My Friend Pedro
My Friend Pedro is a game about finding a particular moment. Usually, you’re upside down and falling in slow motion, watching as the bullets from your pistol ricochet off the broad side of a frying pan and zoom toward a foe’s skull. In these instances, Pedro’s systems come together in bloody harmony, letting you conduct a goofy and violent symphony of bullets, dodges, and even the occasional punt of a decapitated head. However, the sheer amount of effort it takes to reach these moments of glory often makes the enterprise more trouble than it’s worth.
My Friend Pedro plays out as a 2.5D side-scroller. Your unnamed mask-wearing protagonist and his floating banana pal Pedro go from one end of the screen to the other, blasting bad guys for reasons that don’t make any sense. Fortunately, the vague story isn’t the focus; using tools for wreaking havoc is what My Friend Pedro is all about. Sometimes platforming sequences require you to use parkour jumps to get where you’re going, but they’re standard fare. Puzzles where you have to manipulate switches with bullets also exist, but the spotlight is on downing enemies in stylish ways with pistols, shotguns, uzis, and whatever else you can get your hands on.
While all of this sounds enticing, the shooting is dicey. The radial aiming system makes it difficult to target foes, even in slow motion. This gets even more complicated when you gain the ability to produce two aiming reticles; one of them auto-locks onto the nearest enemy, creating busy scenes that distract from the cool factor. Even something as simple as shooting a man below you and another one above you at the same time becomes a chore because of how many tasks you have to pull off in a short time. Slowly putting cursors over both foes and making sure you’re dodging their bullets before you fire sounds like a cool action mechanic, but often feels like busywork that drains these moments of their spectacle.
A goofy sense of humor pervades the violent onslaught, with a score system that applauds you in specific ways tailored to how you destroy foes. Whether you drop barrels on enemies, set them on fire, blow them up with a grenade, or take them out with a bullet after a sweet kickflip, you can expect the system to account for it with descriptors such as “Air-splat kill!” And the displays of violence that come together when you triumph over the complicated controls are fittingly spectacular. I once dropped down into a room, kicked a gasoline can, and shot it mid-flight to take out a group of foes with a fiery blast. Then I finished off the last guy with a spinning kick that sent him down into a black abyss below.
Just when I had a solid grasp on the controls and could pull off stellar moments of action, the final stretch morphed into a series of annoying insta-death puzzles and dull boss battles. I had a fair amount of fun blasting fools in My Friend Pedro, but I wish my experience was more about losing myself in the frenzy of its action and less about navigating a tiresome control scheme.
A frustrating control scheme confounds this bullet ballet's most spectacular moments.