By Josh Speer / June 28th, 2019
|Title||My Friend Pedro|
|Release Date||June 20th, 2019|
|Platform||Steam, Nintendo Switch|
|Age Rating||T for Teen – Blood, Violence, Language|
I’ve been looking forward to My Friend Pedro since I demoed it last year at PAX West. It’s not often you see a concept so wacky nor a control scheme so ambitious. In many ways, this is the closest we’ll probably get to a true Deadpool videogame, and that’s something developer Deadtoast seems to be very aware of. They play with reality as you progress, as well as poke fun at gamers and the industry at large. The simple question then is this: was My Friend Pedro worth the wait? Or was this banana not quite ripe yet?
You start by waking up in an industrial facility next to a talking banana named Pedro. Don’t expect how that’s possible to get explained, cause this isn’t that sort of game. Since you’re understandably confused, Pedro explains why you’re there and what your goal is. Turns out there’s a butcher that isn’t very particular about the meat he uses, and your goal is to put him down permanently. As the game continues, other events transpire that require your skillful execution of other bad people. Thankfully, despite your amnesia, you still have incredible muscle memory. Whoever you are, you’re a killing machine, and you quickly find a pair of pistols to prove how adept you are. Over the course of the game you’ll find many other weapons, such as a pair of uzis, an assault rifle and even a sniper rifle, but your pistols are the only weapons with infinite ammo. Everything else you’ll need to find more ammo for by taking out goons. Additionally, you will find healing kits as you progress, though thankfully you have a healing factor, and will recover health so long as you aren’t taking damage. You have three bars of health, so if you are cautious, you can stay at full health for a very long time. But if you’re not so careful, the game has plenty of helpful checkpoints where you can respawn after you’re slagged.
The combat is the main draw of the game, other than the zany premise, and it asks a lot of you. I played on the lowest difficulty and still found it very challenging. That was mostly because of how many actions are mapped to the left Joy-Con. Not only does that joystick control your movement, pressing it activates your Focus mode, where you can momentarily slow down time. Also, the L button controls your dodge and the ZL allows you to split your aim and shoot in two directions at once. Meanwhile, ZR fires your bullets and the right joystick lets you aim your guns. If you think that sounds like a bit much to keep straight, you’d be right, especially when you factor in you can also kick enemies with X and will have sections where you’re riding a skateboard or a motorcycle. My Friend Pedro is an utter delight when you reach that zen moment and everything is working, but don’t expect that to last forever; this is a truly challenging game that expects you to do your absolute best.
In fact, the game does score you at the end of each level. I got a couple of coveted S scores, but many more Bs and Cs. To get an S, you have to get through a stage pretty much without dying once and keep your combo going by continuously murdering everything in sight and avoiding most damage. While that is possible, it’s also quite rare, or it was for me. Thankfully, I found that by being stubborn and persisting I could beat every level. But if you’re one of those hardcore gamers that has to get a perfect score for every stage, be ready to spend a long time replaying each one.
Despite my complaints, I did enjoy the combat. I felt like I was cast in some John Woo movie, flipping around, surprising foes and dodging goons armed to the teeth. For most of the game, I stuck with my trusty pistols, since I love infinite ammo, but the later parts required me to equip my heavy artillery. Mostly this was because the foes in those sections have body armor and rapid-firing guns, so you’ll be mincemeat if you stand there trading bullets with slow firing pistols. And while you can use your Focus to slow down time, it doesn’t make you bulletproof in the slightest. Your only way of avoiding bullets is using L to dodge, which makes you do a fancy spin. It also changes where your guns are aiming, so it’s a bit of a trade off. My favorite portions in the game were when I was swinging from a zip line spraying lead, or using metal signs and frying pans to deflect bullets in crazy directions. You’ll also occasionally be able to use explosives found around the levels to great effect, but only if you can shoot them before you get discovered. Oh and quick pro tip: if you need to reload and are surrounded, use the kick attack. It’s just as fatal as your bullets, just a bit slower. The only real downsides are that the range is shitty and kicking doesn’t seem to contribute to your combo meter.
Besides the combat, there are also puzzle and platforming sections in the game. Oddly, these were perhaps my favorite parts, though that’s likely because I’ve played far too many platformers in my life. It was just nice to bounce around and wall jump without worrying about bullets coming my way. It was fun rolling through narrow ducts and shooting switches to trigger them from afar. I also really liked a few sections late in the game that are pure platforming terror, with lasers chasing you and proximity mines flinging themselves at your head. Frankly, I felt these sections were more intuitive and clear-cut than the combat-oriented ones, which is a bit of a shame, especially given how much the game is focused on the over-the-top combat.
It wouldn’t be an over-the-top game without over-the-top bosses, and thankfully My Friend Pedro delivers on that front. Each and every boss is totally different, and blisteringly difficult. The first boss you fight while riding a motorcycle. Another memorable one chases you in a helicopter as you run screaming. There’s even one fight where it’s just you versus another incredibly nimble and dangerous armed gunman. I really thought all the boss fights brought a lot to the game, and my only real complaint is that there weren’t more of them. Having said that, the final boss fight in the game redeemed the game in many ways, and was an utter joy.
Visually, My Friend Pedro is attractive and runs at a fast clip. I never encountered any slowdown, other than when I was using Focus to literally slow things down. While I do wish there was a bit more variety for the backgrounds and even enemy types, what was on display was well animated. Get ready to see a lot of human goons, robots and various deathtraps. There’s also some good use of unconventional colors like yellows, grays and reds. The one section that completely impressed me visually is when you go to Pedro’s World for a few very strange levels, which have colorful pastels and background pieces that would be right at home in a Runner game. Musically, the best I can say is that it’s inoffensive. I just really didn’t notice the music much while I was playing, and can’t even recall any standout songs. There were lots of great sound effects though, especially the weird whistle that plays at the end of each level.
Though I mostly enjoyed my time with My Friend Pedro, there are a couple of problems that I need to mention. One was what I already mentioned about the complexity of the controls. While it’s true you can remap them, I’m not sure that would help much given the sheer amount of things you need to do. More problematic was that many times when I would use ZL to split aim, my Focus would abruptly end, and time would speed back up. This happened on multiple occasions, and each time my Focus meter wasn’t depleted. As a result, I mostly stopped using split aim, and just got more aggressive to compensate for it. Another issue was that in the skateboard sections, it was way too easy to flip off the damned thing, and very difficult to flip it back upright. Lastly, I just felt there were some sections that needed better signposting. I got stuck a handful of times as I played the various puzzle sections, and often had to die and restart to figure out what I was doing wrong. Other than these issues, the game was enjoyable.
Overall though, I did rather enjoy My Friend Pedro. It’s far from perfect, but there’s lots of ingenuity and ambition on display here from the folks at Deadtoast. Though the plot was a bit psychotic and hard to parse at times, the humor kept me invested. For $19.99 I got about 10 hours of gameplay out of it, and had a good time. If nothing else, this is another worthy game that Devolver Digital has in their stable. Now I just hope we get a sequel that smooths over the issues I mentioned and explains the ending of the game…
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
DeadtoastDevolver DigitalIndieinsaneMy Friend PedrooprainfallPCReviewSwitch