gaming-edit-december-2019

My Friend Pedro: A fast Paced Game for Someone with No Time

Despite perpetual lockdowns, I’ve actually been kept quite busy. What with a part time job that I’ve been lucky enough to still have, despite everything, on top of zoom classes and Uni stuff, I’ve found myself shorter on time than one might expect. Gone are the days of rushing home to play games with friends for six hours straight. Now it’s all, ugh, “taking responsibility” and “studying” so that “I don’t become a hobo dreaming of the glory days playing at the online casino“, and blah blah blah.

So I haven’t really had time to be absorbed in any new games, and trying to get hooked into anything long term was out of the question when I only have a couple hours a week for such things. No, siree, there was no chance of getting properly into something like “Cyberpunk: 2077”- not that my potato of a machine could even run it.

However, in the past week, I actually did find a game that grabbed me- a game that lies right in the center of the ven diagram of being the kind of game I would like, being graphically inferior enough to run on my system, and being short and simple enough to jump into around my cramped schedule. That game was “My Friend Pedro”.

Gameplay

The simplest way to describe the core gameplay loop would be to say that the game’s objective is to run and jump towards the right and shoot everything that’s in your way. If I had to pick a genre, it would be Action-Plat former.

The core gameplay is designed to encourage fast paced shooting, movement, and “Rule of Cool” moments. For instance, there’s a bullet time mechanic so that you can line up your shot and react to the chaos around you without getting overwhelmed. It has its own energy bar that’s refilled when you shoot things.

The unique mechanic that the game brings to the table is the split-aiming. By right-clicking the mouse button while aiming dual weapons, such as dual pistols or dual SMGs, you can lock one gun to point at something while you turn to aim at something else with the other.

In combination, you end up with these really satisfying moments where you fall from above a group of enemies in slow motion while accurately blasting two enemies at opposite ends of the room. It feels so good when you pull off moments like that, and the game is constantly throwing opportunities like it at you throughout the game.

Now that’s not to say that the game is lacking in weapon variety. It isn’t. In fact, I think there are too many weapons. You see, that split-aim gimmick only works when you can dual wield, but the game eventually gives you a large machine gun (with a grenade launcher), a shotgun, and a sniper rifle- none of which can be dual wielded.

In fact, I think they take away from the faced paced gameplay. The sniper rifle is the best example. Why bother running anywhere near enemies when you can just safely shoot them from the other side of some very large rooms without ever getting shot at? When your core gameplay is all about running and dodging and doing cool flips and stuff, hunkering down behind a box with a sniper rifle, carefully lining up a shot isn’t nearly as engaging.

At its core, however, the game shines. Running through the levels is an absolute joy, especially with some of the “Rule of Cool” stuff the game throws in, just because it feels like it. There are multiple sections where you can kick a frying pan into the air, slow time, and blast it with your pistols so that the bullets ricochet into enemies lying in wait and it’s so stupid and amazing and I love it.

The antithesis of the core gameplay is easily the boss fights. While the levels, for the most part, about moving fast and maneuvering behind enemies, the boss fights just lock you in a room with a single enemy and have the two of you duke it out with almost zero cover, platforms, or anything really. The game really doesn’t take advantage of the movement or the split-aiming for its boss fights. And that kind of sucks.

There’s this bit where one of the bosses is chasing you down in a flying hover vehicle, and you’ve got to race across the level on a skateboard, and THAT feels more like a boss fight suited for this game. Instead, the game locks you in a cage at the end of the level and has you shoot at the ship’s fuel tank while the ship sits almost completely still and occasionally shoots back. It’s slow and more annoying than difficult, and when the game has so few bosses to showcase anyway, that’s bad. Not deal-breakingly bad, but definitely disappointing.

However, if there was one area I wished this game leaned into more, it’s stealth. There’s this really cool level right near the end of the game where you have to jump around and through laser tripwires, like from a Mission Impossible movie. Or MacGyver. Or that one scene from Doctor Who. And I loved it. It might have been my favorite bit of the game even.

What really made it work here was how it handled failure. In a lot of games, when you trip something like this, the alarms go off in the entire complex, and there’s basically no choice but to restart the bit by loading the save file. However, here, the game only activates the security for each isolated challenge. One deadly laser activates, or one turret or one door with guards opens up. Yeah, it’s not realistic, but I never felt that I had to restart just by screwing up once, thus breaking my immersion.

