Papo & Yo

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Papo & Yo Game Poster Image
Dramatic and affecting puzzler about alcoholism and abuse.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

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.

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 & Representations

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.     

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.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySergio M. September 18, 2018
Teen, 14 years old Written byGamersnews32 May 20, 2019

I loved this game so much, that the ending just hit me in the tears hard!

This was a beautiful and lovely PSPlus game for PS3. Though the frame rate skips can sometimes bother you, and I didn't mind it. Great story and emotional... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written by_____________ September 13, 2015

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?

Game details

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Themes & Topics

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