My Friend Pedro Review: A Brief Bullet Ballet

Ever had times you were looking for something to eat and kept coming across fancy restaurants, but all you really wanted was some junk food? While you can choose to watch the Lord of the Rings saga or the MCU, you don’t really have a lot of time and an episode of One Punch Man fits the bill. Well, I actually that a lot when playing games. My Friend Pedro is the kind of game that’s cool with being called junk food and can be pretty fun despite it’s flaws.

Deadtoast and Devolver have worked together to bring us this unapologetic twin stick shooter where everyone is out to kill you, and you’re out to do the same to them, but in style.

I’d give you more context but explaining further seems difficult without going into headcanon territory. You wake up in a basement, you can do wall springs and back flips, you’re good with guns, and a banana talks to you. The rest is the game itself.

Production (3 / 5)

Pedro isn’t really all that impressive when it comes to the visuals department. To their credit, the minimalist approach to the UI makes it easier to focus solely on the action on the screen. This makes plenty of sense to me, considering one false move can cost you your entire life bar instantly. Enemies, bullets and you stand out well enough from the rest of the stage that following the action is pretty easy, so long as time is flowing slowly enough.

One particularly impressive thing they’ve done is making the game able to slow down and speed up seamlessly without having to resort to any special effects or animations. It really helps you
appreciate the small details like bullet spray, ricochet, or that little dance to make while dodging bullets where you turn into a bullet sprinkler.

Though I think My Friend Pedro may be too conservative on the visuals, explosions and melee hits feel like they lack weight, wooden boards and crates in particular blend in too well especially when they’re used as obstacles to small passages. It lost an opportunity to add more personality or humor by completely leaving out voice overs, and while the music is fine, it’s nowhere near enough to make up for that.

Mechanics (4.2 / 5)

This game mainly operates as two things at the same time: A twin stick shooter and a platformer. It’s not all that surprising a combination, but they’ve executed it in a fairly satisfying manner. Being able to aim one way while running in the other direction is a luxury I never thought I wanted in this kind of game because of how I’ve gotten used to Metal Slug. While maneuvering around the ground is easy enough, things go kind of bananas once you’re in the air. Jumping seems to be a straightforward enough concept, but it’s possible to make short and long jumps, the tight control you get on the ground is reduced a difficult to steer bean-bag soon as you leave the ground. Jumping off walls isn’t exactly rocket science but there’s been several times this has proven to be difficult when you’re in the middle of a gun-fight. Ending up making your jump short can be a real buzz-killer too.

You naturally increase your firepower as you progress through the game. From dual wielding handguns to uzis to a shotgun and even a few rifles. While all of them perform differently enough to make sense, the gun play doesn’t feel quite there. Everything reloads at the same speed, and you rarely really run out of ammo for your limited stock weapons, so there’s no real gun tactics to employ. There are a few times where you’re better off using a shotgun more than anything, but all that kinda goes out the window once you have access to the sniper rifle, which you can shoot and reload rapidly like it’s a handgun.

All these seem to have been made easier so that you can simply focus on the end result for each stage, which is your score. The score also dictates your rating at the end of the stage. At first I didn’t pay it mind and I just wanted to get through the stage, then it gave me a B grade, and I couldn’t let that pass. I repeated stages until I figured out how to keep the combo multiplier going for the entire stage. This is when the game really started opening up to me, making me look for exploits to keep the score up or interact with the stage in ways that helps me get through the stage faster or with a better score. Suddenly dodging and shooting at the right time mattered, kicking a ball into another guy’s face seemed to be more efficient from time to time. You don’t want to snipe them from too far or you’ll end up breaking your combo. It felt like I was playing 5 minutes worth of Devil May Cry action at a time.

Content (3.8 / 5)

By checking the level select menu, there’s roughly 40 stages to play through, though some of them pretty much serve as tutorials for the next big thing to learn. Still, this would be the meat of the game. The mechanics are pretty straightforward, really, so being able to apply it in all sorts of situations is what will make it fun, the developers have done exactly this. Swinging off a cable upside-down while shooting with a gun each hand? Yeah that sounds fun. Using a frying pan to ricochet bullets into enemies at an impossible angle? Yes, I like that. Kicking a skateboard into a baddie’s face and landing a perfect landing right after crashing through a window? Never get tired of it.

Most of the stages are clearable under 5 minutes, making them perfect for playing on-the-go. Makes this quick and easy format makes one critical side suffer, which would be the boss encounters. While the first two bosses have their own gimmicks going on, mastering them is easy and tend to get old, fast. Not exactly stages you’ll want to play over and over again. Instead of having a stage designed around them, it’s usually you being locked in a room with them and you have to figure out how to kill them one way or the other. It would have been nice to maybe have goons coming in every now and then to have a chance to combo your moves. Or maybe have the boss battle playout through an entire stage.

One of the biggest mistakes for me would be the stage where you’re tasked to sneak around security measures and not get detected. The awful way that crates are tougher obstacles than they should be, how the Switch makes finer movement difficult, not having good control over jumping options. ‘It was a straight up not having fun’ stage for me. However, that’s just one stage in 40, not everything is great, but it’s rather easy to get through them.

Features (3 / 5)

It has a leaderboard. That’s kind of about it for extra things. I really wish it was more than that. An additional game mode would have been fun. Something like an endless battle with mobs would probably have been really cool. Or a constantly procedurally generated corridor or tower, just so that you can take the game as far as you can. Unfortunately nothing like that appears to be coming.

The game has three difficulty settings available, which also serve as a multiplier for your score. There’s also a way to completely remap your actions, which is plenty helpful. Finally there’s an aim-assist function that you can tweak to your preference. While it makes headshots nearly impossible, it’s really handy to help with the annoying directional control of the Switch.

Since it’s obviously thin on the features side, allow me to use this corner to complain a bit on it’s performance on Switch. It’s really a minor issue but the game My Friend Pedro seems to be able to quickly reload a save-state in case you die but has to completely reload level if you want to restart the stage instead of taking the death. The additional 10 seconds of waiting breaks the immersion and helps build the frustration on harder or trickier levels.

Conclusion

All-in-all, I generally enjoyed my time with My Friend Pedro, it felt like every few seconds was another Hollywood action scene waiting for me to play the part of John Wick. Sure, there were some problems with controls for the Switch but it was generally serviceable at the very least. If out of 40 stages there was one point that got me frustrated over the controls, I’d say they generally succeeded in producing good enough controls. The bosses aren’t really that fun but the rest of the game pretty much is. It’s like reverse Soulslike.

If anything, I really would have wanted a mode that made the game feel more spontaneous, keep you on edge and give you a constant arcade-like gaming experience that this title seems to capitalize on. While the mechanics are sound, it doesn’t really get to a lot of depth, and probably had some missed opportunities along the way.

I’d pick up this game again once in a while, as mastering the stages really wanes down the replayability. It’s a refreshing action shooter, but doesn’t stay fresh for very long. It might have shone much better had it a mode or two that kept things fresh. I want to like it more for it’s daring attitude and fun premise, but there’s just not enough ammo. In other words, it’s probably good if it has a bit more of a discount.

My Friend Pedro is an okay guy with a barely passing grade of 3.5 / 5.

Available on PC and Switch.

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