Because I know you’re curious: Started Papo & Yo (Papo & Me? I dunno, I don’t speak Spanish) and found it quite remarkable so far. Knowing that this is a one-man joint I wasn’t expecting AAA level production values, but the game has nontheless quite surprised by the quality of the artistic presentation. Playing a little South American (I assume?) kid who communicates in Spanish via subtitles is a new one on me, and makes a terifficly creative alternative to Dudebrown.

Of the various games I’ve played, this one is easily the most autobiographical. It’s impossible to run around in Papa & Yo and not try to imply context about the artist’s life overtop of everything you see. These little secret caves and waterfalls nestled in and amongst run down, grafitti festooned slums… is this what life was like growing up? The white lines that bisect everything and provide the backdrop for all the puzzles and mechanisms… was that dream of magic chalk something that the author carried around with them in his daily life? It’s easy to imagine that a kid like that living with a father like that used to dream of fantastic hideaways and magical powers that would let him escape his world into something better. I used to imagine the same things when I was a kid – scratching a door onto an ordinary wall and stepping through into Narnia or wherever. The addition of Lula the awesome gundam action figure (who serves as your switch puller and your jetpack) is poignant once you begin parsing the constant protector-figure imagery.

And yeah, then there’s Dad — which is to say, the Monster. They take their time getting around to Dad — maybe 45 minutes or more before you even see him onscreen. Most of the time he’s chill, content to eat his coconuts and laze around sleeping or aimlessly wandering. When frogs are on the scene though, all the monster’s thoughts turn entirely to getting a frog fix, and once he gets it, all hell breaks loose. I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when the flaming, furious roaring creature came for me, smashing everything within its range of contact — but I was. From gentle, lazy beast to hulking imminent threat with almost zero warning — yeah, that’s what this game is about. Watching the kid pick himself up off the ground battered and shivering with a look of wariness was an uncomfortable feeling. One thing is for sure – it takes way more balls to make a game like this than it does to produce some bullshit like “No Rushin'”.

I’m only 2 hours or so into it so far, but I have to say that anybody who frequents this board and cares about games that try to “communicate something” should absolutely give it a try. The closest comparison I can make, strangely, is to Ico. It has that same sense of silence and isolation – great halls full of nothing – but in a more vibrant and distinctly flavored South American package. The light puzzling aspects are also very Ico-esque. Nothing too intellectually challenging so far – like Ico, you ususally know what you want to do or where you want to go. You’re there to experience the world and to receive empathic transmissions from the director to you.

I’m sure I’ll have further thoughts once I get deeper into the game, but definitely one to watch. For $12, you could do way worse.

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