BEE-AY-EN-AY-EN-AY-ESS: My Friend Pedro (Review)

I’m introduced to Pedro when he urges me to wake up amidst a haze of amnesia. My conditions are less than ideal. My mind is foggy, I’m surrounded by butchered meat strung up on hooks, and I’m locked in a basement. On the bright side, the flying banana doling out free tips is on my side.

My Friend Pedro starts as surreal as it means to go on, and wastes no time getting to the point. After a very brief introduction to your potassium-rich partner, you’re off blasting baddies in Matrix slow-mo without a second to spare. This take on side-scrolling gunplay has been Pedro’s unique selling point since its 2014 predecessor of the same name, a browser game much rougher around the edges.

It’s as satisfying as it looks – and it looks extremely f*cking satisfying.

After developer Dead Toast teased a sequel, it garnered attention and was picked up by Devolver in 2016, remaining firmly atop many ‘most anticipated’ lists since then. The draw of Pedro isn’t hard to explain: who doesn’t want to pull off super-slick Equilibrium-esque gun katas? Where other shooters tend towards fairly static mechanics, Pedro is all about the dynamism and flow of lethal acrobatics. It’s as satisfying as it looks – and it looks extremely fucking satisfying.

It really is an incredible atmosphere, helped out by pounding electronic music that takes a page from Hotline Miami’s approach to orchestrating violence with synth. Playing like a fusion of Mirror’s Edge and Max Payne (the latter being one of the developer’s primary inspirations), you somersault and wall-jump and roll and spin with incredible fluidity, helped by a very easy-to-master control scheme: most of the action such as shooting, dodging and splitting aim is on the shoulders, and a quick click of the control stick activates ‘Focus’, slowing down time.

This is where Pedro really shows off what it’s got, and perhaps for that reason the game is generous with the resource you spend to do it. It really is something else entirely to glide down a zipline by your legs, arms spread wide to spray into a crowd of betracksuited criminals gathered below. Slow motion is never forced on you, but it can be helpful to line up particularly satisfying feats.

One of my favourite moments came when I was locked in a room that quickly filled with heavily-armed and armoured soldiers; I spun with submachine guns akimbo, weaving between their bullets and springing off them into elegant backflips. There were twenty one enemies that filtered and rappelled in – which I know only because twenty one was the number on my combo meter by the end, and twenty-one the number of bodies heaped up on either side of the room.

Leave the cover-hogging to your enemies while you flip overhead and chuck a skateboard at their face with your feet. It’s what Pedro would want.

You come to learn how to read the flow of the expertly-designed levels, seeing the prompts and setups waiting for you to take advantage of them should you so choose. It goes without saying that you can shoot your way through this like any other run-and-gun sidescroller, but it’s vastly more rewarding if you lean into the environments and make them your own. Leave the cover-hogging to your enemies while you flip overhead and chuck a skateboard at their face with your feet. It’s what Pedro would want.

After every level, your floating yellow friend will review your score, calculated through speed, versatility of kills, and the length of your combos (plus some bonuses for not dying, or playing on hard mode). My run was mostly C’s and B’s, with one or two A’s – the scores leave a lot of room for you to repeat the levels and go for gold if arcade gaming is your style.

That’s about all the replay value you’ll find in Pedro, though, for the time being. You can blaze through the chapters pretty quickly, and there’s nothing like a wave survival mode or similar for after the credits are done with. Playing again on hard mode or trying to top your scores is as good as it gets – that is, unless DLC is on the horizon (which I certainly hope it is – that crossbow from one of the old demos looked very interesting indeed…)

Pedro won’t keep you warm through the winter like some 50-hour RPGs you might care to name, but you can be damn sure it’ll entertain you while it lasts. Dead Toast deliver thoroughly on everything the subtitle promises, and more besides: blood, bullets, bananas, and fist-pounding gameplay refined to a morbid art form. The Devolver seal of quality is well-earned on this one, and fans of Hotline Miami and Katana Zero looking to slake their perennial bloodlust will be left more than satisfied by this. But that said, I could recommend it to anyone – that is, except the faint of heart, and the banana-intolerant.

This copy of the Switch version was provided for review by Indigo Pearl. 

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