A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Papo & Yo is a puzzle and platformer game without much violence, but that it carries some mature themes that may trouble younger kids. It is an autobiographical game that serves as a metaphor for abuses suffered by its designer as a child at the hands of his alcoholic father. It suggests that kids in such situations can't help their parents but instead must absolve themselves from responsibility and distance themselves from the abuser as much as possible. Players don't really see any abuses until they are depicted as scenes carved in stone near the end of the game, but the messages and imagery are pretty clear throughout. The game's brave hero could serve as a valuable role model for older tweens suffering abusive parents, though parents should beware that the game may also prove disturbing.
What's it about?
Based on the personal experiences of its designer, PAPO & YO chronicles an abused child's escape into a fantasy world. Players take the role of the boy as he journeys through a magical shanty town where chalk drawings of gears and stairs transform into real objects, shifting the shape of the environment and offering solutions to challenging puzzles. The boy quickly encounters a playful girl who teases and leads him onward. Soon after he encounters a monster addicted to frogs who represents his alcoholic and abusive father. The game concludes with a series of emotional scenes in which the metaphors are laid bare, and the boy finally understands what he has to do in order to survive.
Is it any good?
Papo & Yo is likely dissimilar to anything you may have played before. It has a beautiful and cleverly designed world as well as an unusual flavor of platform puzzles that come complete with an ingenious system of hints and clues delivered via boxes with crayon drawings scrawled on their insides. But the truly extraordinary thing here is the game's bold narrative about alcoholism and abuse. It successfully conveys an atmosphere of fear, hope, struggle, and, ultimately, resignation. It tackles a sad and troubling subject with delicacy, bravery, and intelligence.
The experience is, unfortunately, marred slightly by sometimes iffy controls and uneven difficulty that may leave players flying along for lengthy stretches then stuck for long minutes. As a game, it's average. But as a method of conveying a personal and artistic message, it's frequently brilliant.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about alcoholism. What is it? What dangers does it create? Who can you turn to for help if someone you know is an alcoholic?
Families can also discuss child abuse. What forms does it take? How can you recognize psychological abuse? What options are available for kids in bad home situations?
- Platforms: Linux, Mac, PlayStation 3, Windows
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, logic
Emotional Development: developing resilience, empathy, identifying emotions, moving beyond obstacles
Responsibility & Ethics: making wise decisions
- Price: $14.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Release date: August 15, 2012
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.