Papo & Yo Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Papo & Yo Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

A Frog Addiction Is A Very Bad Thing Indeed

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.

Papo & Yo Screenshot

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 .

Papo & Yo Screenshot

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.

Papo & Yo Screenshot

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.

Still, these issues won’t matter much once you get pulled into the story. I have to be honest here, I could not put this game down until I finished it; I was completely sucked in from very early on.

Papo & Yo Screenshot

Yet this brings me to a couple other complaints that people will undoubtedly raise against Papo & Yo. First of all, the game is incredibly short. I completed my first playthrough in under four hours. Knowing exactly where to go and not feeling so inclined to explore various nooks and crannies, you could easily cut that down to about two hours or so.

And this is made even more problematic when you consider how easy the game is. The entire game is a series of puzzles, yet these puzzles never end up getting very difficult. I came across one or two instances where I was stumped for a little bit, but once I fooled around for a few minutes, I realized the answers were staring me in the face. This is in direct contrast to the ICO references I’ve been making, as I can specifically remember several places where I had to just put ICO down and walk away from it before coming back later with a fresh mind. Papo & Yo has no such moments.

Ultimately, though, you’ll play Papo & Yo for the story, for the characters, and for its fascinating surrealistic world. It’s an experience that can penetrate even the thickest of skin, and it will make you feel something . What that is, I can’t exactly say, but this is an emotional journey you won’t soon forget. It’s a short journey, but it’s packed densely enough with cool stuff to see and do that I would enthusiastically encourage you to pay the fifteen-dollar asking price.

Fantastic environments, though they’re soiled by some terribly awkward animations and character textures. 4.2 Control
Controls are simple, and they seem to work as they should. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is incredible, and the voiceovers (though not in English) sound pretty great. 3.5 Play Value
Some will complain about the game’s shortness and its easy puzzles. The story and the atmosphere, however, will make up for this. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Papo & Yo will take players on an emotional journey that explores the relationship between a boy and his sometimes-scary best friend.
  • As players progress, Monster will react differently to their actions based on his current desires. If Monster is in a good mood, he will play with Quico and help with tasks; if Monster is hungry, he will seek out food; if that food happens to be a poisonous frog, he’ll transform into a terrifying killing machine bent on nothing but destruction.
  • Players will need to learn to use Monster’s emotions, both good and bad, to their advantage if they want to complete their search for a cure and save their pal.

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