My Friend Pedro is a side scrolling shooter with a thing for bananas and acrobatic gunplay. Now, those aren’t two things that I would normally associate with each other, but developer Dead Toast and firmly paired them up in my brain. And as it turns out, bananas and gunplay is a combination that’s as satisfying as peanut butter and chocolate.
The premise is simple: You play as a masked man who follows the advice of a floating banana. You wake up unaware of how you got where you are, with no way out but kill. And kill you do: everything from gun toting gangsters to sword wielding larpers. The entire time you’re accompanied by a floating banana who guides you and gives you advice.
With the sheer style and violence on display in My Friend Pedro, I was getting heavy Hotline Miami vibes, even though the setup is totally different: Side scrolling instead of top down, and instead of listening to instructions from a phone, you’re listening to a floating banana named Pedro. Still, it has that overwhelming odds and quick reaction time feeling that I liked about Hotline Miami, with the added fun of attempting to take out hallways of gun-toting killers in the flashiest way possible.
Acrobatic death dealing is My Friend Pedro’s biggest selling point, and it accomplishes it well. It’s almost like a side scrolling Max Payne. You can focus time to slow down the action, which causes your character to flip even more… for some reason. But it looks cool. Also, when you’re wielding a weapon in each hand, you can aim each of these guns independently, for some true action movie type moments.
Rarely will you find yourself fighting just one enemy—more often than not you’ll be getting shot at from all sides simultaneously. Luckily, the masked protagonist can literally dodge bullets. Much like Dark Souls has rolling (and sometimes flipping) to give you a short bit of invulnerability, My Friend Pedro has spinning—a move that allows you to dodge bullets (even point-blank ones) for a short period of time.
There are some seriously awesome set pieces in My Friend Pedro, and a few interesting bosses to fight. One level has you taking out gangsters while riding a motorcycle, while another has you fighting after jumping from a tall building. These are exactly the over-the-top moments that I signed on for. And then there are the appropriately surreal moments that change things up a bit. But My Friend Pedro doesn’t always keep up its pace.
The action slows down about three quarters of the way through, when the fast flipping is replaced with flipping levers, and bits of platforming end up slowing everything down. It does give variation to a game that would otherwise be endless flipping and shooting…but, I wanted endless flipping and shooting. Regardless, these platforming and puzzle sections aren’t bad, they just feel like padding. The puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, though—they slow down the action, but they aren’t headscratchers.
The puzzle sections that slow down the game are a small complaint though. My biggest gripe with My Friend Pedro is how sluggish it initially feels. Its responsiveness is tight enough, but your character feels like he’s moving through molasses. Perhaps that’s to facilitate the acrobatic nature of the game, but I would have preferred something that felt crisper. This slow-as-molasses feeling also makes the later sections of the game that rely more on platforming and puzzle solving, more tedious. But the movement is an acquired feel, and once I acquired that feel, I almost forgot it was a problem.
There are a few different weapons that you’ll have available to you throughout the game, but most of the really fun guns aren’t around until later in the game. For balance reasons, that’s understandable, but if there was a way to go back and play older levels with all weapons, or even other custom settings, it would be a dream.
My Friend Pedro is a pretty short game. As it is right now, the most you can hope for as far as replayability is beating your high scores and time, and/or playing on a harder difficulty mode, of which there are three: Normal, hard, and (of course) bananas. Bananas mode is perhaps the most “fun” way to play My Friend Pedro, but it’s also the most unforgiving. Gone are the regenerating health blocks, with the only way to get health being getting it as a pick-up. Likewise,in Normal mode, enemies are a little slower to track and respond, where in Hard and Bananas mode, enemies are extremely quick to draw a bead and gun you down.
What I was really hoping for, after my initial run with My Friend Pedro was complete, was some sort of score attack, arcade, endless mode or something of that nature. The way the level select is setup, it’s sort of already like that, but what I want is more levels that involve fighting and less of the slower end levels—more flipping with guns blazing than flipping switches.
My Friend Pedro gets me wondering why would you want to just shoot at the bad guys when you can be acrobatically flipping around while shooting at the bad guys. I don’t know if I ever want to go back. My Friend Pedro promised to be a spectacle, and it delivers on that promise. It does feel sluggish to start, but if you can look past that, there are some seriously fun moments.
My Friend Pedro is available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
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