A Friend Like Me - My Friend Pedro (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Gracefully violent, incredibly imaginative, and full of charm. My Friend Pedro from developers DeadToast Entertainment makes for a widely entertaining afternoon, and one that, despite the relatively short runtime, I will keep coming back to. Presented on a dynamic 2D environment, you play as a voiceless/nameless gun-toting masked individual with who hangs out with Pedro, an imaginary talking banana that tells you what to do. From the first level to the last, you are surrounded in bullets and baddies. If the term wasn’t already coined for another genre of game I would categorize this as the definition of bullet hell. I played on PC with KBM controls, mostly because these 2D shooters… much like the top down variety… afford better accuracy when using a mouse.
You run, jump, twirl, and shoot across the environment trying to rack up the highest possible score while dispatching your enemies as stylishly as you can. One moment has you diving through a window, dual pistols in hand, while you fill you enemies full of lead while others have you riding a skateboard as you dispatch foes with a shotgun. To pull off the more stylish moves, a Matrix-esque bullet-time slow-down mechanic is employed. This allows you to better aim your shots and makes for some of the most satisfying moments in My Friend Pedro. Early on you are also taught to kick your enemies, giving you another little something to add to your arsenal.
Controls are simple to grasp but hard to master, like using Chun-Li in Street Fighter II. You can tackle levels casually while your dispatching of foes is passable at best… but that’s not where most of the fun lies. I got the majority of my enjoyment from the adrenaline fueled moments that had me swinging down into the fray and going full Max Payne on some balding tracksuit mobsters. When you can’t avoid gunfire, you can spin around like a prima ballerina before emptying a clip in a mobster’s face.
I rarely found myself frustrated by the controls. If I died, it’s because I messed up and not because the game was working against me. Snappy and responsive, a game like this requires good controls. I can’t comment on using a gamepad, but KBM feels intuitive and never leaves me salty.
Early levels were challenging just enough without feeling impossible, at later levels enemies grow increasingly more resilient to bullets but still were manageable. Level design felt intuitive and deliberate. Items were placed to be used, like a cast iron skillet hanging from the perfect spot to ricochet bullets from. While the core game was short, I found myself going back to earlier levels to figure out the most efficient ways to clear them.
The narrative is lacking though, without the gameplay this would feel like a vapid self-referential story that falters more often than not. But you know what? That’s okay, in fact it’s more than okay because despite how lackluster the story was… I’m not here to learn about the complex mind of a talking banana and his mute gun-toting friend. I’m here to live out the lobby scene from The Matrix complete with slow-mo kills and all the flips-and-dips I can muster. Luckily, they don’t shove the story down your throat; there’s just enough to give you an idea of what’s going on without it feeling overbearing.
While a casual player can get through My Friend Pedro in a free afternoon, I find myself going back often. There’s so much replay value here if you’re like me and you like a challenge complete with racking up high scores and high rank runs. On PC, after clearing a level the game shows you your most stylish moment and you can even export that moment as a gif! What better way to show off than with out of context gifs posted to Twitter? I’m tempted to pick it up on my Switch so I can have a version of Pedro I can take on the go.
At the end of the day. My Friend Pedro is a highly imaginative bullet fueled romp that only falters in the narrative it honestly didn’t need. This is one of those games I foresee gamers watching on stream for years to come. The kind of game that is just as exhilarating to watch as it is to play. Whether you just want to enjoy it casually or you’re like me and you want to attack those high scores, My Friend Pedro can help scratch that itch.
4.75 out of 5
The second most fun you can have with a banana…