Publisert: 20. desember
Papo & Yo is short, but powerful; powerful enough that I couldn't write a review immediately after playing it, because it was all still a little too intense.
I picked this game up as part of a Humble Bundle, knowing absolutely nothing about it, and installed it when I was in the mood for a bit of indie whimsy. So it came as a bit of a shock when the opening animation sequence made it clear that child abuse was going to be a prominent theme of the game -- I had been expecting cheery, light-hearted fluff, and this was looking instead like a terrible downer. Within a few minutes, however, the setting and gameplay had drawn me in so much that I played all the way through in one sitting, even though I knew the game was writing me a ticket on the feels train.
The setting is an appealingly surrealist dreamscape rendition of a South American favela, blending fanciful magic with rusty corrugated iron sheets. The frequent puzzles are inventive and fun, if not particularly challenging. But the puzzles aren't the true star of this game; story is the shining star here. Monster, your companion through most of the game, is a very thinly veiled portrayal of an abusive alcoholic father, and what the game does brilliantly is lead you into the mindset of a victim. You'll love Monster, fear him, hate him, resent him and even pity him, often at the same time. You'll find yourself doing ugly, violent things without even thinking about it, because you desperately need to avoid triggering Monster's rage. You'll make excuses for Monster; you'll blame other things; you'll blame yourself. You'll allow yourself to believe that you're in control -- that if you just play the game well enough, you can keep Monster content and placid indefinitely. And, inevitably, it will all come crashing down on you.
The majority of "game as art" projects I've seen have been gross, pretentious failures that abandon concepts of gameplay in favour of marching the player on a directed tour through the creator's personal vision, and the interactivity of the experience is reduced to token actions in what is otherwise a sort of animated film or ebook. Papo & Yo is a high-art game that gets it right; there's a real game here, and it's the gameplay makes it immersive. Once you've been drawn in through the puzzle game elements, and you really care about the characters and what happens to them, the harsh, wrenching story elements become that much more powerful.
Having such mature themes, this game is admittedly not for everyone, but, as far as I'm concerned, it's a masterpiece.