PAX West, like most conventions, was divided up by publisher. Capcom, Sony, Microsoft, and more all have their big booths that showcase their breadth of titles. Devolver Digital’s booth was full of odd, disparate games as well but one reminded of Hotline Miami, one of the publisher’s most famous early games. My Friend Pedro doesn’t have much in common with that bloody game
Its bloodiness is a direct result given its Max Payne and Equilibrium influences. It’s an over-the-top, side-scrolling shooter where how you kill is as important as what you kill. You can wall jump, roll, spin around, fire your weapons in different directions, and more and can link each together to make shootouts more akin to a ballet recital but with only slightly more gruesome murder.
It looks a little awkward at first but it controls well. Flipping off walls and trying to hit multiple targets is appropriately difficult to pull of at first but I gradually got better at nailing shots and looking rad while doing it. There’s a bit of a mechanical learning curve of telling what your fingers should do and how they should quickly do it, but it was a good challenge that I wanted to overcome.
My Friend Pedro Preview: Banana Split and Flip
It was already satisfying to flip around like a dolt and miss my shots and crash into walls thanks to the slick controls and goofy, hyperviolent presentation. But if it’s already fun to be like Neo from the beginning of The Matrix, then it must only feel better once you kick ass like Neo at the end of The Matrix. The game even plays back your coolest moments at the end of the level, complete with a “Share to Twitter” button. That button is a way for Victor Ågren, the game’s sole creator, to enable you to always strive to be a badass until he realized people just did that anyway.
“I thought the player needed more incentive to try to play as cool as possible,” he said. “But it turns out that most people just want to play as cool as possible anyway. But it’s also a bit of a confirmation that once you played cool, it’s an opportunity for you to show it off to your friends.”
And that was mostly the design behind the game: to make the player do cool things, not watch. Ågren said that he “wanted to make a game where the player would feel like they’re doing the cool things rather than pressing a button having a cool animation happen,” which is why there are so many ways to kill in the game.
While the demo mainly served as a tutorial, each level introduced a new twist on killing. One showed me how to kick knives while another let me know how to spin and shoot bullets in a way reminiscent to the Rain Storm move from most of the Devil May Cry games. The core of dancing and shooting was always the bedrock of whatever new thing was being added and gave the impression that I’d be constantly learning more as I improved. Ågren stated that combining all these new variables to that foundation allowed him to keep the game fresh.
“I tried to make each level introduce something new in the environment and then keep adding the things that are going to be introduced together and making more and more interesting things,” he said. “It goes quite… bananas [laughs]. This whole game is one big dad joke.”
My Friend Pedro Preview: Get by With a Little Help From My Friends
Ågren laughed at his own pun because My Friend Pedro’s mascot is a banana with a plain face that is dipped in a small bit of blood. It encapsulates the game’s bizarre sense of humor where its seemingly lighthearted appearance clashes with its bloody gameplay. It’s a weird disconnect that works in the game’s favor since it’s silly enough to combine those tones well. The idea for Pedro, as the banana is referred to as, isn’t as deep of a story as you might imagine.
“When I was going to finish the flash game, I was living in Brazil and at that point, I had not had a name for the game,” admitted Ågren. “I was listening to my girlfriend talk about her friend Pedro. And I thought it would be funny if I named the game ‘My Friend Pedro.’ I was thinking of a name for so long and I just needed something. I just thought that worked.
He then had to come up with what Pedro would be, which also wasn’t as complex as you might think.
“And I then I thought ‘Well who is Pedro?’ So I did some sketches in a notebook and on the same page I drew a banana,” he said. “I thought it would be funny if Pedro was just the banana that appears and helps you from there. There’s no deeper meaning or anything. I just thought it would be funny.”
My Friend Pedro Preview: Far Away From Tearaway
It’s a sense of humor that’s completely divorced from his early days at developer Media Molecule where he worked on LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. My Friend Pedro started as a Flash game in 2006 but played second fiddle to those main games. Ågren left Media Molecule and finished the Flash version in 2014 after his departure from the studio but that isn’t where My Friend Pedro ended.
“I put it out there and people liked it and they wanted more,” he said. “It gave me confidence to make a bigger thing out of it.”
My Friend Pedro is definitely a bigger game than the passion project he started making 12 years ago. It plays well and has a distinct style, borrowing elements from other pieces of media and weaves those inspirations together in its own unique way. Games like this demo incredibly well since their gimmicks are shielded from the broader context of the game that could put a hamper on said gimmicks. And while I liked what I played, we won’t know if Pedro will be our temporary demo friend or actual Best Friend™ until the game releases on PC and Switch in March 2019.