Violence is a cycle that we are bound to repeat. It's a grim message for a video game that revels in displays of blood and gore, but My Friend Pedro doesn't seem to care about that conflict of tone. The game's over-the-top meta-commentary is a big "screw you" to not just fans of violent video games, but 'gamers' in general. Its story is banal and cliche; the developers at DeadToast know this doesn't matter. You'll keep playing because its fun.
My Friend Pedro is a shoot 'em up platformer that takes each element of gameplay to the nth level. The shooting is gratuitous and constant; there's no end to the amount of bullets being sprayed on screen. Though you start with just a pistol, the player quickly attains an arsenal of advanced weaponry that shred most enemies in a second. Platforming is focused on wall-jumping, rolling, and acrobatic movement, often incorporating a bullet-time mechanic. Think Max Payne meets John Wick with a splash of (as one former writer so aptly put it) Deadpool.
The game starts with the player character, a masked assassin, captured in the basement of Mike the Butcher. He has no memories of how he got there, or even his identity. All he knows is that he needs to escape, and maybe kill Mike in the process. Players are led through an early tutorial level under the tutelage of a floating, talking banana named Pedro. It's a ludicrous concept, but one you'll hardly think about as you pull off insanely deadly aerial gunplay. The revenge-fueled story is short (the campaign only runs about couple hours) but it only serves as a backdrop to the violence on your screen. Do you really need motivation to go pew-pew on waves of baddies? My Friend Pedro would argue you never have.
Aside from featuring a practical armada of guns, My Friend Pedro ups the silliness factor with more creative ways to kill your enemies. There are pans that can be kicked into the air and used to bounce bullets off of, taking out those gun-toting guys out of your line of sight. There's skateboards that you can hop on, only to kickflip it at the next unsuspecting drone. And you'll need to use these ridiculous tools to your advantage as the difficulty spikes. The game quickly adds turrets, motion sensors, and lasers, that have to be avoided as you roll through vents and dodge over moving walls. It can get tricky, but as you flip through the air in slow motion and take out 5 to 6 enemies before you land, you can't help but grin.
When a level ends (typically each around the 5 minute mark), the player can finally take a breather and contemplate better strategies for the next fight. You are a rewarded with a grade after each, based on time completed, number of deaths, and of course style points. The grades range from C to S, but they aren't your typical beat 'em up "rankings." Here "C" stands for "Come On," and "B" might stand for Bananas. There are number of tongue-and-cheek variants that make fun of the grading aspect of games while still encouraging replayability.
That's the core concept of Pedro's approach. They can have their cake and eat it too. There's a sewer level populated with little gamers (that have retreated there because of the apocalyptic future) while the game makes fun of sewer levels. It's not unlike Hotline Miami's commentary on violence. Mocking the player's desensitization, while keeping you hooked on the actual addicting gameplay.
But it goes slightly deeper. Without spoiling game reveals, My Friend Pedro attempts to battle the very concept of the self. That sounds heavier than where the game actually goes; perhaps the writers were too afraid to tackle any mental issues past "the mind is a trippy place." There are levels inside Pedro's "place" filled with bad thoughts that must be taken out. It all culminates in a fight against your motivation. What was the point is everything you did, all the people you killed? Your actions were futile, but they were also... fun.
My Friend Pedro is a quick burst of adrenaline with non-stop action and the perfect level of difficultly (at it's "Hard" setting). Each level presents challenges that can be played again and again to go from a C to an S grade. There's a high chance that the game will be embraced by the speedrunning community; it requires a technical precision and game knowledge. So even when the game hates you for loving it, the player comes back. We just can't stop the violence.
My Friend Pedro is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC for $19.99. Screen Rant was provided with a digital Switch copy for the purposes of this review.