Everyone has a coping mechanism for those times they have to endure pain and tragedy. Papo & Yo creator Vander Caballero grew up with an abusive and alcoholic father, and we're learning about it through the game's goals and imagery. Caballero's father is represented by a companion and monster (who recently received a redesign). It can sometimes be a comforting figure, but when consuming frogs (metaphor!) it becomes a literal beast.
On the surface, Papo & Yo seems to offer a mixture of platforming and environmental puzzles, but it goes deeper than that. Quico, the boy protagonist, retreats within his favela -- what I took as a representation of a safe, controllable place in his mind -- after suffering a great tragedy. There was some kind of automobile accident.
The entire game is a metaphor, something Caballero says is essential. He's taking what he calls "the Pixar approach" with Papo & Yo. "Find a good metaphor that people can connect to and don't be afraid."
My demo at GDC consisted of one of the earliest sections of the game, with some light environmental puzzles and platforming teaching me how to play. Moving around buildings and traversing the favela is a visual treat, thanks to the visual fidelity of Unreal Engine. "We don't have the budget of The Last Guardian, but we're doing our best," Caballero said of Minority's efforts on this PSN game.
As for the favela setting, Caballero said he actually thought about a few different places to take players, but ultimately fell back on the South American-style setting. "I was thinking about the setting at the beginning and I went through many different settings. But what I realized in the end is you can only talk about what you know. And when you talk about what you know, people want to believe you. So suddenly I realized I knew [I wanted it set in a favela] and I knew how to take people there; how to bring people there in an attentive way. I come from South America, so I can bring players to that. If I had picked another setting, it would've felt fake and people would've felt it. Everything is about making the game authentic."
Papo & Yo is still in alpha stage, so it was still a bit rough around the edges during my demo. Some animation work and collision detection is still necessary, but it wasn't enough to detract from the beautiful atmosphere. The glow of the early morning sun, slow plucking guitar and whimsical, sporadic flutes against the backdrop of colorful buildings that make up this favela made for a serene, calming atmosphere.
Minority wouldn't give me a peek at Monster or Quico's robotic pal, Lula, as they will appear in-game, though they promised more would be shown of the Pub Fund title leading up to launch later this year.