Thursday, June 20

Review: My Friend Pedro [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One of the interesting things about the power of Nintendo Directs, and their limitations, is that they’re able to get you excited about games that are coming down the pike but with a very limited taste of only perhaps a few moments of footage you actually know very little about them. Granted, things that look spectacular often have a tendency to back that up with solid gameplay but not always, and when you throw in issues like length, diversity, and controls things get more complicated. My Friend Pedro has been an interesting journey for me within this context, sucking me in initially with what looks like bonkers gameplay, concerning me when only given a brief chance to demo it at PAX, but then ultimately delivering the goods as I got more time with it.


In terms of action the best comparison I can make to describe Pedro’s gameplay is as a side-scrolling Max Payne. When everything clicks and you’re in the zone the ballet of violence and gunplay is brilliant, with you jumping, spinning, shooting people in multiple directions, and rolling along on top of a barrel. Enemies aren’t particularly bright but if you don’t execute your end of the bargain their numbers will result in your getting pretty chewed up if you’re not on top of your game. While you’ll have unlimited pistol ammo you’ll want to conserve your more powerful weaponry for the right moments when possible because when things get more intense you’ll want everything on your side possible.


The welcome surprise is that though the action clearly takes center stage the diversity of what you’ll be doing as the game progresses keeps things fresh as well. Some puzzle-like elements show up at times, you’ll hit the roads on a motorcycle, and some new weapons and gear to work with don’t allow for repetition to set in easily. Granted, if you’re not playing for the gun violence first and foremost perhaps it won’t be enough to hook you but the effort to keep you consistently engaged is impossible to miss and appreciate.


Where the concern does creep in a bit is that while learning to walk gum and chew gum at the same time isn’t too tough, throwing another 2 or 3 skills into the mix on top of that to master doing all at once is quite a bit trickier. I won’t blame it on the controls necessarily, there are only so many buttons to work with on a controller and given everything you can pull off the layout does mostly make sense (though I’m never a great fan of using the analog stick as a button overall). Just be aware that while watching footage of the game in action is exciting that there’s an investment you’ll need to make up front to even begin to get there. Jumping, slowing time, dual aiming, spinning, they’re all things that are important to do but getting yourself trained to work them all in parallel takes some doing. The good thing is that you’ll be able to move through the game pretty well without mastering it all, just you won’t be doing it in nearly as much style until you get into that groove and tackle competing for high scores.


All in all My Friend Pedro handily delivers what it promises, and I’d even say exceeds expectations in terms of diversity over the handful of hours it takes to work through it. It would have still been a blast to play even with less variety, the care put into upping the stakes and providing even more insane situations over its runtime is therefore very much appreciated. Be aware that the struggle to succeed while looking cool can be very real, you’ll need to take things one step at a time and develop your repertoire for slow-motion violence before it all moves to another level of fun but the investment is well worth your while.

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Absolutely some of the craziest gunplay sequences you’ll ever play through
  • Mastery of the moves isn’t necessary to get through the game, keeping it fun and incentivizing you to return again for higher scores once you’ve got it all under control
  • The diversity of how things play out is higher than expected and appreciated

Cons:
  • If you’re not chomping at the bit for over-the-top crazy gun violence stay away
  • Initially you’re going to feel very lame as you try to get a handle on everything you need to control and some people may find that it never fully clicks for them