Devolver Digital has a “type” of games that are usually guns-blazing affairs with thumping retro music and plenty of mass murder. Despite branching out in recent years, the publisher doesn’t stray too far from what brought it to the dance. This is where MY FRIEND PEDRO comes in. It sticks close to the Devolver formula, so much that this game could have been a Hotline Miami spin-off in another far more corporate universe. Instead, it’s a stylish but by the numbers action game that will find its niche with speedrunners and perfectionists and those willing to overlook its various flaws.
My Friend Pedro Review | Wrong number
You’ve probably heard this one before. A masked man wakes up with amnesia with a voice in his head that tells him to go on a murder spree. Along the way, he discovers skills in both dodging and firing bullets, making him the perfect assassin to execute some grand design. Outside of the mysterious voice taking the form of a floating banana, My Friend Pedro‘s storytelling is right out of the action movie aisle at a Blockbuster circa 1992.
A knowing game would have fun with that and subvert expectations, but My Friend Pedro doesn’t seem interested in surprising you. It delivers exactly what you expect: a SNES-era action experience transported into the far-flung future of 2019.
So, if you’re someone who can appreciate that era of side-scrolling, My Friend Pedro has a lot to offer. The shooting is deadly precise, featuring a varied arsenal of firearms and tools to take advantage of over the course of the four-hour campaign. Of course, that’s only scratching the surface of the game’s potential, as My Friend Pedro seems more geared toward those who want to chase high scores. It achieves this by going out of its way to push you towards high score perfection with its different score rankings and how it penalizes you for not playing on a harder difficulty and not killing everyone.
There are three difficulty modes that crank things from manageable but tricky to downright unfair due to fast, accurate enemies. Anyone who wants a challenge on their way to high scores and full completion will likely embrace and look over certain aspects of My Friend Pedro more than others, granted they are willing to grind through the frustration on the higher settings. Playing on normal is where the game’s shooting shines the brightest and is recommended and if you can withstand the aforementioned penalties.
My Friend Pedro Review | Bloody days
If you just want to enjoy the ride, My Friend Pedro offers a few neat concepts but not as many you might anticipate. A lot of the levels are drab factories or hallways, which seems to clash with the over the top action and the whole floating talking banana thing. When My Friend Pedro chooses to lean into its wackier side, it produces its best moments by far like ricocheting bullets off of frying pans and hanging from meat hooks upside down with dual Uzis.
These are the moments you’ll remember and the moments the game is selling itself on. It’s just that they’re not the focus for the vast majority of the campaign. There’s a streak of surrealism just under the surface, but players only get tantalizing glimpses at what could have been.
Most of the time, you’ll be dealing with various navigational puzzles involving switches, levers, and other basic tools of the trade. It’s nice how you can interact with these by shooting at them, but it doesn’t change the fact that they overtake the entire experience by the final levels. Perhaps because most enemies take only a few shots to die, My Friend Pedro shifts over to straight platforming more often than not. The triangle jumping and rolling around is fun, but the controls are much more finicky than the shooting. As more and more puzzles popped up, it’s hard to stay interested.
Even if the more puzzle-ridden sections drag a bit, you never lose focus on what to do. Most new areas have a central gimmick that expands in scope in the same manner as a typical Mario level. These mechanics come together later on, but not as often as you might like. It’s less a matter of escalating complexity and more a few scattered ideas that pop up every so often.
For example, one level has force fields that deflect your bullets. To get rid of the shields, you’ll need to destroy the power source, which is usually on a nearby wall. In a couple of rooms, the shields combine with floating mines that track you as they see you, which is a callback to a few levels prior. Other than that, the complexity comes in the level design and platforming rather than building on past mechanics. It works, but it’s not ideal.
My Friend Pedro Review | Mind control delete
The fundamentals are equally not ideal and don’t feel all that polished. As you’d expect from a Devolver/Hotline Miami-adjacent experience, bullets are highly lethal. In that case, you want a checkpoint system that gets you back into the action quickly and reliably. While that’s mostly the case in My Friend Pedro, it’s not especially reliable. The game will occasionally checkpoint you in midair to your death or during the middle of a puzzle you can’t solve. You can only restart, which can be frustrating even with these bite-sized stages
The controls can also be a sticking point, especially if you’re playing on the Nintendo Switch. On a standard gamepad, shooting feels fine if you’re just running and gunning. If you want to get fancy, you may be twisting your fingers into a pretzel just to pull off a sick jump. While My Friend Pedro does feature full button remapping, there are just one too many mechanics to apply on an Xbox controller.
The problem grows when you’re on the go with Nintendo’s handheld, which stretches your hands further apart. Beyond the obvious graphical downgrade, it just feels like you don’t get the precision you want from the Switch. And if nothing else, My Friend Pedro is all about precision.
My Friend Pedro Review | The line
Other than those small hiccups, the real missed opportunity comes in the boss fights. A high-speed motorcycle chase is a highlight, and it’s also the first one you encounter. Most of the rest boils down to jamming on dodge and shooting like a madman. This lasts all the way to My Friend Pedro‘s final moments, which are completely forgettable. Like most of its other problems, they’re fine for what they are, but they are also unfortunately pretty standard.
You expect more from the Devolver name, especially considering the wacky concept and the mechanical possibilities you imagine when you watch the game’s trailer. Viewing that same trailer again now reveals that all the best stuff was right there in the front all along. The team wasn’t holding anything back, and that’s a shame.
So, much like the laid back quips of our banana buddy, it’s too easy to leave My Friend Pedro without many strong feelings. This game will certainly find a well-deserved place of love among the hardest of the hardcore. In fact, it’ll be great to witness a speedrun or two after the final release. However, for the general player, My Friend Pedro finds solidarity with a forgettable summer blockbuster. There are a few great moments here and there, and you’ll certainly have fun while you play. However, you’ve probably seen everything this game has to offer just by watching a few of its trailers.
GameRevolution reviewed My Friend Pedro on PC via Steam and Nintendo Switch with codes provided by the publisher.