Alcoholism and abuse are not topics that usually find their way into video games. But Minority’s “Papo & Yo” is a third-person platformer that manages to tell a story that is both subtle and powerful while navigating subjects usually reserved for other mediums.
This is not a game that devotes a lot of energy to advancing the story. In fact, most of the game feels like aimless wandering through areas inspired by the favelas in Brazil.
This lack of blatant storytelling is exactly what makes “Papo & Yo” so amazing.
Quico is a little boy on a quest to take a monster to the temple of a shaman, though it is not really clear why he must do this.
Puzzles are the meat of a platform game, but figuring out where to go and what to do is the real challenge. Minority has done a great job of making the puzzles intuitive and relatively difficult.
Cardboard boxes labeled with question marks serve as the hint system in the game. Pressing “X” on a box causes Quico to lift it onto his head. With this action, you are treated to tips that are simple but also incredibly helpful.
“Papo & Yo” is far from perfect. Many of the puzzles force you to run back and forth between areas you have already traversed.
The biggest problem is that many of the puzzles simply are not very fun. Aside from the satisfaction of completing a puzzle, many of the sequences are tedious and involve more trial and error than actual clue solving.
Sound is one of the clear highlights of this game. A beautiful soundtrack provides a baseline for an already amazing aural experience. Running across tin roofs and throwing frogs against a wall all elicit satisfyingly realistic sound effects.
Combined with the stellar graphics that hit at both realism and a sense of mysticism, the sound makes for a world that is undeniably enticing. It may not be realistic to most of the people who play the game but “Papo & Yo” is a world that I loved exploring.
Although the entire story comes to a head at the end of the game, Minority has still managed to make the entire tale feel meaningful. Despite the numerous allusions to the identity of the monster, the meaning of the story does not become obvious until it is meant to.
As a puzzle platformer, “Papo & Yo” is not amazing — but as a complete experience, it is something unique and powerful in its own way.