Friday, February 15, 2013

Video Game Review: PS3 - Papo & Yo

Why would anyone spend hours chopping down virtual trees? It's a question I asked myself while laying on the top bunk in one of my friend's college dorm rooms watching him play Ultima Online.  It made no sense to me, to create a character on a game, one with virtually no story, and waste hours of time building up skills and numbers just to go find some huge dragon.  Similarly, watching my brother play Call of Duty, with constant gunfire, constant dying and respawning, doesn't achieve any real goal.  There's no story involved, no need to actually do anything except shoot randomly at other virtual people, hoping to see them fall down in a bloody pool.  I just don't get most video games. There are a number of people who will vehemently disagree with me on this.  I know people who are quite attached to their characters on World Of Warcraft or The Sims. They act and react with the people in the games to create their own storylines, with a little help from those creating the games.  And there are those exceptions of first-person shooter games, for example, that have a quite good storyline.  I loved Half-Life, and in a similar vein, American McGee's Alice.  But I've gone over these ideas before.

I'm very picky when it comes to video games, playing those that I feel will have a great plot, emotional depth, or that speaks to an idea of escape.  It's why I have spent many hours playing Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Psychonauts.  In short, I want my video game experience to be as enthralling as the books that I've read.  I want the video games that I play to be works of art.  

Put in "video games as works of art" in Google and you'll read opinion after opinion on the subject.  One article posted the definition of "art" as written by the Oxford English Dictionary: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. 

I say all this to review a game available on the Playstation Network (on the PS3).  Papo y Yo is a work of art.  Minority Media has created a game with symbolism, emotional depth, catharsis, touching on very serious issues from the real world, blending them into a child's world of fantasy.  Vander Caballero, the creator of the game, sets his intentions from the start, dedicating the game to his family, who had to deal with an alcoholic father.  Quico, who lives in a poor area of what looks like a South American city, hides from the rampaging figure outside the vent where he hugs his toy robot figure. When a gate appears next to him, he flees out into a city/playground of magical child chalk drawings, buildings that grow legs and move, and no adults anywhere.  He finds, shortly, that his compadr√© is a huge monster, which sleeps, eats, and grumps, and for which Quico has to take care of.  Monster also has a thing for poisonous frogs, which turn him into a violent, fiery beast who hurts Quico, sending the boy flying into the air screaming in pain.  The game is currently $14.95 and is only available on the PS3, and is a short game, played easily in a couple of sittings, but well worth it.  It is the start of the "maturing" of video gaming into a visual medium that can harness the emotional power of movies or books.  

{I want to interpret the game more completely, but to do that, I must put this WARNING here.  The folowing contains COMPLETE SPOILERS for the game. Do not read if you plan on playing the game.  I will continue after the trailer.  

If you watched those three trailers, there really is no need to continue this blog, as you'll have to play it. So I won't write my in-depth look at what goes on in the game.  What I think happens is immaterial, unless you want to compare notes, which, I will be glad to do.  In the end, the most important part of the game is what you, as the player, bring with you into the world in which Quico plays, and further, what you take out of it.