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OST Case Study: Papo & Yo


Papo & Yo is a puzzle platform game from Minority. Released in August of 2012 on PS3 and April of 2013 for PC, the game explores the journey of a young boy, Quico as he treks his way through a favela with a Monster he meets along the way. The soundtrack was composed by Brian D'Oliveira and it uses a wide variety of instruments, many with South American and Afro Cuban roots. However, the music created with these instruments doesn't strictly adhere to the musical style of their origins, and this gives the game a unique and memorable sound.  The score is also heavily incorporated into the framework of the game, as it changes and develops depending on the players involvement with the world. Overall the music created gives a strong sense of progression and allows the player to truly feel like they have made an accomplishment and gone on a journey with the game's characters.

The game takes place in an surreal version of a Brazilian favela. The mysterious and oddly familiar setting is pretty unique and the music reflects it well. Instrumentally, there are many instruments used which have connotations with South American culture and it's music and this is a distinct sound that can be heard throughout the game, but the way the instruments are used within the pieces which make up the soundtrack distance them slightly from tradition and take them into a new and interesting realm. This mix of familiarity and mysticism in both the game's environment and music gives the game a very distinct and coherent atmosphere. It gives the player an idea of what the game world is and how it works. The rules and laws which govern the game's world are both presented and reinforced by the music that is presented to the player. There is no need for extensive exposition or explanation oh how the world works as it is all conveyed through the game's visuals and audio experience.

The game's music is not only deeply entrenched in the game's setting, but also in the gameplay. The game uses a layered score to give the player a sense of progression and accomplishment as they complete puzzles. Many elements of the game trigger musical or sound effects. If the monster is enraged a harsh dissonance will engulf the player, and pulling a lever to reveal a hidden part of the landscape is accompanied by light chimes and a satisfying evolution of the music. What might start off as a simple kalimba ostinato can evolve into a full ensemble of guitars, percussion and more through the course of one puzzle.  As the lightbulb moment happens and the player moves the last piece into place, the music grows stronger and pushes the player forward to complete the whole section. This gives the player a strong sense of accomplishment and more motivation to complete a puzzle and even the entire game, as this technique continuously moves the player forward and gives them the drive to push with a puzzle.

The music within the game not only gives a sense of progression on a micro scale but also a macro. The music strongly reflects the main characters physical and emotional journey throughout the game. As the player ventures deeper and deeper into the bizarre world, the music moves from defined afro cuban rhythms to a more etherial, ambient soundscape. Key moments in the story are punctuated with emotional cues and are followed by pensive, solemn pieces. This all culminates to a truly emotionally driven ending sequence emphasised with a choir of children mixed with guitars and strings. The sense of character growth, and the journey the player takes are heavily reliant on the music and it delivers in spades, creating a very coherent and complete experience. 

The music of Papo & Yo takes what we know from the real world and twists and distorts it into a new form. Taking the energy driven sounds of south America and making them emotionally charged ambiances and soundscapes. Everything about this game is deliberate and well thought out making it a very enjoyable experience sonically and from a gameplay perspective. Not only this but it's story is complimented extremely well by the music as it guides the player emotionally through the events of the game and allows them to fully invest in the experience. 

What do you think? Are there other games which use real world musical references and twist and turn them to make something new? Did you feel the music allowed you to feel involved with the game? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

If you want to read more about the game and it's composer you can read these interviews from Dualshockers and Crave Online.
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About Oscarnoone of us since 5:23 AM on 02.25.2014

Hello I am Oscarno and welcome to a rad Video Game Music blog on Destructoid!

I'm way into Video Game Music, and with these blog posts, I hope to provide an investigation into and discussion about Video Game Music and how music affects video games as a creative medium.

I write weekly, usually posting on Thursdays. Most weeks will be OST Case Studies, looking a the music of a particular game and pulling it apart to find why it works so well. Sometimes, however, I'll just post a shorter opinion post or perhaps an article looking into other areas of Video Game Music.

If you wanna talk to me or follow me on Twitter ,you can.(but tbh it's pretty boring)

Also you can check out some of the music I make on my Soundcloud!