You are a masked protagonist in a Devolver Digital published game. You, the player, have no idea what’s going on but you do know one thing: your character is good at killing things and there’s a lot of people to kill.
Hm? No, this is not Hotline Miami. Hotline Miami, after all, does not have Pedro.
My Friend Pedro is a shoot em’ up platformer game with a focus on killing enemies through flashy stunts by Dead Toast Entertainment. It originally started out as an Adult Swim flash game that released in 2014, but it was touched up and improved for a 2019 release on consoles and PC.
Alright, let me get this out of the way real quick: I hate Pedro. I’m all for silliness in games but a talking banana imaginary friend is just stupid. Granted, he doesn’t have too huge of a presence in the story until the end, but also he introduces a set of arbitrary levels that feel “lolrandom” in a game of serious settings mixed with silly elements. So stupid.
Speaking of the story, your protagonist is awakened by Pedro in a suspicious meat shop with no memory of what’s going on. They consider the fact that he might have pissed off the mob. Unfortunately, you’re the angry one now and you’re going to tear shit up, even if you don’t know what’s going on.
From there, the story is non-intrusive, only popping in at the start of levels and the end of boss fights. It’s your standard revenge story, at least until the end. Also, I guess there’s some “we live in a society” stuff about the internet that doesn’t really go anywhere. Whatever.
You run around with a variety of guns that you build up throughout the game, with ineffective pistols having unlimited ammo. You also get a little kick attack, though it takes a bunch of kicks to actually kill someone, so you’re better off shooting or kicking objects that will do your job for you. You can dodge bullets with ease through spinning and while you can shoot while dodging, your shots are inaccurate because you are, after all, spinning.
Also, I guess Pedro does provide one good thing, and it’s that he gives the ability to go into bullet time mode. And given how often you burst into a room full of enemies, unless you have really good reflexes, you will need that good slow motion.
Dual wielded weapons are unique in that you can lock onto one enemy with one gun while shooting with the other. It’s not just really practical, but it’s actually really cool when you pull it off. Bursting in from the ceiling, aiming uzis at enemies on both sides and killing them while doing a flashy dodge spin in bullet time is extremely fucking cool.
Compared to Devolver’s other ultraviolent offerings, My Friend Pedro has the tone of a goofy action movie and encourages you to lean into that. Aside from stringing together kills to get more points, you also get more points for killing in creative ways. Besides the fanciful dodges and dual killings, you can use objects in the environment or use methods of traversing the environment to kill in flashy ways. The typical “red exploding barrel” is there, but you can also crush people with a large oil drum – and then ride on top of the oil drum and shoot at people that aren’t in the path of impending doom. Ropes that take you from one point in the level to another serves as another vantage point on top of that, the dashing anti-hero swinging into action.
The best moments of My Friend Pedro is when its levels feel like an action movie set. Its worst moments, however, is when it feels like an arbitrary platformer.
I have one sore issue with My Friend Pedro and it’s the platforming. The platforming of My Friend Pedro isn’t as fast paced and smooth as, say, an Edmund McMillen platformer, which is at odds with the fast-paced combat. Unfortunately, this means that when the game delves into platformer heavy stuff, the pacing of the game really slows down – especially if you’re dealing with switch puzzles.
Unfortunately, that second half leans more heavily toward the platforming aspect. Want to rush right into the action? Can’t, you gotta wait for these deadly lasers to pass through. In fact, one level is just dodging lasers and you’re flat-out discouraged from actually fighting people if you want a good score. You know how people complain about Sonic the Hedgehog slowing down at Marble Zone and Labyrinth Zone, going at odds with its stated philosophy? Yeah, the last parts of My Friend Pedro are kinda like that; a lot of the second half of the game wind up feeling like an platformer that just happens to have shooting elements. While the last level throws you back into the action that ends in a hallway full of corpses and some intense boss fights, My Friend Pedro‘s second half just doesn’t feel as strong as the first.
My Friend Pedro looks like a cartoonier version of an action movie, with you as a goofy John Wick. It’s got a soundtrack of dark electronic stuff, sometimes some synthwave, setting an intense atmosphere for the game’s action. The only time the levels diverge from this vision are Pedro’s levels. Fuck Pedro, dude.
In the context of this review, I played the Nintendo Switch version of the game. This is an okay port. Graphics are a bit muddy but you know, that’s never a deal breaker for me. However, the game does have aim assist (and I assume the other console versions do, too) and sometimes when there’s multiple things to lock onto, it just locks on the wrong thing. Aside from that, this may be the ideal way to play My Friend Pedro.
My Friend Pedro is a good action game that delivers fun brutality, though as I’ve said, its first half is more enjoyable than the second. I still say that it’s a game to check out if you enjoy these kinds of things and Devolver Digital’s published catalog in general.