Some indie and arcade games are simple with shapes, music, and puzzles that you solve in order to advance to the next level that is significantly more difficult. Other indie games will bring you into a fantasy adventure world and make you wonder how you spent less than $20 on a game that has more quality and depth than games that go for $59.99. Canadian studio Minority and Sony Computer Entertainment’s Papo & Yo is one such game that takes risks and had a team that poured a lot of time, passion, and desire into making it a success.
A story about a young boy named Quico, Papo & Yo introduces players to a fantasy world with puzzles and an intricate, yet dark story. A monster--aptly named Monster--with an addiction to poisonous frogs befriends Quico. As players progress through the game, a friendship builds between Monster and Quico, and you will soon find yourself saving him from his dangerous addiction, as well as learning to how use Monster’s emotions to your advantage in order to save him. Papo & Yo's story echoes creative director Vander Caballero's own childhood experience with an alcoholic father, and from there we see a boy, Quico, being challeneged in his own fantasy world to overcome his troubles in reality.
Puzzles in Papo & Yo are simple and not too challenging (possibly because they come from the mind of a child), nor do the puzzles have a lot of variety. The solutions to the puzzles are simple and stand out against the environment in Quico's fantasy world; lines that look as if it were drawn with white chalk are prominent against buildings and the ground. Some bugs in the game can cause puzzles to be unsolvable requiring you to reload your save, such as getting stuck in a room because the ground was not lifted high enough or falling through the floor of the map. Judging jumps can be troublesome unless you pay close attention to Quico's shadow, as well. However, the look of the environments is original in its own respect. Ever travel by train and see some of the beautiful grafitti people make on abandoned buildings? Papo & Yo recreates such artwork in an amazing fashion that you will find yourself stopping and looking in awe in the middle of solving a puzzle.
Papo & Yo lauded a great amount of attention from past conferences, like the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in 2012 and the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2011; however, its PlayStation Network debut garnered an unexpected amount of unwanted press and has failed to live up to said hype built up from previews of the game. The issues begin and end with the game focusing more so on relaying a message of great personal trauma rather than creating a unique gaming experience without the feel of a generic platformer. Though, the final say ends with what the gamer wants: Would you rather play a game with game-changing difficult puzzles with a deep message? OR Are you a player who enjoys a journey, whether it be uplifting or depressing? For me, Papo & Yo brought forth a lot of emotion; the way Caballero and his team wrote the story made me feel as if I were a part of the game, feeling sad when Monster was trapped or scared during Quico's flashbacks.
Though Papo & Yo may have its flaws, the game is beautifully constructed and the Minority team worked hard to bring Quico and his story to life. Seeing the team's passion and drive to make an original game--even if the game mechanics are lacking--Quico's story is sad, touching, and relatable. His drive to rise above and use his imagination to escape from a life with an abusive, alcoholic father gives me chills, as some games barely touch the surface of real-life traumas. Papo & Yo is a nice addition to any PlayStation 3 users collection if you find yourself needing to step away from the hack n' slashers, first-person shooters, or open-ended roleplaying games.