Gaming has and always should be a decent form of entertainment and escapism. The ability to do things we cannot normally do and not suffer the consequences of failure provides elation and excitement to many. When a game comes along that lets you spin flip over someone while shooting them with two Uzis before landing on a skateboard and kick-flipping it into another enemy, you know you’ve hit peak escapism.
In My Friend Pedro, this is only the beginning.
My Friend Pedro sees you wake up in an alley having lost your memory, only to be greeted by a floating banana calling himself Pedro. We’re off to a good start, right? Pedro then guides you through various levels as you rain down bullets on enemies for reasons unknown, goading you into killing more and more people and giving you a few helpful tips. Pedro is your happy friend. Pedro is love.
Imagine if you mixed the gun play of Max Payne and the score/combo system of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and then amped it up to eleven. You can quite easily perform a string of death from start to finish, wracking up a giant score and feeling bloody good about it. The left stick controls your movement on a 2D plane, while the right controls your aim. Shooting is a simple pull of the right trigger, while holding the left lets you lock onto one target while still aiming with the right stick. This is all well and good, but the real MVP is clicking the left stick to slow time. Now things get really interesting.
If you’ve seen John Wick before, you’ll see Keanu killing about ten villains in mere seconds without breaking a sweat and with insane precision. My Friend Pedro gives you a pretty good idea of what it’s like to be Mr Wick, with time slowing down to a crawl, giving you ample time to shoot everyone in the room. Even better, whenever you kill an enemy, the slow time bar replenishes, enabling you to pull off even more crazy stunts.
This ties very nicely into the combo system as at the end of each level, you are given a rating by Pedro, ranging from the not so great ‘C for Coconut’ to ‘S for Silky Smooth’ if you manage to get really big combos. When you kill an enemy, a timer on the bottom of the screen counts down until you get your next kill so if you are going for full level combos, learning to time and space out your kills is key.
Pedro, your floating banana friend, wants you to have fun while you murder. Combo-ing your way from start to finish is great, but where would we be without cool things to do during levels? There are six zones in total, each one introducing different mechanics and puzzles to keep things fresh. Old Town is the first and simplest of the bunch, getting you used to the game and finishing off with an excellent bike chase. Later, in Pedro’s World, you are given a new item that essentially turns you into a human helicopter. It’s crazy and marvellous, but not as mind-bending as having to try to solve puzzles in later levels, while not dying and also trying to get a huge combo.
You’ll find yourself getting naturally inventive and that’s the beauty of My Friend Pedro. There’s enough scenery, obstacles and items strewn about to make each run different, and it’s this that makes this one of the most GIF-able games out there. I mean, where else can you shoot a frying pan into the air, only to ricochet bullets off it into the room above to kill five guys? The only other game that came close in style was Total Overdose in 2005. I’m happy to report that this does a better job.
There’s a decent amount of weapons on offer as well, with new guns unlocking in most zones. Duel wielding Uzis is clearly a lot of fun, but have you ever tried back-flipping with a sniper rifle and blowing some fools head off before kicking an exploding can at another dude? I’m probably sharing too many anecdotes, but this game provided so many moments where I jumped out of my seat shouting ‘YES!’ that it’s hard not to mention them. The soundtrack is pretty pumping too, giving you some slick beats as you run the pretty simple but good looking 2D landscape.
You could argue that the game’s a little short, with forty levels that each last just a few minutes, but it feels like the perfect amount to me, given the score and combo system. As my confidence grew so did my style and the approach I took to gun fights, and returning to those early levels showed how far I’d come, as my initial score of 150K had almost doubled, and that was just down to how cleanly I executed my kills. If you are the kind of player who will only run through the game once and never touch it again, then I guess an argument could be made about brevity, but replaying levels and chasing higher scores for the online leaderboards is very rewarding.