GDC 2012 Hands-On: Papo & Yo
Up until recently Vander Caballero and his team over at Minority had been rather quiet about their upcoming PlayStation Network exclusive, Papo & Yo. This changed with the lot of screen shots we put up and a PlayStation Blog post which explained some changes to the game, most notably the look for Monster. While I was in San Francisco for GDC I got a chance to play Papo & Yo once again. It had been quite some time since I sat down with it, so I was eager to see what has changed for myself.
I will say this upfront, the game is still pretty early in development and some major features (Monster/Lula) were not in the sections of the game that I played. However I was happily surprised at the progress that was made since E3. If you listen to the podcast, You know I seemed kind of down on the title. I thought that while the story seemed intriguing, the gameplay honestly just wasn’t there. This demo however has changed my opinion.
The demo that I played opens with a mysterious girl that you are chasing after. You can never seem to catch her as she has the ability to draw doors with some sort of magic. While you are unable to do this, you can still harness this strange power to solve platforming puzzles. Shining chalk drawings on different buildings of the favela allow you to do different things – making platforms raise, pulling buildings around. All of this works really well and is very intuitive. There is a hint system as well, but I didn’t really find the need to use it. There are also certain sections where the chalk drawings needs to gain power. To do this you must find a hidden gear drawing, which will after being pushed, add that small bit of magic needed allow you to continue. There are also parts where you are moving boxes around, however these boxes seem to allow you to move entire buildings around the stage. It is really something to see the environment change so drastically around you.
There also was a stronger focus on platforming in this demo. You will be jumping from building to building, climbing up ladders and running through the streets. This all works well with quick and responsive controls. You are running around with the left stick, the Square button will do all sorts of contextual actions and of course you have the jump button on X. At this time, the camera control is in a place that would require some improvement. It was just a too squirrely. I have been told that this is being worked on and that it should be easier to control as development progresses.
As I mentioned before, there was no Monster or Lula in this demo. If you recall Lula is a robot that helps Quico out… think of him as a Clank to Quico’s Ratchet. Without these two by my side I found a loneliness and desperation in trying to advance through this town. And I think this is exactly what Vander Caballero is trying to express. The game has a more personal story than most out there. It is an almost autobiographical tale of his childhood. This was most evident in a teaser scene shown, the game takes on a far darker and somber appearance during this slow motion section. I wish i could say more but unfortunately that is the nature of a teaser.
Visually the game still looks lush and vibrant. The lighting is one of the things that stood out to me most. I found myself panning the camera around to take a look at the city from all angles. There was one point where I could see the outstretched city from atop the roofs of the favela I was traversing. It gave a huge sense of scale and made me want to push forward and explore more.
It its current stage Papo & Yo is a great example of what the PlayStation Network is all about. It is a game which has a story to tell and it now has the gameplay to back it up. I can’t wait to see more of Monster and the relationship to build with him. While we don’t have a price or release date, we do know that Papo & Yo should be on your radar. Be sure to listen to the podcast for more impressions.