My Friend Pedro is a completely over-the-top, arcade run & gun platformer developed by Deadtoast and published by Devolver Digital. It expertly combines the “one more time” stage-based score-chasing of the best arcade games with the pure satisfaction of perfect execution from a run done well. And all of it is wrapped up in a package crammed to the brim with clever puzzle mechanics, an excellent difficulty curve, and so many bullets…
Opening in the basement of a meat packing plant run by the mob, the soon-to-be-murdered player is awakened by a talking, floating banana named Pedro, who claims to be the player’s friend. Pedro walks the player through the basics of combat, then cheers them on as they massacre their way through the crime-ridden underbelly of the city. But the story isn’t why you’re here. You’re here to partake in some juicy mayhem and, let me tell you, My Friend Pedro has mayhem by the truckload.
Although the deck is absurdly stacked against them (facing off against the mob alone), the player character has one incredible advantage: they have amazing agility and superhuman reflexes. These reflexes manifest themselves in the ability to execute wall-jumps, dives, high-speed rolls, and more, all while firing several different kinds of weapons. While it can be a bit disorienting at first, once the game starts to pick up, it flows beautifully, and the Focus system pulls it all together.
Focus allows players to slow the game speed to a crawl, allowing difficult split-second decisions to be made more thoughtfully. This gives the player a bit of breathing room, and allows them to be the calm in the middle of the storm of bullets. My Friend Pedro is extremely generous with Focus, and kills made while Focus is active will refill the gauge, so it isn’t a weapon of “last resort,” it’s a weapon to use at every resort.
Using Focus makes it much easier to stay alive when entering kill-boxes, where the player is completely surrounded by enemies, but it won’t solve all your problems for you, especially once you reach higher difficulty levels. Coordination and a small degree of planning are required when facing off against tougher enemies, or when you run out of bullets in your “good” guns (shotguns, machine pistols, etc.) and have to switch back to semi-automatic pistols.
In the first area, the player will master jumping, bouncing off walls, shooting two different targets at once, and a bit more. By the end of the game, you’ll be shooting two people while riding a skateboard, flying down the highway on a motorcycle, taking down helicopters, and making ricochet shots off everything from stop signs to frying pans. While this doesn’t exactly evoke John Wick’s surgical precision (due to the slightly floaty, but completely adequate, controls), it definitely gave me flashbacks to Christian Bale’s role as Grammaton Cleric John Preston in the 2002 action film, Equilibrium (fans of flashy gunplay: look it up).
As far as video game corollaries go; between parkour, dodging, using Focus time, and attacking two targets at once, My Friend Pedro plays like a bonkers mash-up between Hotline Miami and Trials. Levels are short and players only have so much health to get from one side of the level to the other, and it often comes down to a series of split-second decisions, which will get you from one place to the next. Health pickups and ammo can be obtained in set places, or can drop from enemies, but those chasing high scores should speed through levels as fast as possible. And that’s part of the beauty of My Friend Pedro; the difficulty scales to whichever level of investment you are willing to make.
It isn’t all about lightning-fast gun battles, however. Certain sections of My Friend Pedro are laid out like obstacle courses, or even puzzles, and players will have to shoot at levers in a specific order to manipulate moving platforms or open doors, time wall-jumps with disappearing floors and walls, or kill enemies before they sound alarms which summon powerful turrets.
My Friend Pedro has a steady, pulsing, borderline hypnotic soundtrack, and is rock-solid from a technical standpoint. I never had any issues with slowdown in either handheld or docked mode. Pre-stage load times are fairly quick, and loading a checkpoint after dying happens instantaneously, making it easy to adopt the “one more go” mentality.
All in all, My Friend Pedro is a fun, creative game which demands quick reflexes, but also expertly helps the player acquire them. Although players can plow through the campaign’s 40 levels without too much trouble on the basic difficulty, grabbing S Ranks and climbing the leaderboard is another matter entirely, and ramping up the difficulty really puts the player’s skills to the test. It fits in a unique space, even among indie games, and makes for an excellent addition to any trigger-happy Switch owner’s library.
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Developer – Deadtoast
Publisher – Devolver Digital
Price – $20
Genre – Action, Adventure, Arcade, Platformer
Players – 1
Release Date – June 20, 2019
Size – 3.9 GB
Brian Barnett has loved video games ever since his uncle Jimmy introduced him to them at the ripe old age of five. His wife, Audrey, was also introduced to video games by her uncle, lending credence to Brian’s theory that behind every gamer, there is a cool uncle.
Since playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES, Brian has had a passion for Nintendo games. The first thing he did when he started earning money was save up and buy himself a Game Boy, and they quickly became inseparable. Through the years, this led to his special love of portable game consoles, so the release of the Switch is the perfect storm of Nintendo action he has been waiting for.
In addition to his gaming obsession, Brian enjoys playing drums, writing and listening to music, and hosting a weekly video game and nerd culture podcast.
He is an extrovert, and loves talking about and playing games with others, so let him know if you want to team up and play together!
Plays: Switch, New 3DS, SNES, NES, GBA, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Vita