Every time I thought My Friend Pedro couldn’t get any weirder, I was proven laughably, hopelessly wrong by a magical talking banana who would often muse out loud on the nature of violence in video games.
You see, the new 2D shoot ’em up from DeadToast Entertainment and Devolver Digital has a piece of yellow, high-in-potassium fruit as your guide, your Navi. It’s fitting in a way, because My Friend Pedro is absolutely bananas in the best possible way.
Before the credits roll, you’ll have blasted away scores of enemies in a brutal ballet, sped down a highway on a motorbike, explored a surreal fantasy world inhabited by the aforementioned banana, and gone into the sewers to do battle with angry gamers.
The dizzying speed with which My Friend Pedro throws genuinely batcrap crazy concepts would be overwhelming and perhaps even slightly annoying if the game didn’t hang it all together with some of the tightest action gameplay I’ve experienced all year… but it does, so it isn’t.
The central concept of My Friend Pedro is simple enough. You have to get to the end of a level without dying, via a blend of platforming and gun-based combat. The left stick controls movement, and you can aim your weapons with the right stick. Easy.
Holding down the left bumper will “lock” one of your arms to a certain target, meaning you can still aim with your other arms to take out opponents in multiple directions at once. Jumping down through a ceiling with both arms outstretched as you take out a room full of bad guys in seconds feels incredible, and the fact that you can turn on a Matrix style slow mo effect by pressing in the left stick only sweetens the deal.
Your character has plenty of other slick moves at his disposal too, including a wall jump, a sweet dodge move, and the ability to pull of some slick back flips in mid air while time is slowed down. It can all take a while to get used to using in tandem – especially while aiming – but before long you’ll be soaring through levels like a skateboard riding angel of death.
Oh yeah, there are skateboards you can jump on every now and again. That’s a thing. This game is awesome. It’s not just skateboards though, as every level will be packed with unexpected variables that make the gameplay more interesting.
There are gas canisters you can kick towards enemies before shooting them to send them up in flames, tables you can kick up to form a makeshift cover, zip wires you can ride along and shower enemies below in a hail of bullets, and even certain objects in the environment you can shoot at to cause a bullet to ricochet off and take out unsuspecting foes.
The first time I kicked a stray frying pan up into the air and realised I could use the ricochet to take out five enemies at once with a quick spray of my automatic weapon, I felt like John Wick on steroids.
Making use of everything in the environment is key, too, as you’ll be rewarded with extra points for mixing it up. I especially enjoyed seeing a “dramatic entrance” bonus as I burst through a window and blew someone’s head off with a shotgun before kicking said head so hard at another enemy across the room that it killed him.
What really struck me about My Friend Pedro is that it’s actually fairly accessible. Even if you never get the hang of getting through the levels in the most stylish way possible to rack up the high scores, you can still take your time, play a little less flashy, and come out on top if you just want to see how the story plays out. There’s also multiple difficulty settings, so nobody misses out on the madness.
I say story… there’s a beginning and an end, and things happen in between, but I’m still not sure any of it made sense. My Friend Pedro is what I imagine would happen if you ingested a fist full of military grade hallucinogenics and attempted to re-enact the Matrix trilogy from memory (which you should never actually do).
Not that I’m complaining, mind – My Friend Pedro is at its absolute best when it embraces its inherent lunacy and lets you loose, which is all it ever does, so it’s always at its best.
My Friend Pedro is a fantastic piece of work. It’s fast, funny, brutal, constantly surprising, and so much damn fun to play. The Nintendo Switch is the perfect home for it as the short levels lend themselves to quick bursts of play, but wherever you choose to play this game, you’re bound to have a blast. The talking banana told me so.
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