Any game that has you taking order from a sentient banana named Pedro is guaranteed to be good. It’s like a rule of the universe or something. I’m sure of it. My Friend Pedro does indeed have a talking banana and thus is at an immediate advantage over almost every other game. To be honest if you actually need a review after being told about a sentient banana then I’m not sure this game is for you. Or games in general. Or life, for that matter. What the hell is wrong with you?
Story is in short supply in My Friend Pedro. You wake up in the basement of some random mafia boss, at which point Pedro the banana appears and calmly explains that you probably don’t want to hang around any longer than needed. A bit of bloodshed later and you’ve escaped, but then said bloodshed just sort of carries on. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why. Thinking back on it I honestly can’t remember how I got from where I was at the start to the end.
That’s perfectly fine, though. My Friend Pedro is all about killing people as stylishly as you possibly can. Violence means nothing if you don’t look cool while doing it. Since this is a side-scroller you’ll be going from left to right while aiming with the right stick and firing with the right trigger. While dual-wielding you can split your aim by holding LT, and then mix that with wall-jumps or even swinging on a rope.
Yup, the game gives you a lot of stuff to play with. There’s glass windows to dive through and even skateboards to ride. People can be crushed by barrels, or you could just kick a torso at a bad guy. My personal favourite were the pans which you can kick up into the air and then shoot to create a storm of ricochetting bullets.
There’s not much in the way of creative freedom, though. The game is linear and the level designs clearly indicate what you’re intended to do. The finesse and skill comes from how well you can execute it all.
When it comes to being a little more defensive you have three options: ducking behind cover, simply moving quickly and unpredictably; or the graceful twirl. Yes, I did say twirl. With a tap of the left shoulder button you can execute a pirouette that would make a ballerina proud, with the added bonus that it lets you dodge bullets. Just like an actual ballerina. I assume. Anyway, aiming becomes tricky when spinning as each pull of the trigger will result in your firing whichever direction the guns are pointing during the spin. Best of all you can perform the dainty little twirl on ropes, during a backflip and even and pretty much whenever you like.
Perhaps your amazing capabilities stem from the fact that you don’t seem to be connected to the world. Presumably due to the way animations had to be done so that everything could smoothly transition into everything else there’s a constant feeling of being disconnected from the world. It’s as though you’re sliding along an invisible layer of plastic that coats the walls and floors.
The key to everything is slow-motion. Sure, it’s hardly a new or innovative feature. Loads of other games have slow-mo shooting, after all. But My Friend Pedro makes it feel like a much more integral part of the gameplay. Killing bad guys provides a big chunk of extra slow-mo time which in turn lets you spot potential environmental hazards that can be used. With a bit of practice you spend entire fights in slow-motion.
This links in with the point system. Killing stuff scores you points. Killing stuff good gives you more points. Killing stuff good while smashing through a window gives you even more points. You get the general idea; the more stylish you are the better your score. Slow-mo just aids in that quest for style, letting you soak up the environment and decide how best to look like a badass.
The casual act of murdering dudes in the face while gently piruetting also builds a multiplier which winds down over time. To earn those bigger scores you’ve got to link kills together, then run through the environment as quickly as you can to find some other poor sucker to eviscerate.
So what do you get for all these points? Absolutely jack shit. Yup, My Friend Pedro is an old school experience in the sense that you chase high scores simply for the thrill of competing on the leaderboards and beating your personal best performances. This style of replayability is important because if you aren’t the kind of person who loves to replay levels and improve on their skills then My Friend Pedro is only going to last about 3-hours. It’s a short game meant to be played over and over again.
It’s the second half of the game where My Friend Pedro struggles a little. Of all things it’s a sewer sequence that triggers the change, even as the game casually makes fun of other games for having sewer levels before making you slog through a bunch of them. A quick note to developers: making fun of something and then doing that exact same thing does not excuse the fact that you’re doing the thing you just made fun of.
But back on track; this sewer sequence marks a change of pace as enemies capable of soaking up numerous shots become predominant. That slows the action down, making it less of a balletic display of carnage and more of a standard shooter. The fun of the first half of My Friend Pedro came from the fact that you were the living embodiment of the blitzkrieg, bursting into an area and decimating everything. Danger came from the amount of foes and the angles they could hit you from. Later because enemies can soak up shots they can just shoot back. You can’t scythe through them any more and while that decision makes sense from a design perspective because you want a sense of escalation, it takes something away from the joy of My Friend Pedro.
To be entirely clear, though, the platforming isn’t terrible. It just lacks the same level of fluidity that a true platformer needs. My Friend Pedro is good at letting you do flips through the air before landing on a skateboard and slamming bullets through skulls.
The other thing that changes is a heavier focus on precision platforming. Laser, alarms and other stuff gets introduced which forces you to be more precise and often work with time limits. This isn’t bad as such, it’s just that the controls don’t feel as well suited to this more much exacting style of play. Later the raw action gets blended back in with the precise platforming and that feels better, largely because you don’t notice as much that the game isn’t as good at platforming.
While I never encountered any glitches in my time with My Friend Pedro there was a persistent stutter that I believe was caused by poor frame timing. Although it never got too bad there are some forum posts from people who are suffering from it more severely.
If there”s one thing that I’m properly disappointed in with My Friend Pedro it’s the lack of laughs. For a game with a talkative banana the story is surprisingly light on the funny stuff, nor does it go down the weirdly dark route or anything like that. There’s a banana and it talks and that’s the joke.
Essentially My Friend Pedro is like a Jon Woo movie. Once you get into the rhythm of the action it’s heaps of fun. The short play-time might put a lot of people off picking this one up and that’s understandable. If you’re the kind of person who chases high-scores, though, then My Friend Pedro might be worth picking up. It’s stylishly violent and violently stylish, and a most welcome breath of fresh gun smoke.
3 out of 5