This review contains minor level spoilers for My Friend Pedro.
In My Friend Pedro, you are spurred into action after waking in an empty room to a floating, talking banana. This banana offers quips and quirky commentary on the world around you, while also acting as the tutorial and providing you with your next goal. You will spend your next few hours shooting, dancing, skateboarding, flipping, and jumping your way through various levels–occasionally utilizing slow-motion–taking out as many bad guys as you can as quickly (and as “awesomely”) as possible. You’ll fight your way through urban areas, sewers, and, occasionally, the subconscious of your floating talking banana.
This is the zany, wild world that developer Dead Toast brings with My Friend Pedro. It’s also the game’s biggest problem. The “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” nature quickly moves into the territory of tedious “random” humour, including–and this example requires some spoilers to clearly make my point–a level that entails riding on a walrus while an enormous banana fires handguns at you and spits spikey balls out of its mouth. Even writing that description was exhausting in its tedium. There is no natural progression to this reveal, and as a result it ends up being absurd for the sake of absurdity, charmless and uninteresting.
Everything in My Friend Pedro feels so measured and calculated, while trying to give the appearance of a playful anarchy, and this beings with the introduction of the cosplayers: enemies in knight’s armour who yell tired, stereotypical gaming phrases at you while you blast through them with an ever increasing arsenal of weapons. I’m sure the argument would be that “that’s the joke”, but Pedro doesn’t do enough to endear itself to you as the player and instead feels like it might be taking shots at whatever it sees to be easy targets. This gives an otherwise entertaining game a cynical feeling that stops just short of introducing the “SJW” enemy type–but it’s not hard to see those enemies on the cutting room floor.
Despite this, My Friend Pedro is fun. Running and gunning your way through 3D-rendered 2D environments is a blast, and each level ends by giving you a score and rank. This scoring system incentivizes you to go back and repeat yourself, over and over, in search of the ever elusive S-Rank.
Further, Pedro offers a variety of weapons that allow for a number of different play styles, although the lack of New Game+ means you aren’t able to take your full arsenal back to the beginning of the game and try things differently. There are plenty of environmental kills and different ways of interacting that you may miss on the first go around and instead file away for the next time you attempt the level. It’s this loop that makes Pedro a fun experience, if not an ultimately shallow one.
As fun as Pedro is, the gameplay itself can be frustratingly janky at times. The player character has what could best be described as a casual relationship with gravity, and a somewhat ragdoll-like looseness to their movements. This does give the game a more fluid feeling in the moments when it works, like jumping through the air in slow motion while spinning around and firing guns at two different enemies at the same time. But if your timing is wrong or you’re not confident in the controls you push when you push them, you can see the jankiness set in as you awkwardly flail around and miss your target. This isn’t even considering attempts to use the skateboard effectively or rolling on a barrel.
All in all, My Friend Pedro is a fun experience in the short term, and an ultimately shallow one in the long-term. The tedious random humour does hamper the overall effectiveness of the game, but the levels are fun, and it makes for a welcome distraction, if not one that might be better purchased during a sale rather than at full price.