by Joel France
reviewed on PC
Let’s get the obvious out of the way... the talking banana. My Friend Pedro follows the trail of a silent protagonist being encouraged to charge through various murderous, though flashy, rampages at the whims of a floating banana called Pedro. This plucky, potassium-pumped sadist has no real impact on the run-and-gun gameplay, but helps to at least provide some context to your actions. What little story there is, exists only to serve the gameplay, and while the humour can be a little cringe-worthy, the care taken in other aspects of My Friend Pedro would suggest that this reaction is precision-sculpted. After all, if you’re swept up in an engaging, gritty narrative, it’s hard to appreciate the wackier elements of a game like this. This game is intended to be a classic arcade power fantasy, and the shallow story arc is there to ensure a frictionless transition from one level to the next. The story gives your character a taste of purpose, but more importantly, it gives you as the player an excuse to keep your combos going.
The basic gameplay loop is as follows: You make your way through simple platforming levels, endlessly set upon by waves of goons that individually pose no threat but as a group or in conjunction with the obstacles faced, can cause you a bit of grief. Armed with plenty of firepower of your own, as well as two key abilities - an at-will slow-mo mechanic and a dedicated bullet dodge button, your goal is to make it to the end in one piece. If you manage to do so in a stylish and speedy manner... well, that’s just a bonus. But perfecting that long combo or flashy finisher is where My Friend Pedro feels its best.
Fun & Gun
A large part of the charm of this game is hidden within its deceptively simple control scheme. The fluidity of the controls is exacerbated by the ragdoll-esque way your character moves, flipping lazily off a wall-jump, rolling into a ball after a tight landing, and spinning balletically to avoid waves of bullets. Many of the animations appear to be independently activated and when stringing together a fluid combo from one enemy to the next, your nameless sharpshooter ends up contorted into some fantastically odd positions.
The slow-mo mechanic may not be an innovative concept at its most basic, but the implementation here - as a core ability of your kit, to be used almost as often as jumping and shooting - adds a depth to the gameplay that puts players on an even footing. Whether your reflexes are honed to a frame-perfect standard or not, you can still pull off some pretty impressive feats with the ever-expanding set of tools at your disposal. My Friend Pedro does a great job at introducing these elements at a consistent pace, keeping you engaged with new toys without ever feeling overwhelmed. Whether you’re ricocheting bullets off a well-placed sign, or jumping off a skateboard to kick it in someone’s face, the options available are underpinned by a robust, yet lenient physics engine that seems to be an excellent judge of what you meant to achieve. Those bullets you’ve sent bouncing off an airborne flying pan will take certain liberties with the physical laws of ricochet - ensuring that if there’s an enemy in the vicinity, they’ll soon be in for a world of hurt.
Style & Substance
Visually, My Friend Pedro is basic but considered, with a clear stylistic intent. The dumpy, cartoonish proportions of your player character only add to the charm of his bumbling movement through the levels. Unfortunately, the UI does leave a little to be desired, with end-of-level scoreboards and death screens lacking in a sense of cohesion - a little at odds with the rest of the style the game works so hard to achieve. The soundtrack, however, is nothing short of perfect for this game - taking the pulse-quickening, 80s-infused synthwave stylings of Hotline Miami and adding a darker, industrial pallette. The aggressive drums, driving basslines and atonal melodic hooks that are peppered throughout fit so perfectly as an underscore to the considered yet frenetic gameplay.
My Friend Pedro has mastered the art of doing one thing, and doing it well. There’s not an endless sea of content, and if chasing high scores isn’t your bag it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to replayability. Having said this, it is well worth the time spent. Minor presentation quibbles aside, it’s a game that looks, sounds and feels fantastic.
Fantastic Soundtrack, satisfying gameplay
Bare-bones UI, uninteresting narrative