My Friend Pedro was developed by Dead Toast Entertainment and published by Devolver Digital and was released on June 20 for the Nintendo Switch and PC. I played through the game on my Switch, being an indie title I was eager to play after it was announced. The tagline for the game is – Blood. Bullets. Bananas; even with my highly refined tasted in video games(pinky fingers up!) I was sold on this pretty quickly and it has provided some of the most exciting, enjoyable moments of gaming in 2019.
The game begins with our unnamed protagonist regaining consciousness in the depths of an abandoned warehouse and hearing a voice emanating from a sentient banana named Pedro, who then guides him in escaping the warehouse. Any narrative aside from the opening moments of the game quickly take a backseat to gameplay elements.
My Friend Pedro is first and foremost an action game, requiring our nameless gunman to shoot his way through five different levels – Old Town, District Null, Pedros World, The Sewer, The Internet. Each level consists of roughly 6-10 individual stages which you will attempt to not only reach the end successfully, but also do so with the most stylish badassery as you will be graded for each stage. At front and center of the gameplay is the time-slowing effect which allows you to dive, roll, and swing your way across the 2D levels while gunning down waves of enemies.
The game has clearly taken inspiration from the Gun-fu style of films which were popularized in the later 80’s and into the 90’s in Hong Kong Cinema by directors like John Woo. This style of action within games and movies wherein the character performs very stylized maneuvers, usually in slow motion, such as diving through windows and doorways and unloading a barrage of gunfire; this has also been referred to as a “gun-ballet”. Another prominent example of this within recent years would be the term “bullet-time” which was famously used in homage of Hong Kong Cinema by the Wachowski siblings in The Matrix. The effect was used and parodied in many movies and games since The Matrix introduced Western audiences to the filming style. Bullet-time has also been (over)used in countless video games which allow the player to momentarily slow down time during gunfights, which for the most part didn’t necessarily add anything to the game other than look cool or to make you say, “whoa”<see what I did there?>. The biggest example of bullet-time within games would be the Max Payne series, which is heavily inspired by John Woo’s film Hardboiled. Indeed it is near impossible to play My Friend Pedro and not think of the Max Payne games, though the former eschews the film noir aesthetic and narrative for the most part.
The more you combine stylized, flowing gun acrobatics the greater score multiplier you will receive, similar to other action or fighting games which reward you for your hit count or combo multiplier. Throughout the game you will acquire a range of weapons, from the action movie staple of dual handguns and Uzis to shotguns and assault rifle and sniper rifle. If dual weapons are equipped you are able to dual-target enemies which will allow you to dive into an adjacent room filled with enemies and begin mowing them down, or many sequences feature a long passage straddled by enemies on each side in which you can ascend or descend the area in style with guns blazing from your akimbo weapons. In several stages you will come across a spare skateboard lying around(why not?) which you can hop aboard and roll down various floors as you can utilize the time slowdown ability to dodge incoming fire as you jump over obstacles while returning fire; just think Max Payne mixed with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater….that’s right, pretty awesome. The game itself never moves along at too fast of a pace as the movement overall feels little slower than other action shoot ’em up games, but it’s taking advantage of the slower movement and pulling off all sorts of dramatic maneuvers that make the game such a blast to play. The excitement of diving through a glass window and then tuck and roll before spring up and emptying a couple clips of bullets into the unsuspecting enemies has been hard to match in nearly all of the games I’ve played this year.
The gunplay works impeccably well in My Friend Pedro, but the game also displays some impressive physics at work. In many stages you will come across explosive barrels that you can jump on and roll them along a walkway and drop them onto the baddies below you. You can also line up more than one to before shooting one to set off a chain reaction sure to boost your combo multiplier. You will come across hanging metal…signs(?) that you can use to your advantage as any bullets will ricochet off the metal surface and deflect in the direction of enemies above or below you. Along with the metal signs are a few odd iron frying pans that you can kick up in the air and allow a few well-placed bullets to deflect at anything from enemies to switches restricting your access to the next room or floor. One of my favorite moments of the game was shooting a switch which dropped a frying pan from an elevated area which required you to quickly shoot the pan in mid-air to hit another switch, opening the passage below the pan as it is still falling and shooting the pan once again to take our the enemy guarding the exit.
The levels themselves are nearly all 2D or more as you may describe as 2.5D as they are not completely viewed from the side by will take on slightly different angles to provide you the best vantage point to traverse the stage, and look badass doing it. A few of levels find you fighting a level boss which show you from more of a top-down angle as you speed across a bridge in a gunfight with Mac the Butcher in his food truck equipped with mounted machine guns, as if out of a Twisted Metal game. It will take roughly 4-5 hours to complete all five levels, but there is a fair amount of replay value as the game was enjoyable enough I found myself replaying stages to go for a better ranking and unlockables. You wanna feel like a badass? My Friend Pedro’s combination of gunplay, physics, a few light puzzles within the levels and some goofy humor really made for some of the coolest gaming moments I’ve had this year. 2019 is coming to a close and My Friend Pedro is already on my short list of favorites I’ve gotten to play. Thanks for reading!