Most of Papo & Yo’s gameplay revolves around a few key ideas, which it uses in different ways when new ideas arise. You’re constantly accompanied by The Monster in a more docile form. The Monster likes to eat coconuts which you can throw around to direct him. If the monster eats a frog, however, he’ll turn into a version of himself suddenly set alight and will immediately chase after you. If he catches you, he’ll grab you and throw you violently across the level. That duality is important, because it’s only when he’s at his worst he’s a threat. At his best he’s an integral part of your progression and, by extension, the child’s life. The game doesn’t paint the relationship as a simple antagonistic one, it’s far tougher.
It’s occasionally necessary for the puzzle to allow The Monster to become dangerous, but other times it’s only going to take you back to stage one. Part of the game is figuring out what’s necessary to achieve to move forward, part is figuring out how to achieve it and the last is actually getting it done. Most sections contain the same building blocks and mechanics, but they’re rarely ever repeated in exactly the same way.
Explaining exactly how puzzles in Papo & Yo work is difficult because they’re about interacting with the environment in very abstract ways. Typically you’ll wander the world looking for cranks that will shift where certain platforms are, but even this is subverted and changed. For a game that has a sparse run time and such simple base mechanics it’s packed with variety for every goal.
Regardless of the subject matter, Papo & Yo is genuinely fun to play, offers a sense of charm that compliments the severity of dark themes rather than feels like a disparate separate portion. It's short, but it’s put together in a way where it establishes everything that it needs to get across and then leaves. It’s introducing new mechanics up until the ending and constantly making you think. It’s an unmissable example of what gaming can achieve and it’s available at a price that’s insultingly cheap. The Xbox 360 version, which we haven't played, apparently offers somewhat crude visuals and has issues with framerates, as well as suffering from a few bugs, so make sure to pick up the PC version.