My Friend Pedro is a fast-paced, quick-witted, side-scrolling shooter with gameplay that lets you tackle challenges your own way. We have bullet time, we have guns and explosives, we have fruit! You know what that means: it’s time to strap on your gimp mask and reconnect with your imaginary friend from childhood, because there are criminals to take down.
Developed by DeadToast Entertainment and published by Devolver Digital, My Friend Pedro was released on June 20th, 2019, for PC and Switch. The PC version was played for this review.
Rats and Pigeons and Raccoons, Oh My!
My Friend Pedro starts with the nameless main character waking up in the basement of Mitch’s Butcher Shop, with no memory and nothing to go on except for the guidance of our titular floating banana friend, Pedro. You find out quickly that the eponymous Mitch uses this place as a front for his gun-running gangster empire, and the butcher shop side of things runs mostly on whatever meat they can get their hands on. Street animals are on the menu and you’re gonna have to book it before you wind up on it too.
The story of My Friend Pedro is fairly simple and straight-forward. What starts off as your escape winds up becoming a mission to take down an evil organization and you just don’t know how far up the ladder this bad seed goes.
Behind the Mask
My Friend Pedro feels like its given you the reins to an action hero. You’ve got a nice variety of guns to choose from, ranging from the standard pistol to shotguns, and assault rifles with grenade launchers on them. Aside from your main pistols which have infinite use, enemies readily drop ammo as you go. I appreciated the intentional drop rate of ammo and health. Rarely were you caught empty on a gun, and even then, you still had plenty of other weapon options to shoot right on through.
The game keeps a mindful eye on the overall experience, and I can barely recall moments where I had to backtrack on fast-paced run and gun sections to pick up ammo that dropped at the front of the room when I had already ziplined way past them from the start. Health packs dropped readily through a majority of the game as well, but even then, the health regen mechanic has you covered between encounters. As long as you didn’t take a full health bar worth of damage, it always recovers after getting a second to rest.
Movement in the game works well; you can crouch, dodge, or roll under bullets and use focus mode to move, wall-jump or aim accurately, but it is a little more rag-doll-y than I usually like. Aiming during a dodge never worked well for me, but the dodge itself is generous.
The key to the whole experience is shifting into Focus Mode, which is a one-button toggle into the bullet time. There’s a meter that runs down as you’re in Focus Mode, but it drains at a generously slow rate and then recovers almost instantly afterward. Not once did I have to wait for the meter to recover from one pack of enemies to the next.
When dual wielding guns, you can separate your aim and fire at multiple targets, leading to extra combo modifiers for your overall score. As all your different points, combos, and deaths add up, each level presents you with a grade at the end. I think here is the point where I should mention just how badly I did most of the time until halfway through the game. I kept on getting mid-C grades until I slowed myself down to just do well, but the game never required it of me.
The difficulty in My Friend Pedro is not a steep challenge in normal mode, the balance between difficulty and stage clear conditions doesn’t force you to engage in the game’s many mechanics that make it stylish and so much fun when it all goes right. You’re meant to use focus to slow down almost every encounter and rack up your score by building up inventive kills through the multiple options laid at your feet, but as long as you can just make it to the end of the stage, you always go on to the next one.
There are no stakes throughout much of the experience that force you to improve and further engage with the systems offered in the game. I breezed through half of the game dying as often as I wanted and clunkily reaching my way to the end continuously being rewarded entry to the next level.
Only in the last set of the 40 or so levels in My Friend Pedro did the game really start testing you to not sleep through the content. The light platforming sections demanded rolls that are timed well, lasers shot out or blocked, and the enemies stopped letting you cheese through with your regenerating health pool if you just couldn’t bother to aim well or use the stage hazards against them. Really, until this point, you can get away with ignoring Focus most of the time.
I’m a bit conflicted here because, despite the issues I had, I’m at the same time impressed at this game for caring about the fun of the ride. It lets you just move fast and be a part of the action without having to stop or repeat the experience over and over, but I also find fault in it for not pushing the player a little bit more to step up to the challenge.
Right from the get go, My Friend Pedro screamed John Wick, The Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic, and other movies where Keanu Reeves wrecks bad guys with guns. The high-flying fast-paced action gave me a little hit of joy every time I burst into a room off a zipline, shattering the windows as I dispatched all the gangster baddies before I even landed.
Every boss battle here was a visual treat. Without spoiling too much, I’ll say that I was happy to just be there as boss battles happened through free falls and highway chases. In regular stages, the hazards, interactive items, and movement options found on your route from left to right provided many satisfying scenes from summer blockbusters when you launched a gas tank with a bullet, kicked up a frying pan to ricochet bullets, or blew up some fuel cans.
The stages visuals came in groups, but each set of stages had a unique look to them. Aside from one psychedelic set, the rest were mostly what you’d expect, from rooftops to sewers. Our main character is probably the most interesting model to look at, with his pure white eyes underneath a black mask. Between the mask and the guns, this vague resemblance to Deadpool was yet another action movie reference.
The enemies, while being fun, weren’t as unique in look as I might have hoped. The art style for them wasn’t bad, but in the quick pace of battle, there wasn’t much to appreciate in short glances before they went down. What you did get each time was a congratulatory message letting you know how well you did on special kills. Every combo of a kill, along with a wall jump, rope swing, skateboard ride, dodge, ricochet, etc., came with personalized pat on the back.
Was That A Banana In Your Pocket?
A pizza parlor in the 90’s would have been a perfect fit for a game like My Friend Pedro. Something about the side-scrolling, run and gun, bullet time, multi-aim, recolored enemy models, explosions, over the top action set pieces, and boss battles feel like bits of the demo trailer that would display on the arcade cabinet screen as the text read “Insert Coin”.
The other reason I feel that way is because of the difficulty of those old arcade games that I think is missing here. Visually, the game feels so good when you’re in a groove making all the right moves and being an all around bad ass, however the ability to just ignore aspects of the game outright and still make it through misses out on making you truly connect with those maneuvers in a way that felt satisfying.
For fans of action movies and stylish shooters that have wanted to experience The Matrix as a side-scroller, My Friend Pedro is a go, and at the current price point, it’s almost easy to recommend. Just move on to a higher difficulty after a while and on your repeat plays.
Review copy provided by Devolver Digital for PC. Screenshots courtesy of Devolver Digital.