By Ronald Gordon
Have you ever seen something so absurd you didn’t even know how to describe it? That was my reaction to experiencing My Friend Pedro. Now I will try my hardest to put that experience into a collection of paragraphs. Wish me luck.
My Friend Pedro is a shoot ‘em up developed by DeadToast Entertainment and published by Devolver Digital. Both are known for their willingness to experiment. In the game, you play as a nameless badass with two guns and a lust for blood, shooting and tricking your way through mobsters, mercenaries, and what can only described as an acid trip. All the while you’re accompanied by a friendly floating banana named Pedro, who’ll occasionally give you tips, talk about the story of the game, and even judge you at the end of each level.
The story starts out with you waking up in a meat factory owned by a monstrous mob boss who likes to chop up people that don’t agree with him. Before long, you find a gun and the real fun begins, as you try to find out why you’re in this predicament, and who has their heart set on seeing you dead. All the while, you’re leaving a bloody trail of bodies in your wake. As you progress, you’ll find more guns to use and different ways to kill whoever stands in your way using the area around you.
What makes My Friend Pedro intriguing is the fact that you can run around and do a bunch of crazy tricks while killing your opponents. With the focus ability, you can slow time down to a crawl and blast your way through enemies as if you’re in The Matrix. You can spin around elegantly to dodge bullets and still shoot wildly while doing so, and you can even kick enemies to death with your surprisingly strong legs. There are even more ways to devastate your competition: you can use something unexpected, like a cast iron pan, to deflect bullets and slaughter those above or around you. You can also ride around on a barrel and steam roll your victims, or blaze through some levels on a skateboard while letting the bullets fly. Anything you can find in the level can be used to rack up more points with each kill.
The game is invigorating and fast paced, but it’s also forgiving because you can easily dodge the bullets fired at you or find ways to eliminate multiple people at once. The music is upbeat and thrilling with its electronica tunes and synthwave style. It always brings a “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” vibe with cool and soothing undertones, making you feel both hyperactive and focused. The art style is, in my opinion, quite detailed for a side scroller as it has a lot of interesting backdrops and level designs. No two levels are built the same way or feel the same, and that’s what makes it pleasurable to explore. Some of the levels have a straightforward esssence where you know you’ll have to keep moving to get to the end. Others make you go back and forth in order to reach the exit, so that you’ll have to put some thought into exploring these levels rather than completing them super fast.
My Friend Pedro is a high spirited and action-packed game that I was surprised I enjoyed as much as I did, seeing as how I don’t play many shoot ‘um Ups. Because of their repetitive nature, I haven’t found many games in that genre that really piqued my interest. But My Friend Pedro feels less like a shooter and more like an adventure that gets your blood pumping. My Friend Pedro is, in my opinion, a fever dream of a game, but that’s what makes it amusing to play through. The craziness of the levels, the innovative ways to dominate your opponents, the comedic skills of your floating banana friend: these are the things that make My Friend Pedro a fever dream. A bloody, bullet filled, stylish frenzy of a fever dream. It’s for those wonderfully odd folks who enjoy a cup of absolute madness poured into a single experience.
Freshman intern Ronald Gordon is creating the City Tech College chapter of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.