We all have that friend who is just as bad an influence as they are a reliable crutch of support. They can make us feel pretty good about ourselves at times when it matters most, or happily lead us into mischief with a corrupt motive to fuel our own ego. My Friend Pedro is a bit like that. He also happens to be a talking banana. But, rather than drag us along for a quick pint that leads into a three-day bender full of good times and regret, Pedro would much rather see us massacre a horde of thugs like Chow Yun Fat in a church full of white doves and Desert Eagle handguns.
Originally starting out in life as an Adobe flash game, My Friend Pedro allows the player to live out their gun-toting fantasies of John Woo classics, Matrix-style gunplay, and the dynamic flow of Equilibrium. It’s like a side-scrolling Max Payne infused with the murderous talents of John Wick. An escapade of acrobatic athleticism coached by an almost choreographed firework display of shrapnel and gunpowder. Yet, while the action stays diverse, replayable, and moreishly satisfying from beginning to end, it just seems to fall a clip or two short from reaching its true potential.
We start off with our unnamed protagonist waking up from a dazed stupor only to be greeted by the fruitful personality of Pedro himself. After familiarizing the mysterious masked vigilante with a taste for blood, Pedro advises that he may as well carry on regardless and finish what he has started. This quickly leads the way into dozens of scenarios of stylish bloodshed, skateboard shootouts, and a reign of hellfire that’s easy to pick up and seductively difficult to master.
The controls themselves are simple enough to grasp and easily customizable to suit the player’s taste. Aiming is done with the right stick, while pointing two pistols towards separate goons is executed by automatically locking onto either one of them with the ZL Button. Pedro’s pal can then concentrate on showing off his evasive skills such as somersaulting over a staircase, rolling across the floor, wall jumping towards his next victim, or salsa-spinning his way through a swarm of gunfire. The key ability here, of course, is the slow-motion bullet-time feature – a rather generous meter-filled skill that not only helps keep the tide flowing in the player’s favor but also helps to make the action look and feel badass as hell.
The gameplay can sometimes tread into bizarre subliminal territories as an excuse to temporarily introduce a small variety of new mechanics. Such moments can provide a nice break from the grungy tones of abandoned buildings where villains stereotypically hang out. The shift in gears by diversifying the formula in an effort not become too familiar does bring with it some pleasant surprises along the way. However, My Friend Pedro plays at its best when simply working from one end to the other with little else to think about outside slaying enemies as quickly and as stylishly as possible.
With that said, beating the game the first time around soon shows its strength and weakness. Simply finishing the rather short campaign allows the freedom to concentrate on earning that shiny S rank without the impatient curiosity of where the game leads next. Where the game’s problems mainly lie is that there really isn’t anything more to offer in regards to extra content. Each stage does have an online leaderboard to compete against others, which is always good to see in a game like this, but, with no kind of survival mode or bonus challenges on offer, it feels like there’s something missing to completely satisfy your itchy trigger finger.
I would love to have seen some sort of 100-man Super Smash Bros.-style scenario, a stage builder maybe, or a Game of Death survival mode to see how many floors high I could possibly plow through. What is a completely missed opportunity though, is not having replays tied to the names plastered on the online leaderboards. For a game that’s so fun to watch, it’s a shame to not be able to see how elegant the top ten talents can tear their way through each stage without relying on platforms such as YouTube for the privilege.
I couldn’t help but feel that My Friend Pedro could learn a lot from something like the RedLynx’s Trials series. There’s definitely a spiritual connection between them both in how the meat of the fun is measured by replaying each section until the run is fine-tuned to perfection. Unfortunately, not being able to instantly restart a stage from the beginning without hitting a loading screen can somewhat break this mood. Especially considering how instantly you get dumped back to the safety nets of the last generously placed in-game checkpoint.
Without its wonderful flair in motion, the polygons that make up the characters and world in My Friend Pedro are cheap and rather bland. It’s visually in the same ballpark as something like Goat Simulator in how clearly it’s all been stitched together under a tiny budget. Yet, that doesn’t matter all too much because of how confidently the core gameplay mechanics are so well entwined. The little things such as kicking a frying pan into the air and pelting it with slugs to ricochet to their targets never gets old. Also, seeing Pedro’s reaction to a long killstreak gives the game further character and charm to mask its technical boundaries.
One thing’s for sure, My Friend Pedro is another example of how Devolver Digital truly knows where to scout for talent. It’s a great companion piece to the other recent suicide missions of Katana ZERO and Ape Out, the three games almost playing out in similar fashion to Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. The team at DeadToast Entertainment has certainly created something that wonderfully builds upon the dynamics of Gun-Fu culture. But, there’s a need for extra content to fill out what’s currently on offer, as My Friend Pedro could easily benefit from a much-needed encore with a bag full of boomsticks and a few more bullets to the head.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Devolver Digital