My Friend Pedro

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!

Gato Roboto – A Charming Meowtroidvania Title

Greetings! Today’s post is about a game that I have played recently and really enjoyed – Gato Roboto, which was developed by doinksoft and published by Devolver Digital. Gato Roboto was released on Steam and Nintendo Switch on May 30 and I admit I was sold pretty easily upon first hearing about the game…Metroidvania, Cats, Mech-suits…YES PLEASE! 🙂

Gato Roboto begins with interstellar pilot, Gary responding to a distress signal coming from a seemingly abandoned research facility…sounds familiar, right? Upon arrival at the facility your ship crashes to the planet surface and Gary is trapped in the wreckage. Unable to proceed any further Gary entrusts his loyal companion – a cat named Kiki to complete his mission. Kiki quickly discovers an unoccupied mech-suit and begins the process of rescuing Gary and learning the origin of the distress signal. You begin at the Landing Site before making your way to the Nexus which acts as a “hub” for the interconnected regions of the game (Landing Site, Nexus, Aquaduct, Heater Core, Ventilation, Incubator, and Laboratory being the seven regions to explore in the game). As you progress throughout the different regions you acquire varying upgrades for your suit, such as missiles, spin jump, auto repeater – rapid fire ability for your main weapon. There is no grapple beam, sadly…you also don’t have to worry about missile upgrades as you have a temperature gauge which will allow you to shoot unlimited missiles, however you can only shoot a couple before you begin overheating. One unique ability in the game is the phase boost, which allows you to quickly dash between barriers, granting you brief invulnerability( I was familiar with this after playing Guacamelee); a skill that becomes necessary for boss battles later in the game.

As one would expect, you are not able to explore every corner of a given region as you make your way through the first time, you will need to gain certain skills to access specific areas. Once you acquire your spin jump you will be able to make your way up to that higher up ledge you noticed your initial pass through the area. The rewards for thoroughly exploring the regions are usually health upgrades, or palette cassettes, which act as a filter to change the appearance of your screen from the default black and white. There are a total of fourteen palette cartridges you can collect on your way to 100% completion; my favorites were Grape – a very bold purple, Meowtrix – a Wachowski-inspired neon green, and Virtual Cat – a headache-inducing bright red as a nod to Nintendo’s great(est) misstep of the 90’s. You can also acquire two upgrades to current weapons from the frog scientist(?) Rebba provided you’ve found enough palette cartridges. The Auto Repeater upgrade adds a rapid-fire ability to your main weapon, which is definitely worth the extra few minutes of tracking down those extra cartridges; you can simply hold down the fire button when shooting enemies, and bosses especially as they take a lot of firepower to defeat.

My favorite of the palette cartages that act as color filters – Virtual Cat. Just looking at this is almost enough to cause a headache.

I don’t want to simplify any description of Gato Roboto by saying it’s a Metroid clone; it certainly makes no effort to hide the fact that it’s almost a note-for-note cover of Metroid. The game outside of the phase boost, and the main protagonist being a cat, doesn’t really add anything to the formula that we haven’t seen before. If you’re looking for original gameplay and narrative-heavy storyline you will be greatly disappointed. I wrote about Back In 1995 a while back; a game that was created as an homage to a genre of games that had influenced the developers. My biggest critique of Back In 1995 wasn’t necessarily that it didn’t do something revolutionary for the survival-horror genre, but that it seemingly missed on what made the games memorable in the first place. Gato Roboto IS for all intent “Metroid, but with a cat”, but it does provide an enjoyable gameplay experience, along with some quirky indie-game charm which is all I was hoping for in the game. My only real complaint is the overall controls/jumping feel a little too loose and “floaty” but isn’t too much of a hinderance. The game isn’t overly difficult, outside of a couple boss battles and not particularly long, it can be completed in 3-4 hours. I enjoyed my first time through the game enough that I did play through a second time in an attempt to get a 100% completion. If you’re a fan of Metroidvania games, or just cats in video games, I can recommend Gato Roboto as a indie title you can play for under $10.

That’s it for this week! What are some Metroidvania games that you’ve enjoyed recently? How about just games with cats in them? 🙂

I realize I said “Metroidvania” about a hundred times, so apologize for that…AND the bad pun in the title 😉 I also thought of this recent article I read on Kotaku, lol.

Keep on playing…