Papo & Yo (which essentially means Father and Me, in the game's composite language of several languages spoken in Latin America) is a platforming-based adventure game for the Play Station Network, released in August of 2012. This game is very heavy on allegory, as it is meant to be a direct parallel to the experiences of creator Vander Caballero.
You play as Quico, a young boy who escapes into a fantasy dream world where he can bend architecture to his will. With the help of a mysterious girl named Alejandra and a doll-Robot Buddy named Lula, Quico traverses the landscapes of his mind. He must also take care of Monster, a seemingly lovable and docile creature who turns exceptionally nasty once he gets his hands on some frogs.
Upon its release, the game was praised for its beautiful worlds, gripping story and interesting gameplay ideas, but was criticized for its glaring technical issues and spotty controls. Regardless, the game has seen a following as a Cult Classic, with fans able to put aside the rougher edges and enjoy the game for what it is.
A more detailed plot analysis can be found here, as well as an essay on its design (in case it isn't obvious, both articles are full to the brim with massive spoilers. Unless you're into that sort of thing).
As of April 18, 2013, Papo & Yo is now available on Steam.
Papo & Yo provides examples of:
- Abusive Parent: Monster is symbolic of Quico's (and lead designer Caballero's) abusive father.
- Artificial Stupidity: Enforced. Monster, when docile, is perfectly happy to sit around eating coconuts and sleep...
- Artificial Brilliance: But once he becomes angry, he is extremely fast and is almost impossible to avoid if you don't run, and FAST.
- Audience Sucker Punch: What's the first thing you see in gameplay after Lula is temporarily killed off? Why, of course it's a switch that Lula could have easily pressed. And just to rub salt in the wound, Quico won't even call out for Lula like he usually does when you press Triangle. Excuse me, there's something in my eye...
- Backtracking: The first area Quico visits once he leaves the closet he was hiding in gets revisited twice—once after Lula is killed, and once after Alejandra is killed. Notably, the area has a switch for Lula to press that can only be used on the final visit. Several other levels are remixed in order to run away from Monster as well.
- Big Damn Heroes: In one of the only fatherly things he ever does, Monster will save Quico from being crushed if you fail the ball-and-cup minigame in Act III.
- Bilingual Bonus: In case you didn't understand the allegory, listen closely to Alejandra when she talks about Monster. Although the text reads "Monster", when she speaks, she says "Papo".
- Bullying a Dragon: After Lula dies, Quico is forced into a few puzzles where he must actively use Monster's rampages in puzzle-solving, playing very dangerously with fire. One of these puzzles even requires you to trap Monster in a pocket dimension while he's angry, and all the more likely when there's frogs right in front of him! This Monster-baiting backfires spectacularly much later when Monster kills Alejandra.
- Death of a Child: Alejandra is eaten by Monster.
- Disney Death: Oh boy, is this ever zig-zagged. Lula dies more or less for real, but Alejandra tells Quico that the Shaman's power can bring her back. They do so, but Alejandra is killed by Monster soon after.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire point of the game is to serve as one big parallel to Domestic Abuse, and specifically to Vander Caballero's experiences with his father.
- Domestic Abuse: Uh, yeah...
- Exposition Fairy: Lula, in addition to its role as a Robot Buddy.
- G-Rated Drug: Frogs serve as an allegory to alcohol, with rotten fruit serving as a temporary cure.
- Hard Truth Aesop: The game shows that it may be impossible to help reform an alcoholic or abusive parent and the best thing you can do is turn your back on the toxic person and walk away from them forever before you're destroyed by them.Caballero: I heard these beautiful words from [my] therapist: "When someone wants to hit bottom, there's nothing you can do to stop them." When someone is self-destructive or destructive of others and you want to stop them, there's nothing you can do. They're looking for something there. They're getting something out of that destruction, and if you stay with them, you're gonna get destroyed. So the only thing you can do is let them go, and it is the most painful thing you can do in your life.
- Hint System: Of the "hints on request" type. Quico can hide in cardboard boxes to get hints and learn basic moves. He then wears the boxes while walking around until you press Circle to climb out of it.
- Holler Button: Pressing Triangle will make Quico call out to Lula, even if there's no context-sensitive switch for him to press.
- Improbable Infant Survival: It is impossible for Quico to die. On the other hand, seeing him constantly thrown around by an enraged Monster again and again makes it even more painful than an instant death. But subverted with Alejandra's death.
- Jet Pack: Lula gives Quico the ability to hover for a short time after a jump.
- Mysterious Stranger: It is never revealed just who Alejandra is (not even her name is revealed until the end credits) or is supposed to represent. Some have speculated that she is meant to be Quico's sister. In an interview with Eurogamer, the creator, Vander Caballero, revealed that Alejandra is based off of his first love, implying that she used to either be in a relationship with Quico or used to be his friend in the real world.
- Obvious Beta: Papo & Yo is a work of passion, not technical prowess, and at times this can become painfully obvious.
- The PC version largely averts this, with most of the issues having been smoothed out.
- Remixed Level: After Quico and Alejandra bring Lula back to life, the player goes through several previous stages from a higher elevation (in order to avoid Monster). The final of these stages (and the one where you have to stay on the ground the most) is the stage where Alejandra dies.
- The Reveal: There is no Shaman, and therefore no way to cure Monster.
- Trampoline Tummy: A key part of the gameplay is bouncing off Monster's big belly to reach greater heights.
- World of Symbolism: The entire game could be seen as a child trying to process the reality of living with an alcoholic, abusive parent, in a similar fashion as Among the Sleep.