Papo & Yo Game Poster Image

Papo & Yo




Dramatic and affecting puzzler about alcoholism and abuse.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This game is a metaphor for a drunken parent abusing his son. The alcoholic is depicted as a horned monster that becomes addicted to eating frogs, but players see the monster for who he really is (an alcoholic father) and what he is really doing (hurting those around him) in the game's final moments. The message conveyed is that while a child may want to save an abusive, alcoholic parent, he or she must eventually realize that there's nothing he or she can do if the parent doesn't choose to help him or herself. The game ends with its young hero gently shoving the sleeping monster into a void.     

Positive role models

The hero, a dark-skinned boy named Quico, is a good role model for kids, especially those suffering an abusive caregiver. He displays courage as he faces the monster in his fantasy world and ingenuity as he takes on various contextual puzzles. He always uses his brain to solve problems rather than resorting to violence.

Ease of play

Standard third-person adventure controls are employed, and should prove intuitive to experienced gamers. There are also boxes with chalk drawings on their inner walls that provide valuable hints and clues as to what must be done in order to progress in certain areas. Difficulty is determined by the player's ability to figure out the game's frequent puzzles. Most are pretty simple, involving little more than moving boxes, pulling levers, or performing a well-timed jump. Some, however, may leave players scratching their heads for a while.  


The game's monster sometimes looks scary, especially when it turns bright and fiery. The finale has several disturbing moments, including a statue of a man about to beat a cowering child with a belt and another of the same man violently grabbing a girl. Cries and screams can be heard echoing in the background.     

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

This is a game about the evils of alcoholism. The disease is depicted mostly in figurative form, with a monster addicted to frogs standing in for a father addicted to alcohol, but a couple of scenes late in the game include whiskey bottles.

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 kids can learn


Thinking & Reasoning

  • logic
  • analyzing evidence
  • applying information

Emotional Development

  • developing resilience
  • empathy
  • identifying emotions
  • moving beyond obstacles

Responsibility & Ethics

  • making wise decisions

Engagement, Approach, Support


Beautiful and cleverly designed environments and characters make for a vivid world. However, the game's dark themes and unusual puzzles may not be for all tastes.

Learning Approach

Kids will get to practice their puzzle-solving skills, but, more importantly, they'll explore their emotions via the game's affecting story about a child learning to deal with an abusive, alcoholic parent.


The puzzles can be tricky, but an ingenious system of hints and clues delivered via boxes with crayon drawings scrawled on their insides helps considerably. More help can be found in unofficial tutorials online. 

What kids can learn


Thinking & Reasoning

  • logic
  • analyzing evidence
  • applying information

Emotional Development

  • developing resilience
  • empathy
  • identifying emotions
  • moving beyond obstacles

Responsibility & Ethics

  • making wise decisions

Kids can learn about puzzle solving and explore their emotions in this affecting game about a child learning to deal with an abusive, alcoholic parent. Kids will need to put on their thinking caps to noodle out solutions to challenging navigational conundrums. In more dramatic moments, they'll experience sympathy and/or empathy as they watch the game's young hero come to understand and learn how to deal with his violent father. Papo & Yo isn't intended as a formal tool for education, but it could help tweens and older kids better understand the difficult subject of alcoholism and parental abuse.

This Learning Rating review was written by Chad Sapieha

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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. 

Families can talk 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?

Game details

Platforms:Linux, Mac, PlayStation 3, Windows
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date:August 15, 2012
Topics:Great boy role models, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
ESRB rating:E10+ for Fantasy Violence

This review of Papo & Yo was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old May 7, 2013


this game can be good for kids but remember to take them out to play out side when they end to play
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 17 years old Written by_____________ September 13, 2015
What other families should know
Great messages


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