander Caballero is an understatement. Caballero took what frightened him the most as a child, and brought it into the main story arc of Minority’s first game. Here Caballero gets to give kids a chance to face off the same demons he had to go against at their age, giving a unique take on the puzzle platform genre.

Papo & Yo starts off with young lad named Quico, who is hiding from the wrath of a shadowy figure. A dimensional portal opens, sending Quico into a South American landscape. Here his trusty robot toy Lulu comes to life, and tells Quico that he is there to help him on his journey. He meets a girl in this world, telling Quico that he’s cursed. Soon Quico comes face-to-face with Monster, an orangey-horned beast who is there to both help and hinder the boy on his journey.

Throughout the world Quico must change the landscape and the buildings’ positions in order to reach his next destination. For example, by picking up miniature versions of the buildings he can create a path to the other side with the real ones. (Trust me when I say that watching these large skyscraper “walk” to the destination you wish is a dazzling site.) Some of these hidden paths can be simply pulled out using a magical bar, similar in vein to that of a pop-up book. You can even use Monster to either reveal paths by having him stand on a magical chalk-drawn box, but not without the proper coaxing.

In order to get Monster to follow you, you must find orange fruit that is spread throughout each area. You can either toss it in the direction you want him to go, or you can simply have him follow you in the path you want him to go. On some occasions Monster find himself tired and wanting to sleep. If he does that you can climb on his belly and use him to reach higher destinations. However, not everything you find will bring you and Monster closer to the journey’s end.

In some levels poisonous frogs appear, and if Monster eats one he becomes a fiery beast that only wants to harm you. If he catches Quico, he flings him around in his mouth and launches him into the wrong direction. Don’t worry: Quico doesn’t die, but seeing a young boy being mauled by a giant creature has its disturbing elements. To calm the beast, you must feed him rotten fruit, which knocked Monster out for a few moments before bringing him back to normal.

It becomes clear roughly halfway through the game what Papo & Yo really is about, and to be honest I’m surprised to see a backstory like this appearing in a game geared towards younger kids. Then again this was Caballero taking his own personal experiences and putting them in a platform that can reach kids from a broader perspective. As the game progresses more and more of Monster’s hurtful side comes into play, and by the game’s end you realize what Quico has been fighting to do this entire journey.

Using the Unreal Engine Minority was able to bring this South American world to life. It may not be up to par with, say, Max Payne 3‘s Brazilian backdrop, but for a downloadable title the realms you travel through are quite striking. Even as you rearrange these landscapes to complete puzzles these worlds seem to get bigger and better. The graffiti art showcased on some of the buildings is just the icing of the terrain.

The same cannot be said about the human characters, however. Quico and the young girl appear to have the same blank stares throughout the entire game, with their movements lacking the fluidity that Monster has. It’s a shame that the characters look and act the way they do, as  it really takes you out of Papo & Yo‘s element in some places. Rendering issues appeared later on in the game (especially when Monster is on the frogs), and on a couple occasions I had to restart the level because Monster got himself stuck in the game’s backdrop.

Papo & Yo is a short game, lasting you roughly 3-4 hours. The puzzles aren’t too hard, and even the subtle hints thrown around in cardboard boxes are too obvious not to figure out. For a title that’s going for $14.99 it’s a bit much. That said Papo & Yo is nowhere near a waste of time. You may only find yourself playing it just once, but what you’ll see in Minority’s first game will be in your memories for quite some time.

PROS:

  • Beautiful worlds
  • Unique take on a traumatic experience
  • Cool puzzle elements

CONS:

  • Characters lack emotion
  • Rendering issues
  • Very short run time

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Papo & Yo may not be a grand-slam debut for Minority, but it’s a gaming experience I cannot help but recommend puzzle lovers to give a whirl. Caballero has managed to take something dark from his past, and turn it into a good gaming art form. Is it great? Not quite, but Papo & Yo will have you wanting more games to travel down a deeper, personal pathway.

FINAL GRADE: 7.1 (out of ten)

Press copy provided by TriplePoint

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck




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