My Friend Pedro Review — Going Bananas
My Friend Pedro is an enjoyable score-focused shooter that is sometimes undermined by its level design.
Score-driven games seem to be a rarity nowadays, which is a shame. Games that focus on working your way up a leaderboard to beat the scores of your friends have always been some of my favorites with standout gems like Hotline Miami and Nex Machina being some of my own personal loves.
Now, Devolver Digital and Deadtoast Entertainment have released My Friend Pedro, a new side-scrolling twin-stick shooter that again focuses on completing levels with the highest score possible. With slick gameplay mechanics and buttery smooth controls, My Friend Pedro will keep you coming back time and time again in the pursuit of that perfect run. However, some of the game’s levels are much more enjoyable than others, meaning that you might only end up caring about pursuing high scores on a select few stages rather than all of them.
My Friend Pedro kicks off with the protagonist, a mysterious, masked man, being awoken by a banana (yes, you read that correctly) named Pedro. After you gather your bearings, learn the initial controls, and find a gun, you then begin blasting your way through hordes of thugs all why looking quite stylish while doing so.
While the story in My Friend Pedro largely takes a backseat to the action, I have to say I was still somewhat disappointed by the end of the experience to see that the narrative doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. Over the course of the story, hints are dropped that seem to indicate something much more intriguing is happening at the root of the game’s conflict. Once I saw the story through to the end though, I was more just left scratching my head in confusion than anything else.
As I said though, the real reason to play My Friend Pedro is because of the gameplay, which is mostly great throughout the entirety of its three to five-hour runtime. The character that you control feels very loose and can bounce around the environment and off of walls with ease. There’s a certain flow to movement in My Friend Pedro and it works wonderfully in tandem with the shooting, which is both simplistic and precise.
In addition to these basics of movement and combat, you also have a variety of other skills at your disposal. Some of these include a dodge button which will help you avoid oncoming fire, a bullet-time mode which will help you line up kills or avoid damage more easily, and the ability to kick objects in the environment towards enemies to kill them. The bullet-time mode specifically is a life-saver and will help you rack up the highest of scores upon subsequent replays of certain levels. My Friend Pedro is also pretty generous with the time limitations on the bullet-time feature as well, so don’t be afraid to use it.
My Friend Pedro also does a great job of placing new items in front of you frequently enough so that you never get bored. While you’ll start the game out with only a pistol, it won’t be long until you then collect a pair of uzis, followed by a shotgun, and so on. These helpful items aren’t just tied to new weapons, though, as you’ll also come across things like skateboards and zip lines that will help you not only traverse through a level in new ways, but will allow you to pull off some satisfying kills in unique styles as well.
Once you’ve spent enough time with My Friend Pedro and you really begin to get a grasp on how all of the game’s mechanics work in tandem with one another, you can really start to vault through levels at breakneck speeds. It’s these moments of My Friend Pedro that are the absolute best and make you feel like a bullet-time ballerina. When you’re finally able to pull off that one perfect run that you’ve been working toward and your accomplishment is reflected in your score, it’s really satisfying.
If there is one aspect of My Friend Pedro that can be hit or miss though, it would be that of the game’s level design. While a majority of the game boasts pretty stellar design, some of the levels feel far too disjointed and segmented for you to ever really get in a groove. In some of the later levels, there are some sections that place an emphasis on solving puzzles rather than flipping about and shooting every baddie in sight.
My Friend Pedro is at its absolute best in levels that allow you to speed through them as fast as possible while you blow enemies away left and right. You can try to play in this way across all of the game’s levels, but some will intentionally force you to slow down at times which can be a bit aggravating. These more monotonous levels don’t ruin the game by any means but there are definitely some stages that are far better than others.
Of My Friend Pedro’s 40 levels in total, there are also some unique set piece stages or boss fights that you can take part in as well. Some of these specialized levels are a ton of fun to play through, with one early level where you ride a motorcycle being one of the game’s major highlights. Boss stages, however, typically weren’t that enjoyable. Most of these fights were over so fast that it’s hard to really complain about them, but for the most part, My Friend Pedro‘s style of combat just never felt well-adapted to the bosses that were thrown at you.
One thing that greatly added to My Friend Pedro’s sense of flow which I’ve talked about is that of the soundtrack. There are some really stellar tracks in this game that help you fall into a trance when playing. To coincide with the music is an art style that I really enjoyed as a comic book fan. Even though some of the environments looked bland at times, I think the art in My Friend Pedro sometimes looks like it was ripped out of a graphic novel, which I find cool.
As a final note, I played on the Nintendo Switch and ran into very few technical problems. The only issues I have to speak of came when too many enemies would appear on-screen at once, which would, in turn, cause the framerate to stutter. That said, this only happened a handful of times during the entirety of the time I spent playing it.
My Friend Pedro is a ton of fun to play, which is the most important aspect of all. Even though not all of the levels in the game are winners, the vast majority of the experience is a blast and will likely keep you coming back repeatedly. Devolver Digital has been on a tear so far in 2019 and My Friend Pedro is yet another winner for the indie publisher.