Sometimes turning off your brain is sort of a fun activity. Sure, there are deep and dynamic storylines out there that require a TON of investigation and thinking, but why the hell should we do that all the time? There’s a real good reason that the first person shooter rose to prominence back in the day, or why Grand Theft Auto III changed the tide of gaming: violence and mayhem can sincerely be fun. Naturally, the addition of SOME plot (see Grand Theft Auto IV) makes for a better environment, but let’s be real: there are a ton of games that survived the passage of time simply because they were enjoyable and tapped that button that releases dopamine a certain number of times. Devolver Digital, who really can only make enjoyable games, knew that was the secret to what DeadToast Entertainment was up to, which is why they proudly slapped their label on the lightning fast, horrendously absurd and surprisingly skillful My Friend Pedro.
The game doesn’t have a clear plot from the beginning, but it gets better as time goes on. You are some kind of masked, silent assassin who awakens with a bad case of “got your head caved in” and now is being accompanied by a floating, talking banana called Pedro. Pedro seems to only have your best interests at heart, but as to what that means, exactly, isn’t clear. Pedro wants to keep you alive, and he seems to be the only one in this world, as everyone recognizes YOU on sight (first because you’re in their illegal meat shop, and later because of the massive bounty on your head) and wants to kill you in a spectacularly gory fashion. Pedro clues you in that the dude you kill early on, Mitch, might have something to do with this other person, Ophelia, who also wants you dead. Thankfully, you’ve got more than just general survival instincts. You’ve got lightning fast reflexes. You’ve got impeccable aim and timing. And you’ve got a friend in the chattering, off-kilter banana that is Pedro.
My Friend Pedro is all about score, time attack and being the best damn killer than you can be across a series of levels. From the meat market where you awaken to the halls of your own mind and the sewers where Internet dwellers live, the assassin’s key goal is to shoot everything, not get shot, and make it out of the location as quickly as possible. Starting with a single handgun, you very quickly graduate to uzis, shotguns, and the important “double gun” effect that gives you a John Woo-level of control over your destiny. You never hold two shotguns at the same time (that would be silly and implausible), but you do have twin Uzis and the ability to aim at two different targets at the same time. If this sounds like it could be difficult, it is, so our killing friend has another trick up his sleeve: time manipulation. Thanks to the powers of the Matrix or whatever, you can “focus” and slow down time to the point where you can aim and take shots in a more leisurely fashion. All the while, you are continually, constantly dodging bullets, which means spinning, rolling and doing all sorts of mad acrobatics to stay alive. Also, the more people you kill, the longer your focus meter stays full, so you want to make those shots count and get the bodies on the floor as fast as possible. Once you get comfortable functioning in the focus world, it’s a real pain suddenly snapping back into real time and getting riddled with bullets.
The largest initial obstacle that you face in My Friend Pedro is getting the controls down, and that’s not because they’re poorly laid out. There’s a masterpiece of a design at work here, as DeadToast wanted to ensure that everything you could reach would be reached in a good manner. So you aim with the right stick while moving with the left, but then you need to hit the ZL button if you want to aim at two targets at once, but that could also be happening while you’re in focus mode (pressing down on the left Joystick), and then you’re still trying to fire (R button) while dodging (ZR button) and jumping (B button). This might seem like I’m complaining, and, honestly, I am, at least at first. There is a high bar to jump over in order to make it into the game as you are expected to play it, and, for someone like me, I get buttons mixed up all the time. There’s no worse feeling than expecting that you’re about to split your aim to pull off a sweet double kill while hanging upside down by your ankles, but you actually turn off focus and then get shot like a pinata into a coleslaw of game over. Thankfully, the normal difficulties offer a saving grace when the game will inflict focus upon you (regardless of your remaining power) and have huge letters that scream “DODGE” to keep you alive. This only really helps on the lower difficulties, though, where your HP still recharges and enemies can occasionally be bad shots. On higher difficulties, you gotta have your stuff down, or you’re going to get put down.
Once you figure out the controls, however, My Friend Pedro really starts to shine. With how short most of the stages are, the game plays out like the very best highlights real from action films of the 90s and 00s, and a healthy dose of certain Asian action films from the 80s as well. When you dive through a window in slow motion, corkscrewing and murdering people above and below, it’s so damn satisfying to watch. When you kick a frying pan into the air and use it as a ricochet panel to deal with four grunts unseen, it’s cool as hell almost every single time. You can leap backwards and shoot as you fade away, pirouette in the middle of hell and lay down kill shots like the homicidal ballerina you are, or knock a can of gasoline into a group of people and explode the lot of them before they know what’s happening. This is a game of watching and skill, of where you’re duly impressed when someone pulls off an S-Ranked game and even more proud of yourself when you manage to get your first A ranking. It might take a couple of tries to get it right, but it feels so good when you do.
The slightly ragdoll physics of My Friend Pedro keeps the game moving in a humorous light in spite of the darker moments, but the humor is also supported by the madcap choices that happen in the game. Pedro isn’t constantly yammering, but he does mix in a fair number of non sequiturs and aimless anecdotes with his advice and direction to you. At one point, you seriously escape and find yourself right in the middle of a Christmas party for bounty hunters just as your face pops up as the newest, largest bounty available. Kicking someone’s head at their friends might not kill them, but you get a sense of grim satisfaction with performing this macabre act. And when you’re inside your own mind, bouncing around on trampolines, using a massive beanie hat and blowing away “Haters” with your shotgun…well that’s downright cathartic.
Then again, this is definitely an arcade game made into a console title, so the attraction can be really hit or miss for some people. On the one hand, it’s super fun in the doses where you play it, and the scaling difficulty really does put your reflexes and memory to the test. Even the first level becomes infinitely harder on the highest difficulty, when you suddenly realize that you relied a LOT on recharging your HP between individual gunfights. My Friend Pedro is one of those games where you want to challenge yourself to get a better and stronger score, and do it faster, make it tighter, conserve more ammunition each time. The story is never going to change, the twist ending will always be the same, so you don’t gain anything like unlocking achievements (not in the Switch version, anyways), it’s all just in good fun. OH, and if you’re playing the switch version, be sure to exit the game entirely and not just go into sleep mode between plays. For whatever reason, the game doesn’t acknowledge sleep mode as the game stopping, so I had levels where it apparently took me something like 600 minutes to finish because, silly me, I put down the Switch to go do things like work and sleep, and my time penalty was ghastly.
My Friend Pedro didn’t necessarily change my views of gaming forever or alter my world, but it was damn fun, ran beautifully on the Switch, and certainly was worth my time and money. If you’re looking for a bloody (but not too bloody) time with some Deadpool-style action and a tinge of humor, then it’s a solid recommendation with no strings attached. If you need more for your game, however – deep secrets, multiple endings, relationship building with HD rumble touching – you might need a different friend.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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My Friend Pedro Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
When a floating, talking banana asks you to trust him and kill everything in sight, you might not be well, but it still makes for a damn fine game.