When I first heard the title Papo & Yo, I was actually a bit hesitant to try it out. I almost never judge a game by its name, but this was the one exception. Don’t make the same mistake as I did, though, because it was a wonderful (albeit rather short) experience.
You control a boy named Quico, who has an enormous, pink creature aptly named Monster for a friend. The vast majority of the game requires Quico to lead Monster to various areas. Now, compared to Monster, Quico is about the size of an ant. So how can he and Monster work together? You’ll have to drop coconuts in certain spots (coconuts are one of Monster’s favorite snacks), so that Monster will activate a gadget or open up a previously blocked area.
If you purchase Papo & Yo expecting a platformer, then you’ll be somewhat disappointed. While there is a lot of jumping going on during the game, you’ll be focusing more on completing puzzles. Speaking of puzzles, they’re not that difficult. Papo & Yo is a game that’s truly accessible to any age group, although you may want to consider not showing it to toddlers (I’ll explain why later). There are multiple hint boxes that you can find and wear (no need to hide in them though), for clues on how to complete the many puzzles that the game has. It’s not as though you even need these hints, because most of the time, the puzzles only require common sense.
It may sound as though the game sounds dull, and sadly, it sort of is. There’s little to no difficulty to be found, so you’ll find yourself blazing through the game at breakneck pace. Despite the game’s relative ease, however, it feels oh-so-satisfying to finally complete the puzzles. You see, many of the puzzles will feel like building a giant Lego project. There’s many mechanisms to be found in the game, such as tubes, spinning gears and keys, scissors, panels, and levers. Activating one of these gizmos will often cause an object to move itself into a certain spot. As you activate more and more mechanisms, you’ll begin to notice a bridge of sorts to form. Walking across these walkways is always a great feeling, because you know you’ve just defeated a puzzle.
Traversing through the world of Papo & Yo is extremely simple. There are no jumps in the game that are even remotely difficult to make, and you’ll receive the ability to hover for a few seconds soon after starting your surreal journey. Lula is Quico’s strange talking robot companion (sort of like Clank, but more obnoxious and less helpful). She only serves two purposes, however: activating mechanisms that Quico can’t and being a hover device. Even if you mess up, and fall to your demise, Papo & Yo will be gracious enough to not laugh in your face with a game over screen. Instead, the game will place Quico back in an advantageous position, and leave you be. One detail that I find to be absolutely hilarious is how Quico can fall from heights equaling the World Trade Center, and be perfectly fine as long as he lands on the ground.
For the most part, Papo & Yo will be a smooth experience. The game’s frame rate dropped a few times for me, and I could definitely feel it. Thankfully, the sudden slowdown didn’t cause any mistakes to be made, but the problem does exist. The controls are perfect, along with the camera. You’ll need to rotate your view around in order to find mechanisms and make accurate jumps, so rest assured that doing so is a cakewalk.
The graphics are beautiful, to say the least. You’ll be venturing through favelas that resemble the ones found in Brazil, along with vast underground sewers. There’s a lot of color diversity in the game, with mechanisms being drawn in white or black chalk, green grass, brown pine trees, yellow coconuts, and a burning red Monster (you’ll learn to absolutely despise Monster when he has flames covering his body). It’s near the end of the game when the graphics are truly at their finest, though. Sunsets in Papo & Yo are almost as beautiful as the ones in real life.
One minor complaint I have with the game is that none of the characters’ lips move when they speak. Maybe they’re telepathically communicating? Who knows? By the way, hearing Lula speak was grating to my ears. It reminded me of Banjo-Kazooie, and I couldn’t stand hearing the characters talk in that game either.
The rest of the audio is magnificent, and like the graphics, are especially noticeable near the end of the game. The South American wind instruments, chorus, and drums all fit the urban atmosphere that Papo & Yo provides. All of the important parts of the game are backed up by appropriate tracks to match the mood.
Papo & Yo manages to tell a gripping tale without the need for loads of dialogue. There’s an incredible amount of symbolism to be found in Monster, and the other objects in the game. Without spoiling too much of the game, Quico has an immense fear of his father. This fear manifests itself in the form of an ugly brute, and the main reason why Quico goes through his strange adventure is so that he can eventually accept Monster into his life.
If you have a spare $15 and a love for puzzles and platforming, then you should definitely check out Papo & Yo. It’s about four to five hours long (a bit longer if you decide to hunt for the collectible hats), but I never once felt bored or disappointed during the short time I spent with the game. It’s certainly been one of the most bizarre, but amazing experiences that I’ve gone through this year.
Papo & Yo is currently $14.99, but $11.99 for those with PlayStation Plus (only until August 21, however, so don’t wait too long). Check out the game’s official website here.