If I was to ask you to describe the perfect game what would be the first thing that springs to mind? Interesting and engaging characters? A plot that twists, turns and surprises you with depth and meaning? Or would you think of pure unadulterated action that focuses solely on fun? I personally swing between both and tend to enjoy story and gameplay in equal measure, but every once and a while a game comes along that forgoes any meaningful narrative and just says ‘Hey, let’s shoot some stuff and have fun doing it’. And it would be rude to say no wouldn’t it? My Friend Pedro, an action platformer published by the ever-entertaining Devolver Digital and developed by DeadToast Entertainment, is a title in the latter category. Crazy, fast-paced and a hell of a lot of fun, My Friend Pedro is bizarre and hugely enjoyable from start to finish with very few flaws.
Well I mean they’re not wrong
Waking up in a butchery freezer, masked and with no recollection of who you are and how you got there is one way of knowing that you had a big night. It is also how you are introduced to the unnamed protagonist of the game. Don’t fret, you have a floating, sentient banana (the eponymous Pedro) as a companion to guide you on your way. Yep, this is where we are starting so buckle up, it doesn’t steer towards normality from here at all. Anyway, Pedro informs you that you are in the butchery owned by a notorious mob boss that uses the place as a ‘waste management facility’ and from here it is time to get to work. Once you acquire a pistol from a guard willing to help (you kill him and take it), things kick off quickly.
Now you may only have a pistol and a banana by your side, but what you are able to do with them makes up for your lack of armament. You are gifted with two main skills to aid your escape: A dodge that sees you spin your body to avoid incoming fire, and the ability to slow down time, giving you some breathing room to choose your movement and shots. You will need to use both of these in conjunction with each other in order to progress without being riddled with bullets.
Movement is fluid and satisfying, making you feel like a parkour god as each jump, flip and roll has the correct weight to it making sure you always feel completely in control of your actions. Of course movement is only half of the equation, you can’t exactly kill your enemies with sick demonstrations of acrobatics can you? Gunplay is the other main crux of gameplay. Effective and gratifying, shooting is as simple as aiming with the right stick and pulling the trigger. A small amount of aim assist makes sure that you aren’t spraying bullets everywhere, but it isn’t intrusive enough to rob the game of challenge. Balancing movement and shooting takes a while to get used to, however once you get your head around it you will be sprinting through the environment like a free-running boss, blasting through every guard in your way.
Let me tell you, things did not end well for this gentleman
As you progress you will acquire a second pistol and with it a new more time-efficient way to dispatch your foes. By holding in the left bumper you can hard-target one enemy with one weapon and free aim with the other, allowing you to shoot at two targets simultaneously. Not long after gaining this ability you are gifted with automatic sub-machine guns to further amplify your damage output. The game constantly offers you new weapons, from an incredibly satisfying shotgun, to a long distance sniper rifle– your arsenal is constantly growing and you never grow tired of the weapons you have. Of course with new weapons comes new and harder enemies to use them on. From heavily armoured ‘pro gamers’ that run at you with swords, to trained hitmen with sniper rifles that can kill you in one shot, you need to be changing your approach to combat on the fly if you want to continue. I never once found myself getting bored with the gameplay loop as new elements were constantly being added to keep things fresh and to keep me on my toes.
Speaking of keeping things fresh, at the end of each area (in which there are five of in total) you are confronted by a boss. Each boss fight offers a different challenge, such as screaming through a city street on a motorbike while being pursued by the mob, or being confronted by a bounty hunter dressed as Santa piloting a futuristic jet. These sections definitely mix up gameplay and make for a different experience, but not all of them are A+. The aforementioned bike chase, though badass, feels a little messy in terms of gameplay, especially because the core loop is so well balanced. This isn’t to say that the bosses are a chore, in fact the last two are fantastic and worth experiencing rather than me describing them to you, but they are uneven for sure.
Two hands equals two guns, that’s just simple math
At the end of each level you are given a grade based on your performance. F being miserable and S being godlike. You earn points during levels by dispatching enemies in creative ways and of course by not dying. For instance if you are confronted with two guards you could easily just throw a wall of bullets in their direction and be done with it, but alternatively you could kick a frying pan in between them, shoot at that and let the bullets ricochet off of it into the unsuspecting goons (which feels amazing by the way). The game gives you opportunities galore to execute people, all of which are highly entertaining. Every level is designed perfectly to make you feel like an action movie hero, with panes of glass begging to be broken through, red containers laying around waiting to explode and more. If you have ever wanted to feel like Neo using bullet-time, or like John Wick clearing a room full of fools, then this is the game for you. Your score is also dependant on a multiplier that increases the more you kill and resets if you take too long between kills, meaning that momentum and speed are necessary in order to achieve higher scores. Leaderboards are also present, so if you want to prove you are the best psychopath with firearms in the world you have the platform to do so.
A few times during the course of the game you are invited to Pedro’s house for a much-needed rest. Of course with Pedro being a live piece of fruit his house resembles an episode of Adventure Time mixed with a fever dream. These sections act as a break from the gunplay and focus more on pure platforming. Even though the game’s controls are tight and responsive, these areas can be a bit of a pain. With bottomless drops and platforms that disappear from under your feet after a second or two, these levels take you away from the incredibly fun gun-toting that is the real meat and potatoes of the title. Luckily they don’t overstay their welcome too long, but instead of stirring the pot I would have preferred more of what the game is truly good at.
I’m not one to brag but…
Each area, from the sewers to the Internet (yes you actually go to the Internet, as if it were a physical place), consists of roughly eight levels to play through. As I mentioned before, each level is incredibly well designed and once you find your momentum you will be flying through these levels like a bat out of hell. The downside to this is that as soon as you become comfortable with the mechanics and start really kicking arse the game is wrapping up. Sure there is a good amount of replayability, with the higher difficulties drastically increasing the challenge, but I was having such a good time I was sad to see it end in a short few hours. Nevertheless I have returned to the game multiple times in order to increase my score, so I can’t complain too much.
My Friend Pedro is completely insane in the best way possible. Great level design mixed with responsive controls and ever-enjoyable gunplay that makes for a winning combination. With a plot that is zany, ridiculous and only there to take you from one set piece to the next, it allows for the gameplay to be the real hero of the story. Platforming segments and the odd disappointing boss fight luckily don’t detract too much from what makes this game a pleasure to play. If you enjoy other Devolver published games like Ape Out and Hotline Miami, this will definitely jive well with you and you owe it to yourself to give My Friend Pedro a play, you wont regret it.
Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher