August 17, 2017

That's A Wrap: Papo & Yo

warning: may contain spoilers

The next in what's becoming my 'month of adventure puzzle games' is Papo & Yo on the Playstation 3. Papo & Yo, which - to the best of my somewhat respectable language knowledge - translates to Monster & Me, where "monster" sounding an awful lot like "papa" was not a mistake, is yet another game I received for "free" with my Playstation Plus subscription years ago. I checked it out in a Game Binge a while back and decided I liked the cut of its jib, so it sat on my Playstation for another year and change until I realized that these shorter games are about the only thing I have time for this summer. I don't know if you've noticed, but ATSG always gets a bit... tumbleweed-y in the summer months, since my work schedule picks up significantly, I have little to no time for games, much less writing. But with a roster that includes games like Brothers, Journey (coming soon!) and Papo, which can be finished in one sitting, I'm working towards a somewhat busy summer for ATSG! That said, if you can recommend me any other games that fit this mold, drop me a line! I'd like to keep this momentum going!

Anyway, Papo & Yo is a self published, adventure puzzle game made by Minority Media and released in 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. As I said a moment ago, I got my first look at it during a random Game Binge, and was intrigued by the light/dark tones of the game, the cute delivery system for tutorials, and even the "little kid" writing for the menus and dialogue. The game has a very free feel to it, like you can do anything you want, but your purpose becomes quite clear very soon.
The graphics in P&Y are... not my favorite. The character art gives me flashbacks to my days of Golden Abyss on the Vita. That was scary. Another thing I seem to be noticing a lot is how these games don't load quickly enough on PS3, so you end up watching layers of the environment put themselves together while you play. It's becoming clear to me why the PS4 came along so quickly...
That said, I don't hate the concept art of Papo. Most of the game takes place in an environment that resembles a Brazilian favela which is very colorful, and something I've not seen before in a video game. It also opened up the design for some really wonderful art pieces!

Finding these murals became one of favorite parts of this game, and watching the game design evolve with imagination - which echoes the childlike motif of the whole game - is also noteworthy.

The music in Papo is also somewhat South American inspired, but more than that, it clearly denotes the "dream-like" property of the boy's little world. Like so many games, the soundtrack kind of hides in the gameplay, only becoming noticeable when you stop to smell the roses... or stare at murals. There is a bit of voice acting in the game, but Papo also seems to employ a made up language. It sounds like a lot of different languages smashed together, actually. Regardless, this also suits the game's dream theme and opens up a pathway for a bit of fantasy.


The story of Papo & Yo centers around a boy called Quico who escapes his abusive home life to an imaginary world, finds himself chasing another child he finds there, and ultimately has to navigate the labyrinth with the help of Monster, to save his robot, Lula. Sounds like a kid's dream, right? Well it pretty much is. We see snippets of Quico trying to deal with his alcoholic father before he escapes to his la la land, where he replaces the hurtful things of the real world with more child-friendly metaphors, and toy robots come alive! Monster represents Q's father, normally a content being, but when he gets a hold of some poisonous frogs (alcohol) - which Monster cannot resist - he turns into a raging beast that only wants to hurt Quico. Lula, who is but a toy in the real world, is Quico's most trusted friend, and the girl... well I'm not quite sure what her deal is. She seems to just be a plot device to move things along and help Quico realize what he's going to have to do to survive.
Metaphors are a big deal in Papo. The game uses the sweet and light tones of Quico's world to juxtapose the dark and scary goings on in the real world, and it presents the player with some twisted feelings that are both fun and dramatic to navigate. It's handled quite well.

In Quico's world, he has the ability to manipulate the terrain via a series of different puzzle tactics that the player will become familiar with in time, such as monster switches (monster has to sit on the switch), gear switches (pushing a cog into place causes something to move), box games (lifting a box and replacing it will move an entire building) and so on. Monster is often a key component to the puzzles, as he can be used as a paper weight or a trampoline!
Once you take control of Quico, you traverse the area and discover the switches available, and then have to sort out which comes first and how to move on before you execute.
If you get stuck on your journey, you can find a series of cardboard boxes which Quico will pop over his head, and inside are instructions or hints drawn on the walls. This is a unique and noninvasive method of tutorials that really surprised me when I first came across them.
Papo also asks for a bit of platforming, which is easily one of my least favorite aspects of the game. The controls are not very tight in Papo. The loose running freedom that initially attracted me to the game later became one of my gripes, and that, in conjunction with a faulty jump mechanic (thanks to Lula's booster) and a drunk camera meant I spent a lot of time cursing and running away from a raging Monster. The game is also lacking some polish, which comes out in spades while trying to platform. There are many scenarios in which you're expected to land Quico on a tiny platform, which you inevitably miss a thousand times before finally making it... only you'll find Q is standing a good couple inches off the platform. Okay! Whatever! I hate the platforming in this game so I won't
complain! Except when I'm expected to land Q on a large rooftop, which I clear by at least a foot, but still find myself getting rattled by a flaming Monster. Ugh. There were also countless situations in which Quico would fall into places he shouldn't have been able to fall; I had to restart a couple of chapters just to clear myself from these hiccups. In summation: the platforming is poor, and the (second?) last level can go fuck itself.
Beyond that, I love the design of Papo. The puzzles are some of the most challenging I've played lately, and I love that it fits the airy feel of the game and forces you to really look around and admire the art.

The only sidequest I'm aware of is one in which you collect hats from little burlap dolls scattered throughout the game. You can only unlock this challenge after beating the game though, so I have yet to take it on.

The only menu in the game in on your pause button (start) which just hosts a resume, game options and exit method, which takes you back to the main menu.

Your controller is easy to get the hang of. Your left stick controls Quico, and the right your iffy camera. X is jump, which can be doubled up with the help of Lula; speaking of Lula, the triangle button is used to command Lula to hit a switch, while circle simply throws the bot. For giggles, I guess. Square is your ordinary interact button, and that's it!

As I said before, Papo sports some of the most challenging puzzles I've faced in games recently, but the it's still very manageable on the sole difficulty mode. The last level or two gave me the most trouble, as it has some of the toughest puzzles to figure out and execute, followed by a whole whack of super annoying platforming (see aforementioned roof comment) while constantly being pursued by one angry Monster.

Papo & Yo is a short game, which could easily be finished in one sitting. Depending on how long it takes you to sort out the puzzles, the game is maybe 3 or 4 hours long, but has no in game clock to confirm.

So what could make Papo better? Well the graphics could certainly use a remaster. They're poor even for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 standards. The whole game could use a little polishing in terms of controls, too. If the platforming were a little tighter, and the camera a little more reliable, it would increase the odds of me picking up Papo again sometime soon.
That said, I enjoyed my time with Papo. I'm glad I played it, I enjoyed the puzzles, and it's possible I'd pick it up again when I'm short on time.
I'd recommend Papo & Yo to anyone that enjoys puzzle games, and especially those who enjoy a heavier tone or a dramatic contrast in their games.
Papo can be found on PSN and XBL stores as well as on Steam for PC.

LOTIPS
  • Filling Monster up with fruit will cause him to nap, if you need a trampoline.
  • Blue fruit will quell a raging Monster, but there isn't always one available.
  • A fence of squiggly white lines (like in the video) means Monster can't get to you!
  • Keep an eye out for pipes. They're usually bad news (frogs)!



2 comments:

  1. This sounds like a really decent puzzle indy game thats for sure.

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    Replies
    1. It's not without its flaws, but really deserves more attention than it's gotten, methinks.

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