I found a good friend by the name of Pedro recently. Why is he my friend? Why is he also a banana? I have no idea, and that’s about as much as you’ll get from My Friend Pedro’s plot, but who cares when you can perform some of the sickest bullet-time stunts since Max Payne and endlessly shoot tons of bad guys just because you can.

Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): DeadToast Entertainment
Release Date: June 20, 2019
Price: $19.99 ($16.99 until 7/9 on Steam)

With another addicting guns-blazing shoot em’ up published by the ever-eclectic Devolver Digital, My Friend Pedro aptly captures the satisfying feeling of unique and technical gunplay with a stylish flair. It’s a short, strange, but ultimately enticing affair that has you killing mobsters, “haters,” sewer-dwelling gamers, and agents of the internet (no, really, there’s an enemy in the game literally called “haters”).

The player takes on the role of, well, some guy, who finds a bunch of guns. After waking up in a dingy basement of some mobster’s famous restaurant, your wonderfully whimsical friend “Pedro” emerges and greets you in a familiar form typically associated with potassium and apes. As the omniscient banana he is, Pedro guides you through the journey of taking guns and doing cool shit with them.

Where My Friend Pedro truly shines is the core gameplay of ranking up style points and maintaining momentum through each stage. Points are judged and given based on every time you kill a bad guy, how you kill them, and what you use to kill them. The player’s multiplier accrues with each consecutive kill within a time frame, netting additional points for each kill.

Each stage is paced and balanced well enough to be able to reward skillful play and great reaction time. Although, it’s worth noting that under the normal difficulty, the game never really achieves a truly satisfying level of challenge, but the difficulty can be tweaked at any time.

The game takes advantage of a trinity of gameplay aspects: fluid movement, powerful purpose-driven weaponry, and diverse and evolving environmental design.

At face value, the weapons selection in My Friend Pedro isn’t exactly plentiful or special. Each serves an archetypal purpose: Pistols for basic versatility, Shotgun for close quarters, Rifle for long range, submachine guns for high damage-per-second, etc. And that’s totally fine; it’s not inventive by any means but it serves a purpose for the finer aspects of gameplay.

The ability to maneuver fluidly along with an adaptive environment, all while using the always satisfying Focus slow-motion mechanic, creates an enticing sense of creativity when approaching each stage in My Friend Pedro. Focus is hilariously overpowered on normal difficulty, and purposefully so. A lot of the game’s greatest level setups encourage creative use of the environment with a high rate of fire, and slow-motion makes reacting to these moments incredibly satisfying.

Players can somersault, frontflip, backflip, climb ziplines, and even ride a skateboard through each level at a speed that’s not too fast, not too slow. While a bit rough around the edges, movement is fluid enough to feel formidably badass with each encounter.

There are certain aspects of traversal that are a bit clunky, such as rolls buffering, weird physics jank with your character model during some interactions, and the ambiguous aiming especially when jumping and/or dodging. But beyond that, it’s immensely satisfying when you perform a crazy acrobatic wall jump, shoot a few explosives to kill several enemies at once, all while swishing your body through a random basketball hoop in the name of style.

Perhaps most impressive is the gradual expansion of level design throughout the game’s progression. Stages in My Friend Pedro consistently include new elements as the game goes on that demands not only good reaction time but some minor puzzle-solving skill as well.

Some levels have several climbing ropes and zip lines that emphasize verticality, while others have labyrinthine rooms and hallways with varying layouts that utilize all of the player’s movement options extremely well. There are also several items in the environment (See: frying pans, reflective caution signs, gas tanks) that the player can use to gain additional skill points through situational actions that can be used to kill several enemies at once.

Gameplay takes center stage in My Friend Pedro. The art style is serviceable with some neat effects and truly unique stages (See: dream level with “haters”), and the game has a pretty killer retrowave soundtrack, but again these aspects of the game are overshadowed by the gameplay experience. Other than that, it’s important not to really pay attention to the senseless plot with a highly critical eye.

Apparently, there’s a bounty on your head, and you’re searching for who put out the contract for your bounty, and somehow that’s tied to the person who runs the internet who wants to also kill you? Your best friend is a banana so I won’t beat a dead horse with this one. It’s only mildly disappointing that the game’s story doesn’t feature any semblance of the subtle environmental storytelling similar to how Hotline Miami does it. But at least My Friend Pedro recognizes that and doesn’t inundate you with its absurd plot details.

With a condensed 5-7 hour runtime, My Friend Pedro is a short but sweet action romp that’s perfect for anyone either looking for a short and mildly challenging shoot em’ up or for those looking to up the difficulty and compete for best score through multiple runs. Despite some of its physics quirks and varying aesthetic design, it’s an addicting and unapologetically silly game that thrives on creating stylish moments of gameplay that make the player feel like a true badass.

My Friend Pedro

Summary

My Friend Pedro is a wonderfully short-but-sweet, shoot em’ up action romp that relishes over the top gunplay and comical absurdity. Despite being functionally quirky at times, the arcade-shooter gameplay experience rewards skillful movement and weapon management whilst feeling incredibly satisfying to play well.

Pros

  • Certifiably badass combat
  • Intelligent level design
  • Fun adaptive environments
  • Comically absurd story
  • Best friend is a banana

Cons

  • Boring but serviceable weapons
  • Occasionally strange physics
  • Some awkward movement quirks
Overall
3.5

About The Author

Robert Dolen

I'm Rob Dolen, not to be confused with Bob Dole! That's alright, I get it all the time. I play too much Super Smash Bros. competitively, but when I'm not doing that I play pretty much everything else under the video game sun.