So you could easily take the mechanics of this game and create a really awesome heist game like Laura Croft meets The Italian Job or something. So it’s really fun, and I wish the game did more in that aspect.

Narrative

The premise of “My Friend Pedro” is… simple, to say the least. It’s a classic revenge plot of taking down those who wronged you, and you conveniently have amnesia, so you have to piece together why exactly you’re gunning for the villains and vice versa.

Also, you hallucinate a banana named “Pedro” that makes internet jokes and encourages you on your murderous rampage.

“My Friend Pedro” is about as deep as a sheet of A4 paper. You wake up in the basement of a butcher’s shop, apparently to await being turned into a shishkabob by the local crime boss, Mitch the Butcher. You blast your way out, then swear vengeance on those who put you there. From the outset, you’re told to move towards the right of the screen and shoot everything else that’s in your way. That’s about it.

The quote from John Carmack, creator of Doom, comes to mind, “Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not important.”

While I disagree with Mr. Carmack, you can see how that argument applies here.

And that’s okay. Not every story has to be a misery fest, with characters bawling their eyes out about the tragedy of the human condition and how the world is made of nothing but shades of gray (Cough “The Last of Us II” Cough). Sometimes simple is better, and it works here.

“My Friend Pedro” keeps a light tone throughout, despite the murderous revenge rampage you’re on. Pedro, the banana, is full of lighthearted things to say at the start of most levels, and it’s through Pedro’s descriptions that you understand who half the cast is anyway.

Likewise, the game throws plenty of wacky and quirky enemies at you. Or rather, wacky and quirky identical enemies. There’s this group of bounty hunters that chase after you who have literally just finished with their annual Christmas party, so they all look like big, hairy dads in Christmas jumpers.

Then there’s a sewer level because, “Haha, video games love their sewer levels”, and you find nerds in cosplay who were turned into violent monsters because of violent video games.

So yeah, that about how serious the game takes itself- as in, not at all.

Graphics

So graphically is where the game is easily the weakest. While I certainly don’t care that the game doesn’t have raytracing or 4K textures or any of that eye candy (again, not that my machine could render any of that), it’s almost instantaneously obvious that “My Friend Pedro” was on a tight budget.

For instance, there is a very noticeable lack of variety in the enemies you encounter. While I don’t expect every enemy to be individually modeled down to the last eyebrow, most of the enemies are nearly identical. All the models have the same height, same body types, and minimal variety in clothing. In fact, there’s only one woman in the entire game.

Also, the animations feel a bit… slow? Perhaps “flighty” is a better word for it. The characters are kind of stiff, and the walk cycle for the player isn’t very fluid. I’m not sure if the game would work with faster animations, as it enhances the “bizarre” and “quirky” factor the game is going for, but the animations are very noticeable when you start playing, especially if you’re used to Triple A level animations.

Audio

I normally don’t review the audio in video games, but I’m neither a sound nor a music guy, and all I can say about the background music of this game is that it’s appropriate. The thumping techno music was never annoying and suited the slow motion badass action her moments.

I mainly just wanted to point out that there’s no voice acting in this game at all. This is probably to the game’s benefit. I don’t know who the devs would choose to do Pedro the Banana’s voice, but I would probably hate him.

The dialogue is told through text boxes only and can be immediately skipped through (although it never dragged anyway). Since skimming and skipping through the dialogue doesn’t cut off anyone’s lines, you can either leisurely enjoy the skimpy story or just plow through and dive into the action, and there’s no audio bugs or dialogue overlays.

Other than that, the guns are punchy, all of the needed sound effects are there, and it’s really satisfying to experience.

Conclusion

The gameplay of “My Friend Pedro” is what makes it, and everything surrounding that is superfluous. It’s obvious that the developers knew that since so much of this game is geared towards speedrunning.

What was really nice about this game was its generous save system. It doesn’t pop up with an autosave icon, but it seems to save just after every enemy encounter. Which is perfect. Reloading is quick, so you just jump right back into gameplay. The levels are short enough that you won’t lose any major progress if you have to shut the game down and do something else, like, say, a Uni exam. Or a part-time writing job.

All in all, the game took me four hours to play through. I didn’t speed through it either, but neither did I go for high scores or tried to collect the secrets. So I’d estimate that if you tried to 100% the game, you could squeeze an extra few hours out of the game.

In short, “My Frend Pedro” is short, sweet, and to the point, and makes for a great break between doing other, important but dull activities. I highly recommend it.




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