I’m sure I mentioned in my last post that I was close to finishing a book to review here, and it wasn’t long after that when my bike was stolen, along with the thermic backpack I needed to work, and the aforementioned book. I’m debating buying it again because I’m not sure if I liked it so much that I want to pay for it twice. On the other hand, I did only have 30 pages left…
Anyway, this is a review for My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge (I will be shortening the title to Pedro for the rest of this post), which just came out on Android and I believe also on iOS. It is published by Devolver Digital, whom I have a lot of respect for even if I have yet to find a single game from their collective of indie developers that has fully clicked for me. That’s also the case here, but I want to talk about the game’s better points before laying out why it didn’t always work for me.
For starters, you can download the game for free and play all the levels, provided you don’t die. Doing so will result in the game asking you to buy the premium version before bumping you back to level 1 with all the levels you’ve played locked once again. In theory, if you were a badass gamer, you might be able to play the whole thing for free. I am not, so after a few rounds of making it to level 4 or 6 and dying, I said, “Eh, it’s only 2.49 euros, so I’ll just go ahead and buy it.” (I believe it’s $2.99 in the US.)
(Edit: This was how the game functioned at the time of release, but now the free version allows for saving progress by watching ads. I can’t speak to how that works because the update came out after I had already gone in on the premium version.)
That’s perhaps another point in the game’s favor. It doesn’t cost much, so even if you don’t like it, it’s like the price of a cup of coffee. For that pittance, you get the whole game with no obnoxious ads and no pleas for more money through microtransactions. You buy the game, you play the game, and if you like it, maybe you try to get better scores on some levels. Or maybe you’ll try out all the levels using Bloodrush Mode, which I’ll get to later. But I digress, the game has to be praised for charging a reasonable price and providing several hours to days worth of gameplay, even if you only play it once.
Pedro is either a sequel or a prequel to the PC game My Friend Pedro. It’s hard to tell because the masked protagonist of both games is bonkers and follows orders from a talking banana no one else can see. This second entry in the series could have happened before or after the main game, and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference either way.
In any case, the eponymous banana boss Pedro asks for the masked gunman’s help to rescue his family, Billy Banana, Milly Apple, and Maria Banana. Each one has been taken by a different gang in the city, so the gunman must leap through a series of platforming puzzles, killing all the bad guys to rack up points. At the end of each level, a star rating is given, from 1 to 3, and while some levels have a pretty easy 3 star score limit, some require an insane amount of fast movements to get the score multiplier high enough to crack the second and third star.
The controls work like this: you set your thumb on either corner of the screen which slows down time. Dragging your thumb across the screen creates an arrow to roll in one direction or the other if your motion is straight across, but if you pull down (or up depending if you choose inverted controls) a dotted arc will appear, showing where the gunman will land after jumping. Land on a wall, and it’s possible to wall-jump, reaching higher platforms.
Levels constantly introduce new weapons and gimmicks in an effort to keep the platforming fresh and interesting. One area introduces targets to ricochet bullets off of to hit enemies and gas tanks at an angle. Another brings in a frying pan with similar ricochet mechanics, while another introduces compressed air tanks that can be used as rockets to kill enemies and blast through weakened walls, but also as a rideable platform, provided you get the gunman to jump off before the tank explodes.
Between each gang’s area are sections of highway where the gunman rides a motorcycle, swerving and hopping to avoid obstacles while shooting enemy bikers. The last of these stretches of highway has what serves as the game’s only boss fight against a transport truck filled with enemies and mines. I’d say it’s about twice as long as the other sections, but that may just have been a warped perception based on how I played the highway sections. (I’ll explain more in a bit.)
Where things fell apart for me over and over was in wrestling with the controls. When the game is asking for a very tight set of inputs, I often struggled to make the jump arc go where I needed it to. If the game froze time completely, fiddling to get the arc just right might not be so aggravating, but because the gunman is still in motion, it’s quite often the case that nailing a jump has to be worked out in seconds, or else the gunman will die. If I screw up a jump and get him killed, that’s on me. But if I spend two full seconds trying to aim the arc at a platform, only to have it constantly miss the mark, that’s on the controls for not being quite polished enough.
Before this week, I might have assumed the problems with the controls were an issue with my screen because I’ve dropped my old phone a lot. (I am a klutz, yes.) But I bought a new phone and loaded the game up, finding the same issue with a shiny new screen. Now obviously, later updates might make this a moot point, and I will check back to see how it goes. But believe me when I say there were levels where I was so grateful just to make it to the end after many failed attempts that I was like “Mang, I don’t even care that I only got one star. I’m just glad that bullshit is over.”
