Did you know there are over thirty different kinds of somersault? The word somersault actually originates from a French word, sombresault and ultimately Latin: supra “over” and saltus “jump”. I didn’t know this before I checked the spelling of somersault and ended up going on an impromptu jolly across Wikipedia. The things we learn in games journalism.
One man and his Banana
So one of the most incredible things I have learnt this week, aside from the history of somersaults, is that My Friend Pedro was made by one man: a fine chap called Victor Agren. I’m not a game developer but I do have friends that are and to make a game single-handedly is no mean feat. It is even more impressive then when you consider that My Friend Pedro is an astoundingly good one.
In an interview with IGN Victor explains that this game was influenced by a whole catalogue of films and games: namely Max Payne and The Matrix. He wanted to make a game that gave you the same sense of awe while intense action sequences played out in bullet time. I do remember playing through Max Payne for the first time and enjoying those slow-motion sideways leaps that never got old.
The first thing I did notice about this game is that many of the textures are low resolution and the main character isn't particularly well animated; especially when walking. Indeed, the game does have a few rough edges here and there. However, once the firing starts and you see the whole thing moving, this game looks great with stylish action and satisfying gameplay.
The first time I saw a trailer for My Friend Pedro, I was left with one resounding question: how the hell does the player get his character to do that! The player had just performed an action sequence that included careering through a window on a skateboard, killing someone with said skateboard while backflipping through the air and killing two other goons with his duel Uzis. One of the most difficult hurdles a developer has to overcome is to give the player a control system that doesn’t leave them unable to actually play. Thankfully Victor has done a great job of creating in-game systems which give you the freedom conceive insane action sequences, but at the same time don'’t tether you in unforgiving physics.
The ricochet mechanic is a good example of this because it lets you bounce your firepower off certain surfaces but then there is clearly a level of assistance helping in the background. This follows with Victor's goal of making the player feel cool and killing three guys while bouncing bullets off an airborne frying pan is certainly that. You start the game with a pistol and will pick up more weapons as you progress, including a dual option for pistols and Uzis.
You can slow time down at will and I am really glad this is in plentiful supply. The time slowing gauge also refills quite quickly which leaves you free to enjoy the insane action and plan ever more audacious fight scenes. One very cool feature is when you right click and hold on an object: if you are holding duel wielding weapons one will snap to this target. That then allows you to manually aim with the other and easily create the most awesome carnage as you encounter multiple foes.
There is very little story to grapple with here which is actually fine because the action is where the fun is at. The loose story is carried along by the floating banana can also converse with you, well of course it can. You will make your way across themed levels, usually with a boss fight to close the sequence. As you might expect, these encounters use the various game mechanics as a means to beat the boss, such as ricocheting bullets at weak points of the rear of an otherwise unbeatable enemy. I mostly enjoyed the level themes on offer here, only one dream sequence near the middle of the game didn't quite sit right and left me wanting to get back to the more realistic action.
The actual level design is really good and it’s clear Victor has spent a lot of time making all the various parts work well. There is some light puzzle solving here and there such as shooting switches (from different directions) to negotiating traps in slow motion. As you engage enemies you will build up a score multiplier which then filters to a rating at the end of the level. This is standard in this type of game but here it works particularly well with how the levels are fairly bite-sized and encourage repetition. I also love how the game creates small gifs based on the coolest parts of your run, which can then be uploaded to social media. Prepare for Pedro invading your Twitter feed on the weeks after release.
Is it PC
So our banana loving hero bursts forth on PC and Switch (which will be very cool to own) on June the 20th. I did try to play with a controller and it works well enough, but for me, mouse and keyboard is king here. I just like the precision that is possible with a mouse but if you are a diehard controller fan there is nothing to worry about. I did have a few crashes in my fifteen or so hours playing and annoyingly two of these were on the last boss fight, but it must be acknowledged that I am playing on a review copy.
The sound effects do their job admirably and weapons have a solid feel to them. For the most part music great and the thumping beat acts a great backdrop to the many gun fights you will find yourself in. In one level you are actually fighting on a motorcycle and the music in this sequence was particularly awesome.
I have to say one more time, how amazing it is that just one man working on his own created this game. There are so many moving parts to the action and each could have brought the whole thing crashing down. Yet, Victor has considered each aspect of the experience and produced one of the most fun games I have played all year. If you like shooting games that make you feel like a god, this is one you cannot miss.