There is a reason why so many gamers are latching on to the indie game scene. Indie game developers have the benefit of developing games and ideas that they are truly passionate about, unsullied by the popular and big money notions of Triple A backers. Indie developers are full of bold ideas and stories that push the entire market of video games forward. Sometimes we get to see new gameplay mechanics and styles in the indie scene long before they have reached the wide mass market of publishers like EA, Ubisoft, or Activision. Developer DeadToast Entertainment has created something truly unique that I guarantee you have not experienced before in any sort of video gaming setting, and can only be experienced in their newest release, My Friend Pedro.
Title: My Friend Pedro
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: DeadToast Entertainment
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 20, 2019
Game Provided By Devolver Digital for the Purpose of This Review
My Friend Pedro is an action platformer that throws you behind the mind of a deranged assassin, hellbent on taking down a criminal empire. Luckily, you are also the world’s most nimble assassin, with the ability to wall jump, swing, flip, slow time and spin, all while shooting guns at a nearly endless supply of bad guys. With the help of your anthropomorphic banana friend, Pedro, you are out to discover who you truly are, all while experiencing a sub-genre of video gaming that I’m positive you’ve never seen before, period.
You wake up an assassin in an unmarked room with no memory, ready to kill invaders and fiends in your way. Your banana friend, Pedro, acts as your spirit guide through this trial. Along the way, you will learn a little bit more about who you are and the nefarious plans of your enemies. The true story of My Friend Pedro, however, comes from the beautiful maneuvers and acrobatics that you’ll employ for your deadly plan. You will quickly learn the basic skills and intuitive controls necessary to down these foes.
The movement in the game initially feels floaty and unresponsive, but I quickly adapted to the style and even found it necessary to perform more complex actions on ground and through the air. Whether it’s kicking, shooting, zip-lining, breaking through windows, or using a frying pan to ricochet bullets into an enemy’s head, each control responds very well and feels well mapped to the controller. When there are many enemies on screen, you will sometimes have to choose which inputs to use wisely, as we sadly only have so many fingers. But each time you go against another group of baddies, the result of your violent killing spree is almost universally a graceful frolic.
The game has been described as a bloody and violent ballet, which, never having been used for a video game description before, is weirdly accurate. Perhaps the most useful mechanic comes from a bullet-time like meter a la Max Payne that allows you to slow time and plan your moves with increased precision. You will rely on this technique early in the game to down large groups of enemies and avoid damage, however as you progress, you will find yourself able to more accurately plan your murderous technique with the least amount of incoming damage possible, and relying on the slowed time less and less. Just like a ballet, you learn the steps of the dance and rely less on a slower time signature for you to keep up. You are the center-stage dancer in a fast and gorgeous bloody musical.
Speaking of music, the soundtrack, consisting of 42 tracks from 5 different techno artists, is always upbeat, fast, and appropriate. The electric pop sounds fit well with the narrative and action in the story, and slow down or speed up appropriately with the movements of your character. Techno is not my favorite musical styling and no track sticks out to my mind, however they provide an ample energetic backdrop to the addictive frenetic game choreography.
Progression in the story also means progression in damage and ways to execute thugs in your way. New guns appear in each subsequent stage, with each stage broken down into multiple levels. These new guns each have strengths and weaknesses that you will have to learn if you went to efficiently clear a room and obtain the best score possible at the end of each level. Shotguns, assault rifles, dual handguns, and uzis all respond just as you think they would with ranges, fire rates, and damage appropriate to each type of gun.
Most importantly, however, I found myself using even the simple handgun from the beginning of the game in its later stages, because certain situations were more appropriate for using that specific firearm. It was refreshing to not have to rely on the more powerful guns found in late game for progression through the final levels. As this is the only sense of level up or progression you’ll get throughout the game, the guns act as your skills and each skill provides a worthwhile place in your macabre project.
You will travel through different environments throughout your journey, including abandoned buildings, kitchens, sewers, and elevator shafts, but there isn’t much variation to the environments that catches the eye (save for one, which I will spare here for the sake of spoilers). Most of the environments are blanketed in muted grays and browns with varying background detail, but each comes with a specific set of tasks and challenges that you must master. The environments look good, but on closer inspection to the graphics, jagged edges and pixelated corners make the graphical style feel mildly outdated, almost reminiscent of a Wii game.
Luckily, the fast, action packed nature of the game made me quickly forget about the substandard resolution. I did encounter some bugs in my primary playthrough, including enemies that either attempted to or succeeded in shooting me through solid surfaces like doors and floors, but this was thankfully infrequent and never interrupted my gameplay. These shortcomings are easy to forgive when taken with the full package of such an interesting and unique game.
My Friend Pedro is priced at $19.99 on Steam and in the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch. The game lasts approximately 5 hours depending on how fast you are able to clear levels. Personally, this play time felt slightly brief to me, and most levels fly by in a breeze. Even if you do have trouble on the occasional arrangement of enemies, you will be able to complete each level with just a little bit of trial-and-error, and restarting from frequent save points is never much of a hassle.
The 5 hours is entirely enjoyable, however, and the $19.99 price point doesn’t feel overly expensive compared to some other gaming experiences. It is a very enjoyable game, and if you do like to replay levels trying to get the highest score possible, there is a lot of replay value for you in My Friend Pedro. Furthermore, the action in My Friend Pedro is some of the best you will find in a platformer in recent years, so if action platforming is your flavor of game, this is definitely not one for you to miss.
My Friend Pedro would be a hard sell on somebody who had never seen a trailer or who had never experienced over-the-top action platforming video games. However, when you spend just a few minutes shooting, jumping, and twisting (or even watching somebody doing so!), you become entranced with the fluidity of gameplay that DeadToast Entertainment has managed to provide. It is a beautiful testament to the novel ideas that indie game developers can concoct, and how well they are able to realize these ideas in such in a beautiful, intuitive, and functional way.
Everything in My Friend Pedro works just right with plenty of shock value and jaw dropping moments to keep you excited throughout. The challenge ramps up wonderfully and by the end of the game, you’ll be Googling to see if the developer has plans for a sequel. But don’t worry, something as novel and beautiful as this is only a few years away from becoming a Triple A title in franchises that you already love. I’m excited to see where the blood ballet pops up next and which characters we will get to do this with in the future. Even if my prediction is wrong, we’ll always have our favorite talking banana to fall back on; PEDRO!