Additionally, there were a few times when the predicted jump arc was wrong about where the gunman would land. This didn’t happen more than a few times over the course of the entire game, but when it did, it usually got the gunman murderized quickly and brutally.
Later levels throw in fast moving conveyor belts and scales that retract the floor under the gunman after a very short amount of time. In both cases, the time slowing effect doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for mistakes. With the conveyor belts you have to land EXACTLY on the edge in order to have enough time to plan the next jump. Otherwise, the gunman will just get tossed back where he started, or worse, into a pit of barbed wire. With the retracting platforms, you often have to shoot a bunch of gang members while also trying to look out for where to jump next. Which is fine when everything is working right. But you get just one input wrong, and you are screwed and have to start the whole level all over again. In these later areas, there was much cursing and growling on my part.
Also, it bears mentioning that sometimes the game will spawn an enemy on the screen underneath my thumb. So I’m watching the gunman get shot up, losing one heart after another, and not seeing who’s doing the massacre. It was only after the gunman got whacked that I would lift my thumb and find the bastard responsible. Now it’s true that kind of troll trick only works once, but I don’t like that a game knows how their touch controls work, and nevertheless opts to place enemies under my thumb. It’s just so…so trolly.
Getting back to the highway sections. I often found that the delay between me pressing the screen and the time slowing effect kicking in left me no time to maneuver around obstacles, and enemies on bikes went from tiny specks on the horizon to up in my face too quickly to avoid getting shot. So my only option was to hold my thumb on the screen for the vast majority of these sections. This was both boring to endure and painful keeping my thumb pressed on the glass. But the alternative was smashing the poor gunman’s face through one roadblock after another and getting shot to pieces a moment later. It’s a nice idea in theory, but in practice, these levels end up being the weaker parts of the game.
This is also why the final boss fight felt longer, because there were dragging moments watching the truck do nothing, waiting for anything to happen. Yet the moment I’d let go of the screen to speed up time, whoop, here’s a hippy on a bike riding up the gunman’s back to shoot him before I can react. I really feel like some tweaking might be in order to make these sections tighter without needing to keep my thumb down for the entire run. Maybe just decrease the delay from when I press the screen to when time slows down. I think that would help a lot by itself. Well, that and giving the gunman a chance to shoot enemies before they’re right on top of him. Let’s move on.
As a result of the update that changed how the free game works, a new mode was added, Bloodrush. In this mode, the gunman starts with five seconds, and killing gang members adds 1.25 seconds to the clock. I played a few of the early levels to see it in action, but I’m pretty sure that until the controls are tightened up in a future update, I ain’t never gonna make it through those later areas fast enough to complete this mode. That’s for better and more dedicated gamers than me. I’m just glad to have seen the corny, corny ending.
Controls aside, let me highlight a few other good points the game has. The masked gunman and the three gangs he’s facing are all cartoonishly cute. There’s old men, trash lovers with popcorn buckets on their heads, and mushroom loving hippies. Their designs are ridiculous, but in a good way. The gunman’s acrobatic animations are equally cute, with his head stretching far away from his shoulders during his descents. The way he crouches in slow motion before jumping is what the term totes adorbs was made for.
Level designs are mostly good, clearly communicating where I need to go and how I need to proceed to get there. There’s only a few gotcha moments where a pit or crevice filled with barbed wire is placed out of sight, (and I hate those troll areas) and the rest is visually easy to interpret even on a smaller screen.
Lastly, the music is bangin’. I’m talking put the game on pause and just chill to the tracks. Normally with mobile games, I will turn off the music and sound effects to conserve battery power, but with Pedro, I actually started putting on headphone because the music was just that good.
I arrive at the end of this review, and I want to give Pedro 3 stars for the crime of annoying me. I’m going to go ahead and give it 4 stars because this is exactly the kind of mobile game I want to see from other developers. It creates a unique control scheme to overcome the lack of physical buttons, offers up a constantly changing variety of tools to play with, and it makes me feel at the end that I got a great deal of value for the money I paid. If more mobile companies would take risks like this, I would totally open my virtual wallet to buy their stuff.
So yeah, some parts annoyed the piss out of me, but I’d still recommend Pedro to anyone looking for a platforming mobile at a fair price. Give it a try, and let both DeadToast Entertainment and Devolver Digital know they’re on the right track with paid mobile games of this caliber.