Papo & Yo preview: O meu amigo, o monstro

If you haven't seen Papo & Yo's endearing announcement trailer, you should probably go check that out right now. Go ahead, I'll wait. All set? Great. Now that you've seen it, you'll understand why it was one of the few E3 2011 games that I made a specific point of going to play, just for me.

Papo & Yo is a story-driven puzzle game about a boy named Quico who lives in a Brazilian favela, and his two best friends: a quirky robot named Lula and a rhino-like creature named Monster. Lula, unfortunately, scares the hell out of Monster, rendering him too petrified to move when she's nearby.

Monster, on the other hand, is an adorable, friendly giant. That is, until he eats a frog (he's addicted to 'em!), totally flips out and tries to kill everything. I didn't see that part, though -- the demo actually ended with Monster gobbling a frog and a fade to black. What I played, rather, was all about puzzle solving. %Gallery-126125% The hands-on demo opened with Quico running around his favela, Lula in-hand, solving a handful of basic mysteries. The favela Quico lives in, however, is a bit off. Where are the other people? The environment Quico resides in seemed starkly empty for a child's play place. I note as much because the stacked houses -- and the rest of the environment, for that matter -- play a critical role in the game's many puzzles.

First I had to ascend a hill, though the path of rocks leading up to the top was depressed firmly in the ground. A glowing rope laid against the hillside, which I could pull to raise the rock staircase. I was unable to hold the rope and ascend the temporarily raised walkway at the same time, so I tasked Lula with the job. By walking her to the rope and then calling her from a distance -- one of the small handful of mechanics available to Quico, outside of running and jumping -- I was able to have Lulu raise the staircase while I ascended it.

Lula's got jet blasters in her feet, so she didn't have any issues with the lack of a staircase after I climbed up, quickly joining me for the next puzzle, which was one of the best gameplay experiences I had at E3. A fenced-in area with a child's drawing on the ground hinted at the objective: place a handful of boxes in a row in order to hop over a fence and get across a water-filled chasm. But how to cross the chasm?

As I moved boxes in the fenced-in area, entire houses from the adjacent favela lifted and swung with Quico's actions. The favela houses creaked and shuddered as I unnaturally moved them from their original resting places and made them into a bridge across the chasm. Puzzle solved!

My experience with Papo & Yo wasn't perfect -- it's got some rough edges, such as the physics engine and some awkward collision detection with the game world (such as the aforementioned stairs) -- but between the charm of the characters, the unique world of Quico, and the visually imaginative puzzle design, I'm more than a little excited for the game's 2012 launch.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.