|Release: August 14, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence|
by Josh Wirtanen
I would give very few games the honor of being compared to PS2 classic ICO. That game was just so iconic, so atmospheric, and so emotional, it's impossible for me to take ICO comparisons lightly. However, Papa & Yo is one of those rare games to have earned this honor.
Papa & Yo actually has a lot of the trappings of a Team Ico game. It features a young boy as a protagonist, first of all. It explores this boy's relationship with a creature as he solves puzzles and travels across a fantastical landscape, and that relationship becomes one of the central mechanics of the gameplay. Also like ICO, the journey is simultaneously subtle and intensely emotional. In fact, Quico has a toy robot that comes into play, and as he calls out its name, "Lula," you'll be reminded of Shadow of the Colossus' Wander calling out to his horse Argo. The sound of his voice is playful and loving, yet there's a discernable edge of concern to it. It'll pull at your heartstrings; that's for sure. Unless your heart is made out of stone.
The boy in this case is named Quico (he even has "ico" his name), and the monster is simply named Monster. This orange beast has an insatiable hunger for coconuts, which can be exploited in order to entice him to go certain places. Need Monster to walk somewhere? Pick up a coconut and he's sure to follow.
However, Monster also has a hunger for poisonous frogs, and eating one of these turns him into a raging, flaming beast that will attack Quico on site. It's this addiction that Quico hopes to cure by "squeezing the anger out" of him. It's an interesting dichotomy, with Monster being Quico's best friend one second and a horribly dangerous monstrosity the next. It's also a dichotomy that serves as a metaphor for Quico's abusive father and his struggle with alcoholism. Yes, it's a dark theme, and one that will unfortunately ring true for many players.
In addition to Monster, Quico has a human friend, a little girl that guides him through the world. This girl has magic chalk that can twist and distort the slums in which they live to a crazy fantasy world with limitless possibilities. Buildings will transform into living creatures, stairs and doors will appear out of nowhere, blocks of water will levitate to allow access to otherwise unreachable places, and more. It's a constantly changing world. In fact, there's even a moment toward the end of the game that was pulled straight out of Inception.
The world is incredibly beautiful, despite being set in what is essentially a Latin American ghetto. The rusty metal crates are decorated with graffiti, as well as the glowing lines made by magical chalk. Parts of the world will fold or float to allow access into impossible areas, which is always surprising and fun to look at, and the sunset scene at the end of the game is flat-out gorgeous.
What doesn't look so good, however, is the characters. Textures look unfinished, and animations are terribly awkward. In fact, faces don't move at all, even in the rare instances where the characters are actually speaking. This is made painfully obvious when contrasted against the detailed surrealistic setting, and that makes it all the more saddening. It makes me wonder if a little more development time would have allowed for a much more refined Papo & Yo experience.
Also, many players have been complaining about the game's many bugs. Apparently, there were invisible walls and places where people would fall through environments. I didn't actually start playing the game until after the first patch was released, which I'm guessing cleared up most of these issues, since I wasn't able to reproduce any of them. The only thing that seemed a bit off was that toward the end of the game, the animations got a little bit choppy. Since the animations are already especially awkward, it's hard to tell if that was a frame rate issue or just another element of the visual sloppiness.