August 21, 2012

The Monster Within

Lasting First Impressions of Papo & Yo

Developed by Minority Media  |  Published by Sony Computer Entertainment

Papo Title» “To my mother, brothers, and sisters, who helped me survive the monster in my Father”.  A powerful statement, emblazened on-screen at the onset of Papo & Yo, sets the tone for this beautifully crafted puzzle adventure.  It’s not often that a game creator can craft something this utterly personal into a video game; these sorts of stories are usually left for the likes of novel writers and movie producers but Creative Director Vander Caballero has masterfully turned this notion on its side.  Papo & Yo follows the story of a young boy, Quico, and his toy robot, Lalu, as they journey through a fantasy world in an attempt to cure Quico’s best friend, the otherwise gentle Monster.  You see, Monster is Quico’s kind but giant companion until he eats a poison frog, a temptation that Monster just can’t refuse, at which point he transforms into a raging beast intent on hurting anyone around, including Quico.  Despite Monster’s terrifying reaction to the poison frogs, Quico loves him too much to give up and determines to take Monster on a journey to find a cure to his illness.  Parallels to Vander’s own personal story of surviving an abusive, alcoholic father are readily apparent in Papo & Yo and there is no attempt at hiding this poignant relationship.


Papo’s journey takes place inside what seems to be a fantasy world, where his toy robot comes to life and helps him solve the puzzles found throughout the world.  I am reminded of the old children’s show, Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, as all of the puzzle elements in this game are in the form of white symbols drawn on the walls and streets of the shanty town.  Papo can directly alter the reality of the world around him by interacting with these ‘chalk’ drawings, or by moving small boxes around that directly move the box houses and reposition them where he can scale them as needed.  One drawing may pull a staircase out of the side of a wall, while another may transform the walls of a building, creating a doorway where one didn’t previously exist.  It is a puzzle mechanic unique to Papo & Yo and works well in the world he finds himself in.

While this journey takes place in this dream world, the graphics are distinctly not fantastical, taking on a realistic view of an African shanty home village; dark and dirty but beautiful, especially for a downloadable PSN game. Audibly, Papo & Yo truly feels like you are alongside Papo on his journey as there is no music found here; only the natural sounds of the world around him.  It can be eerily quiet at times with only Papo’s footsteps to keep you reminded there is life here.


During my one hour spend with Papo & Yo, I completed the second of four acts so this isn’t inherently a long game, but it is an intriguing and captivating one.  I found myself truly interested in the suffering and hope of Papo and his best friend, Monster.  Finding a cure for Monster felt real and I want to see it through to the end.

Papo & Yo isn’t a perfect game as the controls at times feel loose and inaccurate.  Finding just the right moment to jump to get Papo over the edge you want can be trying at times.  I also encountered a clipping issue that found an item I needed behind a closed gate forcing me to begin Act 2 over again.  These issues, however, pale in comparison to the fun and relaxed calmness of this game.  There is no dying in this game, only adventure, puzzles and the love of a boy for his Monster (Father).

The themes surrounding Papo & Yo are serious and certainly something that no game has ever tackled before. I truly hope this proves that literary stories typically left for books, television, and movies, can truly be told in the form of a video game too.

Minority Media, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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