My Friend Pedro plays almost exactly like an old Xbox game called Total Overdose, which is to say that it sits somewhere between Max Payne and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
It’s a game about stylish murder, one that teaches you to look for ways to make the most of your carnage. It rewards effective play, trickshots and lengthy combos with points and score multipliers, which are totalled at the end of each level. Your effectiveness as a murderer is then ranked from C at worst to A at best. It’s a puzzle game, one that asks you to analyse your surroundings on a case by case basis, and I wonder how many players will understand that.
Your character, a nameless lunatic in a black gas mask, regains consciousness in the basement of some natty old warehouse owned by a gang leader called The Butcher. The Butcher has been grinding up rats and pigeons to sell at various markets and now he’s looking to add you to his menu. Possibly driven mad by whatever events landed them here, your character is goaded into action by a spectral banana named Pedro and the great rampage begins.
Pedro lives in the American Psycho vein of affable sadomasochism, less a coping mechanism than a manifestation of raw, vengeful id. He likes it when you do cool shit and much of the early game is given over to Pedro demanding you try new moves and murder methodologies for his entertainment. The practicality of these moves is never once taken into account. Pedro wants what he wants and you, as his vessel, are bound to deliver. “You’re not leaving this room until I see you do a 360 degree flip,” he insists, which is asking a lot from someone who just woke up in a murderer’s basement. Doubly so coming from a banana.
Nevertheless, Pedro’s nutritionally-complete advice pays off and before long, your character will be performing wall jumps, uzis akimbo, landing trickshots as the bullet time meter ticks down. You’ll be doing a lot of bullet time management — a significant component in My Friend Pedro is a Max Payne-esque dedication to bullet time shooting. Enemies are arranged in such a way that slowing time to allow more precise aiming is core to any strategy. The trickier your run, the more points you score. Land a barrage of complicated trickshots in sequence to start a combo, which generates a score multiplier.
With only a handful of notable exceptions, most levels are cut from an industrial cloth. Between the streets, dank warehouses, high rise apartments and rooftops, each level provides all the framework required for dazzling acrobatics. Colours are mostly kept fairly drab, allowing for greater readability in the chaos. Enemies and blood pop more vividly against the grey backdrops, giving the player a clear indicator when a foe has been dispatched.
If there’s a sticking point, at least on the Switch, it’s the controls. My Friend Pedro is a complex action game, necessitating similarly complex inputs. There were times when I’d get overwhelmed by the amount of enemies I had to deal with and mess up my run because I’d mashed the wrong buttons in a panic. One problem I ran up against a lot was not being able to accurately target seperate enemies with akimbo weapons –the game wants you to use the dual weilding mechanic as a default but I found I struggled with it. Pedro will punish you for missteps like these, rewarding careful and surgical play over spray-and-pray techniques.
When it works, My Friend Pedro is rather beautiful, a perfect recreation of all your favourite John Woo movies at your fingertips but self-aware enough to know that what it’s asking you to do is utterly messed up. There’s enough meat on its bones to encourage at least a second playthrough as you try to rack up A ranks across the board, but Pedro‘s bananas flavour may not be to everyone’s taste.
THREE-AND-A-HALF STARS OUT OF FIVE
Highlights: Simple, effective design; Macarbe sense of humour; Perfecting your run is addictive
Lowlights: Early grappling with the controls may turn some players off
Developer: Deadtoast Entertainment
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with review code provided by the publisher.