Deep within ourselves, we enjoy chaos. Violence awakens something within us that is primal and that has been domesticated out of us through years and years of conditioning through morality and structure. When the structure falls away, we can revel. Seeing everything that has been constraining our animalistic brains fall away into nothing but pure destruction is a cathartic feeling that can send even the most joyless person into pure elation. Chaos is fun, chaos tells us we’re free.
And in My Friend Pedro, chaos is also beautiful.
It’s easy to not take this game seriously because it doesn’t want you to. You’re talking to a banana called Pedro who encourages you to murder everyone in front of you for what essentially equates to “reasons”. There’s barely any pussyfooting around, this is a game where you kill people in the most stylish way possible and that’s all you’re going to get for the next five or so hours while your head is pulsing through your skull as the synths and bass pump adrenaline directly into your bloodstream.
Listen to the banana
Pedro is a banana. He is your friend. He tells you to murder people. Why? Neither of you knows. You are just some guy dressed up in a wacky outfit with a helmet on and you look kind of like a banana as well. As you can see, the game isn’t going for grand narratives at all and I’m perfectly happy with that. The story itself does flourish in the later missions, but mostly it’s a predictable storyline made funny by Pedro’s random lines and the game’s own brand of sadistic humour.
The focus is on you shooting people. Preferably in the face.
The focus is on you shooting people. Preferably in the face. The game is a sidescroller with a 2.5D perspective and the best comparison I can make is that the game is Max Payne meets Hotline Miami meets Mario. Enemies litter the levels in almost conveniently placed locations and you need to murder them along the way using a suite of weapons, abilities and stuff around the environment in the most stylish way you can.
My Friend Pedro makes liberal use of slow motion, called Focus in the game, that completely transforms the gameplay from simple sidescrolling shooter to something out of a John Wick fan fiction. The key here is that the game gives you tools that you can use to make your killing spree as fabulous as possible.
Your character feels floaty and almost like a ballerina on ice making precise movements and dives through the air not only possible but easy. Movement is a key feature to the game and they took great care to make it as responsive and free as possible. You can jump, roll, dive through the air, backflip off stuff with an almost ninja-like grace and even spin to dodge incoming fire.
Each of the weapons offers different ways of playing. Dual wielded guns can have their aim split on the fly so you can focus fire on two targets at once. Shotguns, rifles and other two-handed weapons offer their own advantages once you unlock them in the game and you’ll be hard-pressed to ask for more.
Something that I can only describe as absolutely f**cking bananas.
The final crucial part of the game is the level design. The levels are very meticulously laid out with everything having a purpose in terms of gameplay. The game gives you objects that you can manipulate such as a barrel that you can ride or a pan that you can ricochet bullets off of or even a skateboard that, yes, you can kickflip and shoot at the same time. You can even kick the skateboard into an enemy’s face if you’re feeling frisky.
The levels themselves are also puzzle boxes. Almost every single level has some unique kind of spin on it with cool stuff you need to figure out on the fly as you’re shooting people. Stuff like moving boxes, dodging through lasers, mines, plates that ricochet bullets into levers, windows you can jump through and essentially everything out of the cool action movie handbook.
Blood, bullets, bananas
Individually all these features are already respectable, but together they turn into something that I can only describe as absolutely f**cking bananas. Slow motion really kicks this game up a notch in terms of pure stylish shooting enjoyment and the variety of ways you can take enemies out is endless. The game encourages you to go fast because your combo meter determines your score at the end of the level and disappointing our friend Pedro is not an option.
The pace is absolutely blistering and most of your time is spent in the air, flipping over people and kicking their friend’s torso into their face like you’re the Grim Reaper that turned into a sadistic desperado ballerina. As I’m sitting here, I’m finding it difficult to exactly remember how I killed all those men because it was just violence-infused madness from top to bottom and it didn’t let up except for a couple of platforming levels.
Describing these types of games that rely on style and cool kills is difficult to do in words since the enjoyment is completely up to you. It’s moment-to-moment action that not only relies on your natural aiming skill, but also your creativity. You can get the same combo by just shooting the dudes with perfect headshots, but you can also kickflip a skateboard through a window, shotgun a man’s head off, kick that man’s head into another man’s head and then kick the skateboard into another man’s face while shooting his friend mid-air using a sniper rifle? Yeah, you can do exactly that and the game will save a gif of it too if you’d like.
Overdose of potassium
Unfortunately, I cannot say in good conscience that the game is without faults. The game felt, from the very beginning, a little amateurish. The levels, while creative in their gameplay, were often just bland variations of places with pipes in them such as sewers or factories. There was no real visual personality to be found which was a huge bummer because some more eccentric colourful levels would make this game feel a million times better. I wasn’t a particular fan of the very bland UI either.
A lot of the game feels rough with its simple writing and often crude presentation style, but mostly I didn’t care because I was busy having fun shooting people. The later levels did start to bore me a little after a while since they felt very by the numbers and slow compared to the blistering first half of the game. My Friend Pedro is a game that I want to see get a sequel with a bigger budget and some more visual flair. They nailed the shooting, but a lot of work can be done in terms of the game’s overall design.
I’m finding it difficult to exactly remember how I killed all those men because it was just violence-infused madness from top to bottom
I also need to give a special mention to the absolutely incredible soundtrack that this game comes with. It’s filled to the brim with absolute slappers and bangers that never fails to make me feel like a badass. The songs are so perfectly themed for this game with their darkwave/heavy synth sound and I honestly can’t even imagine a better sound for this game. This is just the epitome of nailing it.
My Friend Pedro really struck a chord with me. It married my sadistic and stylish side to create this brutally beautiful cacophony of mayhem. I was sad that it was over so fast, but this isn’t a game you play just once. You replay levels to try and one up yourself and come up with even more interesting ways to transition people into the afterlife.
It’s violent decadence and I am more than happy to indulge.
Thank you to GOG.com for the review code.