Game Review #320: My Friend Pedro (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: DeadToast Entertainment
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Category: Action, Adventure, Arcade, Platformer
Release Date: 6.20.2019
Price (at time of review): $19.99
Buy My Friend Pedro from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
I Love When They John Woo It Up!
As a young man in high school, I’d just seen what would become one of my favorite movies: The Matrix. As I learned more about the directors’ work and their inspiration, I came across a director named John Woo, a filmmaker who is considered a major influence on the action genre, known for his highly chaotic action sequences, stylized imagery, frequent use of slow motion, and allusions to neo-noir.
Watching Hard Boiled for the first time, I was mesmerized, as Chow Yun-fat dispatched an entire restaurant of drug dealers, all while making it look so damn cool, like it was some art form rather than just a shootout. He jumps around a lot, sliding and shooting, usually using two pistols and dual-wielding them to perfection, hitting targets and never being hit—and let me say it again: he looks like a total badass while doing so!
I then saw how his work influenced more modern pop culture phenomena like The Matrix. I mean, watch that lobby scene and tell me it doesn’t have John Woo all over it. There are a ton of slow-motion shots with debris going everywhere, with bullets flying and Neo jumping and sliding like it’s some ballet dance. Speaking of ballet or dance—and guns—I’d be remiss to not mention a final favorite of mine from 2002 that looks to be inspiring the game I’ll be playing: Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale. The man who would later play Batman made shooting guns look like a night at the ballet, with bullets.
In comes My Friend Pedro; it looks like the Swedish developer, DeadToast Entertainment, was inspired by these movies—and Mr. Woo’s films as well. The creator of DeadToast, Victor, used to work on titles such as Little Big Planet 1 & 2 and Tearaway before forming his own company and becoming an indie developer. Devolver scooped up My Friend Pedro to add to its extensive and strong library on the Switch’s eShop. Let’s jump in and see if Devolver keeps their record intact.
Hi! My Name Is Pedro! Let’s Stop Crime!
The story for My Friend Pedro is one that’s quite simple, but one that’s outlandish and crazy enough that it immediately had its hooks in me. At the core, this is a story about a friendship between a man and his not-so-real friend—think an R-rated version of Harvey, as you play a nameless mask-wearing assassin with a friend who wants to play. This friend is of the imaginary variety, and is a banana named Pedro. When I say Pedro wants to play, I mean he wants you to paint the town red with the blood of every track-suited Russian gangster and violent member of the underworld that lurks about the city.
As the nameless assassin, you hunt down The Butcher and other bad guys, ridding the world of their special brand of evil with Pedro by your side, keeping things fresh with his special humorous comments. I mean, it’s a story about a man who commits mass murder because a witty well-spoken banana tells him to—what’s not to love about this concept?!
Bullets Over Broadway, Baby!
My Friend Pedro is a 2-D side-scrolling action game that also uses physics-based puzzles in the levels while platforming. The controls are laid out for us by our yellow potassium-packed pal: you move around with the left stick and aim with the right stick, B jumps, Y reloads, and X kicks the gangsters or objects laying around, like a basketball or gas can, which is a lot of fun, as it opens up options when attacking large groups or wanting to surprise someone.
While running and jumping, you can bounce off the walls like a parkour acrobatic specialist, ping-ponging up walls back and forth with ease. Moving the left stick down allows you to curl up in a ball, Sonic the Hedgehog style, and roll through tight spots, like air ducts; or push in on the left stick like a button to slow the time down like the Matrix bullet time effect—or, if you’re familiar with the game Max Payne, then I’d say you know exactly what I’m talking about, as the time doesn’t stop, it just comes to a crawl, but you move at a normal-but-not-fast pace, allowing you to get the jump on enemies before they can respond. The right trigger shoots one of the many guns, like pistols, Uzis, and shotguns to name a few.
