Ah, the age old gaming trope of memory loss. You know the one, where the protagonist wakes up at the start of the game with no knowledge of who they are and have to fight, or whatever the games core mechanic is, on a quest to discover their identity and bring justice to the world. Or something like that. In most of these instances there will be some kind of narrative device to help connect the player to their amnesiac, either brooding monologues, or a companion who knows more about what’s going on. In My Friend Pedro, that companion is a banana. Called Pedro.
Yes, My Friend Pedro is one of “those” games. Surreal. Off-kilter. You may even call it “wacky” if you’re so inclined. You start in a meat packing plant, apparently set for the chopper thanks to a mean spirited gangster, and are immediately tutored by your floating, yellow fruity friend in the art of gunplay. The core gameplay loop in My Friend Pedro is a physics platformer mashed with a twin stick shooter. Your character, a masked assassin type, runs and jumps with the left stick and B button, while the right stick aims your various guns and the right trigger fires bullets at the baddies. Fairly standard stuff.
Where My Friend Pedro mixes things up, however, is in the extra mechanics it throws into the mix. As you’d expect there are wall jumps, a melee attack that you can pop off with the X button and the ability to roll by ducking and pushing left or right. This game, however, mixes things up with some notions of wanting to be a little Max Payne. Clicking in L3 will drop you into a bullet time mode where you can spin gracefully through the air in slow motion, giving you more time to aim and react to enemy shots. This will last for as long as you keep killing bad guys and, coupled with a spinning dodge move tied to the left bumper strives to give My Friend Pedro a somewhat baletic feel. One other, more novel mechanic is the dual aim. If you have twin pistols or uzi’s, you can hold the left trigger to lock one of them onto a nearby enemy, freely aiming the other elsewhere. When this all comes together it’s fun; unfortunately that’s not always the case.
For some reason, in the earlier levels, all these controls feel too fiddly. This is especially apparent with the Switch Joy-Con’s diddly little thumbsticks (pro controller gives a much more comfortable experience) but in hindsight, having replayed some of those first stages, I think it’s possibly due to the lack of challenge that the geometry and enemies provide. At this point the game largely wants you to understand how the run and gun works, and how you can use all the different mechanics to your advantage, but these levels are, by and large, a little boring and outstay their welcome. What also outstays its welcome, but can thankfully be turned off, is Pedro’s incessant tutorialising. Being reminded that you can dual target or slow down time seconds after being cut down by enemies is great at first but eventually becomes mildly patronising.
Once it hits its stride, after a mid game jaunt to a surreal elseworld, My Friend Pedro gets REALLY fun. With a full loadout of weapons at your disposal and every little trick that’s been introduced to you randomly smattered throughout levels, things become both challenging and entertaining. Ricochet shots are a particular highlight, being able to ping bullets off signs or, even more fun, a frying pan thrown into the air, never gets old, nor does kicking a bundle of C4 at enemies and shooting it. As it goes on, these random moments extend to full levels – here’s one that doesn’t involve shooting but presents a series of platforming challenges. Now you’re on a skateboard. And now you’re skydiving down the side of a building. The humour punctuating these moments feels like it’s been lifted from the Crank movies, by way of Deadpool and Monty Python and has a few cheeky nods to modern gaming and internet culture shoved in for good measure.
Visually My Friend Pedro aims for function over flash. Most of the environments you’ll visit are rather indescernible from one anothe, from dank buildings to dank streets to dank sewers. The later levels get a bit more interesting, as does the aforementioned jaunt through la-la land, but there’s nothing here that will really pop out at you as something “special”.
My Friend Pedro is by no means a long game. Comprising of roughly 40 levels it’ll take you around 3-4 hours to finish in its entirety, but completing each level also affords you a rating. The levels themselves are short enough that you’ll want to revisit them, particularly the earlier ones once you’ve gotten a hang of those controls, to try and bump that rating up with more accurate takedowns and a quicker completion time. Speedrunners will also find a lot to enjoy trying to just dash through the levels as quickly as they can.