Bananas Foster Brutality
My health was dangerously low. In the elevator shaft above me, four thugs clutching automatic weapons waited for me to make my ascent. With no cover to protect my fleshy bits from their imminent volley of hot lead, things weren’t looking good. That is until I noticed the frying pan sitting on the ground in the abandoned construction site I now found myself in, surrounded by a troupe of brutal bounty hunters in garish Christmas sweaters. Carefully, I lined up my crosshairs and kicked that blessed piece of kitchenware up the shaft and unloaded a hail of fire from my Uzi into its non-stick surface. Moments later, the bloodied gang of goons slid down the walls like runny eggs leaving me free to advance.
I’ve Got The Skills To Claim The Kills.
Moments like this are plentiful in My Friend Pedro, where players assume the role of an acrobatic, masked gunslinger who takes his orders from a floating banana. Each of the game’s 40 levels, set across five chapters, is designed like some sadistic Rube Goldberg machine where you choreograph mass murder in brilliantly brutal ways with a mix of high-flying gun-fu stunts and parkour action. See a hook hanging from the ceiling? Live out your childhood fantasy of becoming the bastard lovechild of Tarzan and John Rambo (you sick puppy, you) and swing over that hapless horde of guns and riddle them like Swiss cheese with an assault rifle! See a severed head on the ground? Don’t let it go to waste: kick it into the face of a tracksuit-sporting mobster and break his brittle neck like a twig. Headception!
Sure, dropping your enemies like sacks of potatoes with flashy environmental kills is fun and all, but they aren’t the only tricks you can utilize in My Friend Pedro. One of the game’s most unique features is the ability to split-aim. This handy technique allows you to move both of your arms independently of one another when dual-wielding weapons. While I’ll admit split-aiming takes a bit of getting used to, once you master it, your banana-brained assassin becomes a veritable force of potassium-powered destruction.
In addition to split-aiming, you can also slow down time in focus mode, which functions identically to Max Payne’s iconic bullet time mechanic. When enabled, firefights turn into spectacular bullet ballets, and you twist through bullets and maim waves of faceless thugs with unmatched panache – and bullets. Oh, so many bullets.
I’m Here To Kick Ass And Chew Potassium.
With snappy controls, satisfying gunplay, and tons of moves at your disposal, My Friend Pedro is anything but boring. Though I do feel that the game’s five areas could have used some added polish to make them stand out from one another as the shabby tenements, dank sewers, and crumbling construction yards that you’ll need to navigate over the course of the game’s campaign do begin to look a bit repetitive after a while. No doubt about it, some visual variety would have gone a long way here.
Thankfully, some truly over-the-top set piece moments do manage to switch things up. My favorite is a daring gunfight as you race a motorcycle down a freeway, gunning down cars full of mobsters. The stage concludes with a tense boss battle against a morbidly obese butcher in a meat truck laden with explosives and (no pun intended) is an absolute blast. Another standout moment is a death-defying airborne shootout as you fall from a skyscraper. There are even a few stages set within the warped psyche of the game’s main protagonist himself, which looks like some manic preschool fever-dream that’s at odds with the game’s grisly gunplay. Is it weird? You bet! But really, what else would you expect from a game where a demonic banana coaxes you into mass murder.
There are also tons of modifiers hidden throughout each stage to uncover. These fun unlockables grant you fun abilities like an NBA Jam-inspired Big Head mode, infinite focus, and other fun ways to tweak the experience, adding plenty of incentive to revisit each of the game’s sizable stages multiple times.
Blood, Bullets, And Synth A-Peel
Publisher Devolver Digital has made something of a name for themselves in recent years with games like Hotline Miami and Katana Zero when it comes to delivering sublime, synth-laden scores for their games. And lucky for all of my fellow electro fetishists out there, My Friend Pedro is no exception. The game features a pumping, harsh electronic soundtrack courtesy of artists Navie D, Noisecream, and Battlejuice that perfectly fits carnage as it unfolds onscreen. If you’re a fan of synthwave or dark electro, I really can’t recommend you giving it a listen for yourself. Those who purchase the just-released retail version of My Friend Pedro courtesy of Nighthawk Interactive (which is what we’re reviewing now) will receive a download code for the digital soundtrack, along with a poster and sticker sheet. Who doesn’t love stickers?
As amazing as the game’s soundtrack is, sadly, My Friend Pedro’s visuals do leave a bit to be desired as they lack much detail, and the animations can be a bit awkward at times. Like I said earlier in this review, a bit more variety would have been very welcome. Most of the grunts you’ll mow down all look the same throughout each area, and textures are typically pretty bland, and the colors are mostly drab, save for in “Pedro’s World.”
Despite the lack of visual flourish, the game does run incredibly smooth, which is very welcome considering how hot and heavy some of the gunfights can get as bullets, explosions, and fleshy chunks of baddies fill the screen. Stray bullets also produce satisfying puffs of drywall dust as they rip through enemies and into the environment, which makes each shot feel satisfyingly impactful.
My Friend Pedro is a bullet-riddled thrill ride while it lasts. That being said, it’s a little disappointing that it feels like it ends just as things are getting really good. By the time the credits were rolling, I already found myself wishing there was another location or two to blast my way through. Even though the game boasts 40 levels, it should only take most players a couple of hours to make their way through the game’s campaign on the standard difficulty. However, those looking for a more substantial challenge can play through the game’s harder modes, which do away with the partial health regeneration found on the normal and easy difficulty settings.
Despite its brevity, My Friend Pedro is a bloody and addicting score-chaser that should keep you glued to your controller from start to finish thanks to its punchy gunplay, surreal story, and infectious synth-laden soundtrack. If you’re a fan of stylish and violent side-scrollers like Katana Zero and Not A Hero, this one is well worth adding to your Switch library.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed), PC; Developer: DeadToast Entertainment; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Players: 1; Released: November 12th, 2019 (Retail), June 20, 2019 (Digital); MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy provided by PR.