The left trigger allows you to aim at multiple targets, and on both sides of the screen, so if you run into a room and you’re facing a goon, but then another one comes out from a door behind you, then a simple button press allows you to take aim at both of them, firing at will. The left bumper makes you spin, pirouette ballet style, dodging incoming bullets; this felt like a mixture of The Matrix’s bullet-dodge and Equilibrium’s gunning and spinning techniques.
Mixing all these extremely fun mechanics together really takes the game to another level, as you can jump into a room full of enemies, hit the bullet time effect button, spin past all the incoming bullets and stretch your arms apart, shooting everyone around you before they even knew what hit them. It’s not one or the other, it’s how they were able to blend them together and make it feel so easy to use as well. It’d be one thing to run into the rooms Max Payne style, slowing it down and lining up shots, taking everyone out with ease, but the added spin-ballet-dodge and the acrobatic jumps make the gameplay so fun that you can’t help but want to try stages over and over again. You may very well want to tackle them over again too, as each stage is ranked on an ABC type scale, with S being the hardest to achieve, which is a perfect run of that stage.
This gives the game a lot of replay value, and you can even take it further by changing up the difficulty and putting it on the hardest setting, where your health won’t regenerate over time, leaving you not only relying on your skills to not get hit, but also looking for health drops from enemies on top of ammo drops. An ill-timed reload can be the difference between a win or loss when playing on the hardest difficulty.
Pedro the banana will pop in from time to time, updating you if he feels you need help. He also helps narrate the loosely-told story, handing out information on who needs to be killed, pointing you in the right direction, and giving much-needed pep talks. You go from level to level, platforming through obstacles and turret guns. As you go further it gets a little more interesting, as you have to stand on certain platforms to make walls move so that you can parkour your way up and over, but none of this is too difficult. It’s more so meant to give us more to do by sprinkling in small puzzles and odd places for enemies to appear, all while we jump around looking flashy and killing gangsters.
You end up using zip-lines to breach windows, and can flip tables to give yourself much-needed coverage in a gunfight; these are perfect times to reload and take a beat on your next move when playing on that harder difficulty—always use your environment to aid your attack. We are also treated to sections like a motorcycle chase sequence and dream/headspace sequences that help to break up the gameplay so things don’t get stale, though I don’t see that happening here, as this one is nuts from the word “go” until the end.
Audio & Visuals
The music is upbeat, with a pulse-pounding EDM soundtrack that fits the gameplay perfectly, and had my head bobbing often. The music highly intensifies when heading into certain sections, no voiceovers, but the guns are intact, with sound effects that are well done.
The visuals aren’t necessarily stunning, but I enjoyed them quite a bit, as it’s an indie that’s NOT pixelated, so it’s a huge plus in my book. Most of the levels are set in dark, dingy-looking areas; these are broken up time to time with the other areas (dream sequences) that pull you out of the warehouses and back alleys and show some diversity.
The main character and his friend look great, with the assassin wearing his gimp mask and yellow shirt, and so many gangsters littering the stages looking like Sopranos extras. Seeing Pedro pop up on the screen in the corner, I almost half-expected him scream “toasty,” as it reminded me of the easter egg in Mortal Kombat II.
It’s A Wrap!
My Friend Pedro allows you to be a nameless assassin, jumping through the air like an acrobat in slow motion while blasting guys away, all while looking like you’re performing Black Swan in some alley off Broadway, with blood, bullets, and bananas sprinkled in for good measure. This labor of love from DeadToast is five years in the making, and it’s a wild ride that straps you into a pair of ballet slippers, throws you a couple of Uzis and lets you kill off bad guys, all while strengthening your friendship with your banana friend, Pedro.
So, as usual, Devolver delivers another hit that adds something fun and fresh to the genre, and will have gamers talking. Take my word now, rather than waiting, and pick this one up. It’ll be a strong addition to your collection, and one I think many will love, as I did.
Buy My Friend Pedro from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Tinsley PR