Papo & Yo review

 Papo & Yo reviewTrying to review a game like Minority’s Papo & Yo in the traditional sense is an exercise in futility. It might be a work of entertainment, but there’s so much of the author’s personality ingrained in the experience, so much artful execution of the bigger thematic ideas, that the puzzle-platformer really has more in common with a painting or some other piece of visual art. It’s just that this one happens to be interactive, and sometimes even challenging. Ultimately, however, the game portion of Papo really plays second fiddle to its more experiential qualities. It’s a risky move, but in the end it turns out to be for the best. You’ll puzzle through Quico’s three-or-so hour “Adventure with Monster” in a surrealist take on Brazil’s favelas, and you’ll walk away with that rarest of all video game rewards: an emotional response.

In order to fully appreciate Papo & Yo it helps to understand where it comes from. The game is the brainchild of Vander Caballero, a  AAA veteran from EA’s FIFA and Army of Two teams. Caballero and his siblings had a rough childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father. Papo & Yo is very much a response to that, with easily drawn parallels between the game’s Monster and its rage-inducing love of frogs. Many of the puzzles you encounter are built around keeping the Monster’s inner urges at bay, and escaping its clutches whenever a frog is consumed.

You accomplish these and other tasks by manipulating the environments in completely fantastical ways. There’s a surreal flavor to your surroundings, with reality-rooted imagery of the favelas sitting alongside misshapen tracts of land, chalk-drawn gears on walls that you can physically interact with, and buildings that come to life with the turn of an oversized phantom key. In one early puzzle, you’ll explore a large, open environment for small huts with keys protruding from them. Each time you turn a key, the building sprouts legs and scurries off like an insect to line up with the others. Finding and turning all of the keys assembles the buildings into a line, allowing you to jump across their rooftops and into the next area.

the unfinished swan and papo yo exemplify creative freedom of playstation network

There’s definitely a rising challenge as the story unfolds and additional concepts such as the Monster, or your jetpack-bearing, piggyback-riding robot Lula, are introduced, but again, it’s the story that remains front and center. Your final minutes before the credits roll abandon the puzzle focus almost entirely, amounting to a powerful coda. Quico’s journey is largely driven by a push to guide Monster to the local shaman, who can cure it. The subtext here isn’t particularly tough to decipher, though there are truths revealed as the story unfolds.

The presentation in Papo & Yo is a standout. Not just the surreal art design, but also the execution of those ideas. The sun-baked landscapes you’ll explore — as well as the more out there locations — are remarkably well realized. There’s also something undeniably satisfying about pulling on a lever and watching as you manipulate a multi-story stack of buildings into a path that you can follow. The music and sound are also used to great effect, adding to the mood and the sense of place.

Functionally, Quico is as responsive as you’d want him to be. Perhaps overly so at times, such as when you need to negotiate narrow walkways, but this is nothing more than a minor quibble since there’s no real sense of failure in the game. You may become stumped on one puzzle or another, but any danger, even that which Monster represents, is of minimal concern. There’s no “death” or anything like that; at worst, you’ll be tossed around like a rag doll or warped back to a default location. Even the threat of being stumped is a minor concern, since every puzzle includes one or more cardboard boxes that you can wear, Solid Snake-style, to get some hints.


Papo & Yo is an exceptional experience, standing in equal parts as both a game and an interactive art piece. It’s the latest in a long line of truly adventurous publisher exclusives for Sony, following the likes of Journey, Flower, and Datura. The game that sits at the heart of Minority’s work is cleverly put together and fun to puzzle through,  but the presentation is what sells it. Papo & Yo may be difficult to review as a video game, but it nonetheless amounts to a valuable and rewarding experience for anyone who harbors an interest in seeing the artful side of console play pushed forward.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 on a copy provided by Sony Computer Entertainment)


‘Kingdom Hearts III’ out in the wild, director asks for support to stop spoilers

Kingdom Hearts III has been leaked, with several copies of the game out in the wild. The game's director, Tetsuya Nomura, responded to the situation, calling for help from gamers to stop spoilers from spreading online.

Who needs a Switch? These 25 games prove there's fun to be found on 3DS

The 3DS is home to a large library, including some of the greatest games Nintendo has ever published. We've compiled this list of some of the best Nintendo 3DS games currently available.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Killing Eve'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.

The history of Battle Royale: From mod to worldwide phenomenon

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in streaming and eSports in a way that might hint at the future of the industry.

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.

Project Stream testers get to keep a free copy of ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Those who participated in Google's technical test of Project Stream won't be able to access the service to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey after January 15, but they'll get to keep the game on PC anyway.

Newest ‘Destiny 2’ raid already completed by two-person team

The latest raid in Destiny 2: Forsaken is Scourge of the Past, and a two-person team has already managed to complete it. The task took 15 hours of trial-and-error effort before the duo managed to take down the final boss.

The 25 best SNES games

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games, including A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.

Need a discounted Xbox bundle by Christmas? Walmart has you covered

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone, but you can still save some cash on a new Xbox One bundle at Walmart. Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are on sale now.

With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.

‘Fortnite’ update 7.10 brings a rotating selection of modes big and small

The latest update for Fortnite introduces 14 Days of Fortnite, an event that brings back large and small battle royale modes as well as brand new ones to enjoy during the holiday season.