Papo---Yo---PS3-Review Papo & Yo - PS3 Review

   20/08/2012 at 11:37       Flying_Pig       7 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Papa & Yo, PS3, PlayStation Network, Alcoholism

One of the highlights of gaming’s evolution over the last 5 or so years has been the rise of the indie-game, given mass market exposure via the direct-download market place of your platform of choice. While this has existed to a degree on the PC, it’s something that Sony and Microsoft have also now embraced, offering high quality games for budget prices via their online stores.

But these games are not mere appetisers or snacks to devour between playing the disc-based blockbusters, these games often offer something unique, something which would never make it as a disc-based game, but something that almost takes us back to why we fell in love with gaming in the first place.

Papo & Yo (Translated as ‘Father & I’) is one such game which would never make it as a fully fledged retail title; not because it falls short on quality or scope, but because the subject matter at the core of this adventure is one which would make marketing execs quite uncomfortable. After all, how do you promote a game which is about a young boy’s battle against his abusive and alcoholic father?

Just a Boy

You are cast as Quico, a small boy no more than 10, who escapes into his fantasy world alongside his robot toy Lula. Quico’s world is a bold and bright one, with a strong South American feel to it (further emphasised by the excellent music). But it’s devoid of other people, with the exception of a small girl who acts as a guide and Monster – the fantasy representation of Quico’s father.

Monster is, for the most part, docile and benign. Either sleeping in a cosy corner or being guided around by Quico with the help of coconuts. But despite these appearances (and knowing the underlying theme), something sinister remains, for Monster has one insatiable hunger. Monster craves green frogs (an obvious metaphor for alcohol), and upon consumption of just one of these jumping menaces, turns him from a gentle, lumbering giant, into a flaming beast who chases and attacks Quico.

Earlier, I mentioned Quico’s ‘battle’ against his father. At this point I should highlight that Papo & Yo is one of those rare games where there is no combat. Quico is just a child and is effectively powerless against his father; able to offer no resistance to Monster’s frog-fuelled rages, other than to run away and hide.

Run, Skip & Jump

Gameplay-wise, Papo & Yo is essentially a platformer, focussed around a series of environmental puzzles. These often require little more that locating glowing chalk lines which link to glowing cogs of switches which, when activated, cause stairs to rise out of the ground, or a building to shuffle to one side. One memorable point, early in the game requires Quico to rearrange some boxes which causes some houses to rearrange them selves in the same manner, bridging the chasm which was blocking progress.

Quico’s abilities are enhanced by his friend and robot toy, Lula. Lula can act as a boost pack, allowing Quico to clear larger gaps or be used to press far away, and out of reach switches.

The third element to the gameplay is Monster. In his docile form, he can be guided around to trigger switches, and provided you avoid any green frogs, acts as a dim-witted companion. When the coconuts run out, Monster will find an appropriate place to get some sleep.

But as the game progresses, the challenge increases as green frogs become more prevalent and are on occasions key to solving the puzzle. This need to keep Monster away from the frogs or face his fury adds a degree of tension and urgency to what otherwise is a relatively pedestrian game.

But that’s about as complex as Papo & Yo gets, and even if you do get stuck on a particular puzzle, there is an imaginative helpful hint system in place, which somehow manages to blend perfectly within the game

The Beast Within

It's the relative pace and lack of real challenge with will turn off many people, but then like a number of other games, it’s more about the experience and the journey, than break-neck, bombastic gameplay.

The story in Papo & Yo is lightly told, through a few cut scenes and the very limited dialogue. It’s a story you feel, rather than read or hear. It’s very easy to empathise with Quico, as he battles with the impossible, of trying to save his father from his own demons, while trying to save himself from the Monster that is his father.

Papo & Yo will be a divisive game. There will be those who bemoan the slow pace and lack of real challenge, and highlight that despite being set in a beautiful environment, it can be damn ugly at times (and not in an intentional way) which a number of technical issues with clipping and tearing.

But to me, these people will be missing the point. I agree that the game is not difficult and that the only way anyone would fail to finish it, is if they lacked the staying power to see this 4-5 hour game through to its conclusion. But for me, I had to see it to the end, to share Quico’s journey with him and finally see if he manages to save his father and himself. Papo & Yo really tugged at my heart strings, like few other games have managed, and on that basis, despite some valid criticism, it really is something special.

User Comments:

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evilashchris - on 20/08/2012 at 16:13 wrote:
Sounds really good! I may have to blow the dust off my PS3 :D

TheBoy - on 20/08/2012 at 20:02 wrote:
Agreed, this does sound really good. I like the idea of there being no combat at all.

Flying_Pig - on 20/08/2012 at 20:51 wrote:
I really liked it. Similar emotional impact of something like Journey or Heavy Rain.

peej - on 21/08/2012 at 18:08 wrote:
This sounds ace but you know what would clinch it for be? Sony adopting the MS strategy of making sure all their downloadables came with a demo to try before you spend your spondulix on the full version. Despite the PS Plus service, Sony still has a lot of lessons to learn on how to get people to buy into new IP.

The review has me sold though, it sounds really different. Just wish I didn't have to spend the dosh to find out whether i've spent my money well or not.

nekotcha - on 21/08/2012 at 18:39 wrote:
Agreed with you on that peej, particularly when, as is the case here, the trailer is a bit so-so (it's not bad per se, it's just it doesn't do anything to suggest the sort of emotional depth discussed in the review).

Good review though, definitely tempted by this.

Flying_Pig - on 21/08/2012 at 20:44 wrote:
@ peej - Sony are getting better at offering trials/demos. In fact I think there is a Papo & Yo trial... No excuse to try it now :)

peej - on 21/08/2012 at 21:38 wrote:
Wow, going to go take a look then. The trailer was interesting enough (and what's more, my little girl was looking over my shoulder and absolutely loved the look of this) but getting to play it and to see how the gameplay works would definitely do the trick. Better get my butt onto the store and see what's what.

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Better late than never, eh Ror?
Khanivor - In response to: Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review - 214day(s) ago.
Enjoyed this, cheers!
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