I pretty much knew I had fallen truly and madly in love with developer DeadToast Entertainment and publisher Devolver Digital’s over-the-top action-soaked side-scroller My Friend Pedro when I accidentally mowed down three enemies by ricocheting a flurry of bullet off a frying pan I’d knocked into the air. The moment made me pause, ever-so-briefly, to take in the majesty of the game’s bevy of blood-caked carnage. As a teenager who cut his teeth on bootleg versions of Hong Kong action flicks like John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, many of which lacked both an English dub and subtitles, I often dreamed of controlling that type of frenetic action within the confines of a video game. Both Max Payne and Stranglehold almost scratched that itch, and Sleeping Dogs came even closer to providing that type of dizzying adrenaline rush. However, My Friend Pedro nails the execution and sticks the landing, and I hate that I have to spend time writing this review instead of actually playing it.
Before someone lights a torch and begins calling for my head, I am by no means saying that the aforementioned games don’t satisfy. In fact, I love all three, but in terms of delivering the type of white-knuckled action late-80s/early-90s Hong Kong cinema effortlessly provided, My Friend Pedro comes as close as any video game I’ve ever played to making me feel as though I’m in an HK action movie. Gliding through the air in slow motion as I take aim at two enemies with a pair of Uzis feels absurdly joyous, and when you take down two enemies while dual-wielding a pair of handguns while leaping across a chasm, well, that sense of awe and amazement increases tenfold.
My Friend Pedro sets up things quickly so you can dive right into the carnage without too much needless exposition. In a nutshell, you play a dude in a gimp mask who befriends a talking banana that’s hellbent on taking down a sinister criminal organization. Although you start by cutting down retired gangsters, you’ll soon work your way up to rage-infested video game addicts and the guardians of the internet itself. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, though the game doesn’t spend a lot of time delving into the hows and whys. Instead, you begin each level with a little commentary from your banana-shaped companion before you start dispatching whatever bad guys the stage has on deck. You’ll cut your teeth on former gangsters who aren’t as quick on the trigger, which helps you develop the skills you’ll need in the game’s later levels.
And you’ll definitely need to develop those skills if you want to survive. My Friend Pedro gives you everything you need for success — including the ability to dodge bullets, slow time, easily switch between weapons, dangle from the ceiling on ropes and cords, and karate kick your opponents into the inky darkness of seemingly bottomless pits. I admittedly fumbled my way through the first few stages like someone whose thumbs and fingers found the process of working in tandem completely alien and entirely foreign. However, with a little practice — which involved replaying some of the earlier levels until I got the hang of the game’s finer mechanics — I was soon blasting my way through tunnels, factories, and the futuristic halls of the internet with remarkable style. Sure, I’d occasionally tumble stupidly into a pit or run out of bullets while spin-shooting my way through four or five heavily armed grunts, but those mistakes were my own. My Friend Pedro never cheats or sets you up for failure; if you die, it’s because of something you did incorrectly and nothing more.
So, don’t get heart-crushingly discouraged if you complete My Friend Pedro in a handful of hours, as it’s not necessarily a very long game, narratively speaking. In fact, if you rush through the story, you could probably complete this in around eight hours — maybe less. However, chances are you won’t come close to achieving a very high score during your first playthrough. After completing the story and looking back at my scores, I only achieved three “B” ratings — and one “B” rating arrived courtesy of the game’s relatively easy motorcycle escape sequence. If you want to walk away with a true sense of accomplishment, you’ll need to get stylish while maintaining short completion times, all without dying. In other words, you’ll need to spend a considerable amount of time with My Friend Pedro before you become the video game equivalent of Chow-Yun Fat characters from a legendary Hong Kong action movie. The game almost demands a certain level of dedication and study to achieve a perfect run. Replayability is very high, and I have no desire to put this thing down anytime soon.
You’re probably wondering, “My Friend Pedro sound beyond perfect! Does this game have any shortcomings whatsoever?” Truthfully, I can’t think of a single thing to complain about without actively looking for minor gripes and the smallest of nits to pick from the game. Even undocked on the Switch, the game plays as smooth as high-grade Trader Joe’s butter, and it controls like a little slice of heaven dropped directly into your willing hands. But if you want me to find a complaint, I’ll say this: The levels, while wonderfully designed, tend to run together after the first few hours. Could My Friend Pedro have benefited from a bit more variety in the assets department? Probably. However, when you’re diving over a wooden crate armed with a shotgun and removing a poor thug’s head with a well-timed blast to the cranium, the familiarity of the surroundings tend to fade away. I’m not excusing the lack of variety, mind you, but I’d rather the developers focus on tight, well-executed gameplay than trying to find ways to make the stages unique for the sake of being unique.
For my money, My Friend Pedro offers a nearly flawless experience, one that allowed this Gamer of a Certain Age (TM) to finally play out his Jacky Cheung/Tony Leung/Chow-Yun Fat fantasy in a way that feels natural, thrilling, addictive, and effortless. And although you could say that I’ve “completed” the game, narratively speaking, I am by no means “finished” with it, as my current scores don’t necessarily reflect my complete and utter adoration for the experience as a whole. In fact, I can’t wait to retry all of those levels over and over again until I achieve a rank that doesn’t slightly embarrass me. There’s so much to love about My Friend Pedro that it’s often hard to find something to complain about, so I’ll just end this gushing little review on an extremely high note: Out of all the Nintendo Switch games I’ve played so far this year, I think I’ve found my favorite. I have plenty more banana-related adventures to pursue — and bullets to waste.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Devolver Digital.
My Friend Pedro will make you feel like the star of some deranged Hong Kong action flick, where you have total control of time, a never-ending supply of ammunition, and a banana by your side who wants to see you wreck everything in sight.