No less tragic, but a lot prettier
[Want to know how a developer handled the PC version of a multiplatform game? Check out the PC Port Report for the full scoop.]
When I played Papo & Yo in August, last year, I quickly found myself fascinated by Vander Caballero's semi-autobiographical exploration of the effect an alcoholic, abusive parent can have on a young child. It's a beautiful, yet tragic game, and at moments -- especially since I never had the misfortune to suffer ill-treatment at the hands of my parents -- exceedingly awkward, as players experience something that's obviously so personal to the creator.
It was not without some technical missteps, however; most notably the floaty, imprecise controls, but also the graphical fidelity, and how it failed to match the striking art direction. As of the 18th, Papo & Yo has been on Steam, no longer shackled exclusively to PSN, and I'm confident that this will prove to be the superior version -- it just needs a little more work.
The PC version of Papo & Yo doesn't tamper with the gameplay or narrative at all. Beyond the opportunity to play it with a mouse and keyboard and the addition of a handful of Steam achievements, this is exactly the same game I played on my PlayStation 3 in August.
Unfortunately, this means that the somewhat flimsy controls return, and they do the game no favors. Quico never quite feels like he's an extension of me, or, rather, my inputs via either the mouse and keyboard or the controller. I was never quite sure if he'd land where I wanted him to, or if he'd stumble and fall.
In a genuinely challenging platformer, this would be nigh unforgivable, but Papo & Yo never really taxes one's dexterity or coordination. Failing to make a particular leap of faith is never punished, either. Quico never dies, his injuries are emotional ones, and plummeting down into the abyss ends with him respawning nearby.
I didn't find playing with a mouse and keyboard any more frustrating than playing with a controller, so this will likely end up being a case of players choosing whatever they feel more comfortable with. I generally feel more at home using a controller for platformers, but switching between methods didn't cause me to have any extra problems.
The focus of Papo & Yo's improvements are clear from the moment the game begins -- it's significantly prettier. Gone is the screen-tearing, the jagged edges that mar what should be smooth lines, and the inconsistent frame rate.
A healthy number of graphics options have been provided, though they are all either on or off, with nothing in between. Anti-aliasing, v-sync, light shafts, ambient occlusion, bloom, and motion blur options are all present, just to name a few. It would have been preferable to have more control over them, and the anti-aliasing "on" setting can't be more than 2x, but it's a dramatic improvement over the PSN version.
Textures and shadows are also significantly sharper, making the fantastical favela an even more aesthetically pleasing playground. This version presents a far more striking world, and it does greater justice to Caballero's vision.
I got a solid frame rate of 60 FPS (with v-sync enabled and a resolution of 1920x1080) most of the time, with only the occasional dip at the start of cutscenes -- this was with everything turned on, and the detail set on very high, the game's maximum level. Running, jumping, and engaging with the landscape was a buttery smooth experience.
I did, lamentably, encounter a few bugs, though thankfully nothing completely progress-halting. Early on, as I walked across a bridge of buildings I had just created, the game went a wee bit haywire and I was presented with what looked to be an extreme zoomed out view of the area. I could no longer see Quico, yet I could still control him, and when I caused him to fall off the bridge, the view went back to normal. It did kill the sound, however, and I had to quit the game to fix it.
There are also a few instances of clipping, with Quico falling through what should have been solid ground, and on one occasion Monster found himself stuck on a wall, unable to escape his brick-and-mortar prison. The checkpoint system isn't very punishing, luckily, and these issues were all solved by reloading an earlier stage of the game.
Minority has been responding to all noted issues on the Steam forums, and they've been dealing well with the technical feedback. Hopefully these early teething problems will be put to rest with patches and fixes in the coming weeks, and if they are, Papo & Yo on the PC will undoubtedly be the definitive version of the game. For the time being it might be best to hold off on a purchase, though.