Papo & Yo Original Soundtrack
Papo & Yo Original Soundtrack
Minority Media Inc.
December 18, 2012
Purchase on Bandcamp
Minority Media Inc’s 2012 release Papo & Yo follows a young Brazilian boy named Quico as he traverses the slums with his robot toy Lula and his friend Monster, trying to escape his alcoholic father. Although Papo & Yo emerged following some considerable hype, many early critics expressed disappointment with the game design, controls and subpar graphics. One area in which the game did not disappoint, however, was its inventive soundtrack. Venezuelan-born Brian D’Oliveira’s music perfectly complements both the heaviness of the story and the light whimsy of Papo & Yo’s gameplay, bringing a fresh variety of live instruments—a few of which D’Oliveira handcrafted himself—to bear in this outstanding album.
The Papo & Yo Original Soundtrack begins with “A Strange New World,” which immediately introduces a unique layering of guitar, African and South American percussion, Brazilian hunting whistles, a wide variety of flutes, and several traditional string instruments like the Indian / Nepali sarangi. This track sets the stage well for the entire album, since each subsequent track similarly features live-recorded music, minimalistic melodies, active rhythms, and rich, authentic textures. D’Oliveira recorded several instrumental parts himself, only bringing in a few other musicians to flesh out his ensemble.
“Cozy Digs” at the album’s center offers a particularly strong example of D’Oliveira’s work. Like most of the album, this track uses brief, simple melodies, but layers them intricately with counter-melodies, refrains, and embellishments in other voices. Although the texture thickens steadily almost to the track’s end, part of its appeal is that it never feels sonically heavy. Even in cases with three, four, or as many as five distinct melodies unfolding simultaneously, the lightness of each instrumental line gives this track—and the soundtrack at large—ta compellingly ethereal quality. The rich layering and live recording also gives this soundtrack an improvisational feel that seldom makes its way into a video game soundtrack and that fits wonderfully well with the exploratory, puzzle-solving nature of the gameplay and storyline.
One possible shortcoming of the soundtrack is that many of the instruments appear, albeit briefly, in nearly every single track. While the textures are still unique in the broader picture of video game music at large, the frequent appearances of each major instrument can make tracks like “Anger Management,” “Over the Inferno” and others feel stylistically repetitive. Furthermore, every single track in the album is played in a minor key, with a large percentage of them sticking to the key of A minor, which further reduces listening variety at the album level. Fortunately, tracks like “A Slow Realization” and “Euclid Is Wrong” offer enough ebb and flow from lighter to fuller instrumentation to generally counterbalance any repetition.
The album concludes with “Liberation,” which fuses the album’s recurring textures with the new introduction of a children’s chorus and solo boy soprano. This hauntingly beautiful track captures the incredible depth of the game’s storyline while also standing on its own as a terrific piece of music.
D’Oliveira’s Papo & Yo Original Soundtrack might not accompany a universally-acclaimed game, but it fits that game thematically and artistically in ways that few other soundtracks manage to replicate. This soundtrack also makes for great listening on its own, especially due to its lively textures and rhythms and its dynamic use of counterpoint. The Papo & Yo Original Soundtrack earned the Canadian Video Game Awards 2012 nomination for Best Audio and Best Original Music, as well as the 2014 G.A.N.G. Awards nomination for Best Soundtrack Album.
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Posted on June 2, 2017 by Stephen Taylor. Last modified on June 2, 2017.