Rock Hard Subject Matter: Papo & Yo

Seb Wuepper takes a closer look at the subject matter in Papo & Yo.

Papo & Yo

Finally something tangible. A game that deals with, works with inner fears, deeply buried in its creator since childhood days. A game tackling a difficult subject matter head on. Growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father. That’s what’s underlying the upcoming semi-indie title PaPo & Yo. The game will be a platformer that’s reminiscent of ICO, but also of Inception. You know, that crazy movie that made BWAAAM noises? Just with fewer assault rifle shootouts.

PaPo & Yo promises a premise that’s more Maurice Sendak than Mortal Kombat. More Calvin & Hobbes than Call of Duty. It’s a game that’s quite strongly not about violence. At least about violent solutions to problems. The player is facing and escaping violence, but not acting it out. Which is important to the whole premise. Yes, it’s a rather colorful game, but still it’s not one that appears childish, even though it features a child protagonist.

It promises to be one of those titles that I’m waiting for. Reading an interview with designer Vander Caballero at Kotaku (of all places) made me realize that he’s seeing the same problems with the gaming industry that I’m seeing. Too little evolution, too much sameness, too little risk taking, and too much straight up escapism for its own sake. PaPo & Yo is a very personal title, one that tells a personal story. Also, it’s one of those few titles out there that feature a non-white protagonist. And this one sure is no Space Marine, no magical negro. Not your typical gaming protagonist.

If anything, Papo & Yo reminds me of the premise of Beasts of the Southern Wild. It promises to be a title that embraces beauty and wonder, a childlike gaze on the world. Gaming has a long tradition of a certain kind of magical realism, but it’s rarely used to this effect. Here we have a game that embraces the ‘realism’ part. We have a real little coloured boy running through a dreamscape-like favela world, looking for his sister. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in games recently. No, Max Payne 3 doesn’t count. It’s a game, a direction this industry, this medium desperately needs. Whether it deserves it, is another matter.

PaPo & Yo is out on PSN on August 14. I know I’ll be dropping some of my hard earned cash for it, and so should you. And no. You’re not “paying for the designer’s psychotherapy”. And even if you were, if the result, the game is good, why the fuck would that matter? Buy the game. Support the designer, and let’s all hope that we’ll get more titles like this that are personal stories wrapped in pure gaming magic.