My Friend Pedro Review
It was the banana. It told me to do it. “Go on,” the banana whispered. “Kick that chunk of torso into the man’s face so hard he dies.” This game is bananas. Literally.
Now we’ve got that terrible pun out of the way. My Friend Pedro charts one character’s bullet-riddled journey down into the depths of violent madness, all accompanied by best buddy Pedro: a floating, talking banana. While I’m the sort of person who’s pretty much sold on that concept alone, if you’re a fan of the fast and frenetic action of Hotline Miami, the graceful slo-mo violence of Max Payne, and the sheer bad-assery of John Wick, oh boy. This is the game for you.
Let me put it another way: I was pretty much sold by the first few levels alone, but once I reached the skatepark of death – yes, there is a skateboarding level – I’m in. I’m all in.
The core gameplay loop focuses on a ballet of death. Your character is able to jump, roll, spin and kick their way through each level, all of which are festooned with a variety of evil goons to shoot to death. This is where the strong Hotline vibe comes through, with fast-paced and brutal gunplay.
The first twist (of many) is the addition of a slo-mo function called focus. At the press of a key, time slows to a glacial crawl which is extended every time you kill an enemy. Bullets whizz past your head, raindrops are suspended in the air, and debris from gunshots sprays across the levels. Through clever use of controls, if you hold two weapons you can split your aim with the right mouse button, enabling you to take out two enemies at a time. It’s the sort of game full of things that would have John Woo rubbing his trouser legs faster than Bear Grylls rubbing two sticks together to try and start a fire.
However, just because slo-mo lets you become an unstoppable killing machine, the game is full of clever little balancing mechanisms to stop you abusing anything too much. For example, during slo-mo if you take even the tiniest hit from an enemy the screen blurs almost to the point of obscuring the action. At first I thought this was a bit excessive, but the more I played the more I realised how much attention to detail has been put into the gameplay. Another example is the balletic spinning dodge: no, you can’t get hit by enemy bullets while dodging, but you also can’t shoot your gun with any degree of accuracy. You can hold down the trigger and spray out bullets like a deadly lawn sprinkler, but you can’t guarantee doing any actual damage, unless you’re standing right next to a bad guy.
And here’s the thing. This is one of the first games in ages where the pre-release review copy is the whole game. No betas. No press versions. I’m playing the full game, as intended by the developer, well before release. This makes sense when you look at the dev: Dead Toast Studios. It’s the product of one guy – Victor Agren – and until the end credits I could have sworn multiple people worked on Pedro. Nope, just one dude. And it shows. The vision was clear, and it has been clearly delivered. There’s a level of polish throughout which is so pleasant, even just the small things like ascending / descending sounds as you scroll through menus. It all adds up to a quality gaming experience.
Another great aspect is the soundtrack. It. Is. Banging. I usually find myself opening up the settings to knock down the music a notch, but the music in Pedro is absolutely chonking. It’s got that John Wick nightclub vibe; a pulsing, beat-driven square wave of adrenaline right to the crotch. It syncs with the action perfectly, and only enhances the cacophony of guns as you shoot your way through each level.
That said, this game definitely has its quieter moments. In between each frantic gun battle, there are generally a few simple puzzles to solve before you can progress any further. These become increasingly complex as you move through the levels, but it’s nothing too straining. More of a gentle sorbet to cleanse the palate before jumping back into the main action. I think this was brilliantly implemented and gives the game a distinct rhythm of fight, rest, fight, rest… It keeps everything engaging, and the quiet moments only serve to heighten the action when you dive through a window, Uzis blazing.
There’s a wry sense of humour running throughout and the dialogue made me laugh (like literally lol out loud lol) on multiple occasions. My favourite moment was diving through a window in slow motion while a speech bubble appeared over a henchmen’s head saying “I regret all of my life choices up to this moment!” Wonderful.
Of course there’s one question more important than any other: who the fuck is Pedro? The eponymous banana is a constant companion throughout the game, and without wanting to spoil anything you do eventually learn a bit more about the floating fruit / berry. Needless to say, it’s suitably insane. I wouldn’t even dream of spoiling it for you. Just… Just play it.
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