Review: My Friend Pedro

Nothing says “sane” like waking up with no memory and taking advice from a floating banana.  Whatever it is that happens next, wherever the the flow of events may lead, it’s bound to be the only reasonable outcome.  The unnamed protagonist of My Friend Pedro doesn’t know much, but he does trust his friend, and all the violence, corpses and occasional journeys into banana-dreamland make perfect, logical sense when seen from the correct perspective.

My Friend Pedro is a giant action sequence from start to finish, with a (for want of a better word) hero who jumps, flips and spins his way in a gun-ballet through level after 2.5D level of projectile-based violence.  The bad guys are out in force to protect their territory, starting with a seedy restaurant owner named Mitch the Butcher.  Events quickly get out of hand and before you know it the bodies pile up everywhere as one slow-motion dual-aiming kill segues into another.  The hero is deeply overpowered for the task at hand, if only he can master his abilities.

He’s got everything at the start but My Friend Pedro takes a few levels before it’s fully necessary to exploit all his abilities.  The basics are fairly simple — run, shoot, aim with the right stick, jump and wall-jump again to reach higher ground.  A click of the left stick starts slow motion, which is handy when there are multiple enemies all trying to kill you at once, and if you’ve got a dual-wield weapon equipped slow-mo also lets you fire at two targets at once.  The hero also has a twirl move, which dodges out of the way of bullets, plus a kick for when enemies are in close range.  The kick is also useful for launching debris, whether that be a gas canister, basketball or stray body part, and you can adjust the kicked item’s trajectory with the right stick before sending it flying.  There are a good number of moves available at any given time, plus a reload button so you don’t have to lose too much time off the shooting at the worst possible moment.

The trick to all those abilities is to use them to keep the kill-chain alive in each level.  The game structure is a series of chapters divided up by levels, and while there’s hardly any story to speak of, the plot isn’t really the point.  My Friend Pedro is all about score-chasing with the most stylish kills around, like a Tony Hawk game where the skateboard is actually guns.  Except for the levels that have actual skateboards, of course, because even a graceful murder machine enjoys busting out the tricks now and then.  Each kill adds to the combo, complete with a title for the more complicated ones such as Air Splat Kill for dismembering a goon with the shotgun mid-jump.  Initially it’s fun just to tear through the environments but it doesn’t take long to realize the end-of-level scoring doesn’t look particularly impressive if you just stroll on by.  While there are platforming breaks and puzzles in many areas that will make the combo-counter time out, most of the game can be chained to create a long string of high-scoring kills.

Which would be boring by itself if all you did was run from one baddie to the next and throw bullets at them, but the areas are designed so that you’ll always be wanting to create as cool-looking a gunfight as inhumanly possible.  Swing from a hook, spinning upside-down to avoid bullets while trying to target multiple enemies as you wield twin uzis, hitting slow-mo to better judge the aim, then jumping off to land beside another goon to give him a kick to the face, and then finally kick a stray body part at someone who had the bad fortune to think they could survive the slaughterhouse before gunning them down and racing to the next area to keep the action running.  Or use hanging signs to ricochet bullets from, which magically target enemies, or even kick a frying pan into the air to act as a portable ricochet device.  As My Friend Pedro goes on it introduces plenty of platforming challenges, or puzzles where you need to hit switches to move walls, and these act as refreshers between one series of gunfights and the next.  Each level is a new challenge, introducing a new wrinkle to the gameplay, a different type of enemy, or pumping up the challenge before the next new addition shows up.  For a forty-level game, that’s actually impressive.

Closing Comments:

Even with forty levels, My Friend Pedro can be beaten over the course of a few sittings.  Walking away after would be missing the point, though, because anyone can bull their way through to the end with a bit of practice, but the real fun comes from doing it with style and efficiency.  All those C-rankings from the earlier areas just don’t feel right once you’ve got the experience to properly orchestrate the gun-chaos and earning consistent S-ranks would be much easier with the bonus from higher difficulties.  Beating the game is simply the start, the thing you do to get grounded, and then it’s time to put all those skills to work.  The sheer number of buttons necessary to do everything creates a learning curve, but once you’ve gotten it down and grown a few extra fingers to cover everything at once, you get to sit back and be impressed at the carnage.  My Friend Pedro is graceful horrific violence at its finest, never resting for a minute before moving on to something new, and while it never quite makes sense at least there’s a talking banana to put things in to perspective.