Feature

My Friend Pedro is More Clever Than it Looks

There’s something becoming ever so repellent about the edgy, irreverent aesthetic in the crop of indie games of the past few years. We get it. Your game, that features some lone wolf, tough-as-nails, probably silent type is violent for violence’s sake. Oh yes, I guess I do appreciate yet another lo-fi, neon dystopia. Of course I’ve seen Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. I picked up on the references, thanks.

It was hard to hold my cynicism back at first glance of My Friend Pedro. Deadtoast Entertainment’s shoot-em up has a lot of the familiar surface gimmickry common of Devolver Digital’s most popular works. Gritty death-dealers plastered with ironic pomp and circumstance. They’re like a pop song with a catchy hook and dark lyrics. You want to think you already understand everything this game is trying to do in it’s opening minutes.

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If you take the early moments at face value – with it’s constant winking and nodding at how kooky and original it’s trying to be – and decide to skip it, I don’t think I’d blame you. The floating banana, the titular friend Pedro, is funny-ish, but the gag is over long before any real story shows up to justify it. Running through a butcher shop to shoot up bad guys is one of those scenarios that you think is unique until you consider every other game that has players doing some version of it.

But those who stick with it may find their patience rewarded in ways they might not have expected. The much advertised slow motion mechanic – allowing you to do airborne stunts for extra points while giving you space to plan your next moves – works like a charm most of the time. It can be very tricky to get yourself moving with enough momentum to fully hit flips and twirls and also aim straight. Add counting ammo, and switching between different weapon types, and the top line methods of killing are plenty to manage.

All of those things are good, and when you feel like you can command these things at will, you’ll feel as stylish as all the trailers suggest. But when the game’s levels reach out and force you to think further outside the box, it all came together for me.

Wandering through a bar/kitchen stage, I happened across a skillet, one of many of the props you might find in your travels that can be kicked at foes to take them down. After bouncing one off of an unsuspecting thug a floor above me, I began firing blindly upwards to hopefully clip the panned thug’s friends. To my complete surprise and delight, my bullets began to ricochet off of the pan and scatter across the hall above, killing the rest of the enemies up there.

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My Friend Pedro is a slaughter puzzle in ways that Hotline Miami and Heat Signature aren’t. Specifically, while the latter games make a sort of logic cipher out of killing enemies, some Pedro encounters can feel like the shrines in Breath of the Wild. Every once in awhile, there calls for a string of actions that require you to shoot or jump in odd ways in order to open a door or move a platform. They don’t get as challenging as Zelda puzzles, but don’t necessarily overstay their welcome, either.

By the time the game ends and the exposition it neglects to present to you through your 2-3 hour play through is dumped on you all at once, the spell might be broken. I don’t think I’ll return to try to up some of the scores I’m less proud off. But I don’t regret the time I spent watching Deadtoast make some very noteworthy gains in this action subgenre mechanically, even if they didn’t narratively. Pedro might not end up being your best friend, but he’s a good one to have.

Review code for this feature was provided by the publisher.