My Friend Pedro
Flash moves and a friendly banana make for an impossibly slick shooter
There’s no way to tell an anecdote about playing My Friend Pedro without sounding like an overimaginative, sugar-addled, hyperviolent toddler. For example: did we tell you about the time where a sentient banana taught us how to control time, and then we whizzed down a zipline upside-down to headshot two guards simultaneously, before pirouetting through a window and onto a skateboard that we then kickflipped into someone’s face? You get the idea.
The idea in question is the work of Victor Ågren, and first originated back in 2006 as a Flash game. “I always loved the idea of it, the slow-motion acrobatic thing,” Ågren says. “Since I played Max Payne, basically, I was like, ‘I want more!’ But it wasn’t until a year or two after I left Media Molecule that I decided I should finish off that Flash game I had lying around. So I did.” In 2014, during what was “the final breath of Flash, I think,” it finally hit the internet, and immediately proved popular. “The general feeling around Flash games was that it’s okay to play around and do anything, and it’s not too serious,” Ågren says. “I think that gives a certain creative freedom. The main thing for me is the mentality behind it. When you create, the more pressure you put on yourself, the less you can let your mind wander.”
My Friend Pedro might be made in Unity now, but thanks to its Flash roots, its core sense of improvisational fun remains. It’s a bloodthirsty, gloriously silly ‘Yes, and…’ simulator that compels you to pull off increasingly ridiculous John Wick-style stunts. A combo and scoring system provides a traditional incentive. But it’s deft design touches that really power your desire to dance the most implausible murder foxtrot possible.
In the first few levels, enemies rarely move far, meaning that each room becomes a kind of puzzle. Your bullet-time meter is generous and refills quickly, letting you somersault in slow-motion while you meditate upon your next move: a bullet-dodging, gun-firing spin, perhaps, or a backflip off the torso of an enemy. It’s also essential to carefully align the trajectory of weapons and other deadly objects with your victims. The kick functions as a melee attack, or punts things such as frying pans into enemy heads or into the air. Shoot at it, and bullets ricochet into goons. You can even split your aim with dual pistols: aiming one gun, then holding a button to fix it in place while you move the other, is a mental juggling act that eventually becomes instinct.
We replay levels over and over, trying to create the coolest end-of-level GIF highlight (shareable to Twitter), and the longest portmanteau: our ‘walljump-air-spindramatic-entrance-kill’ is judged to be ‘splendid’ by our fruity accomplice. “Gameplay is a language, so I try to use the mechanical aspect as a form of humour,” Ågren says. And it works: the best combos feel like well-told jokes – sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always down to timing, skill and a bit of ad-lib to deliver the killer punchline.
When twirling through warehouses purpose-built for such creative viciousness is this electric, however, anything else falls flat. A motorcycle-riding boss fight has us clear waves of enemy riders before taking down the gas canister-throwing Butcher – but lining up shots across multiple planes is finicky, and with our only gymnastic options being bike flips, the lack of dynamism is sorely felt. But Ågren promises that each set-piece will feature different mechanics, and will serve as refreshing interludes to regular levels. “Part of it is, as well, just keeping it interesting for me. When you work on the same thing for four years, you get tempted to make something new. I think I tricked myself. So I can make something new, but I’ll put it in the game!”
An unexpected sweetness radiates from Ågren’s gory shooter: it’s a story about friendship, although an unconventional one. Above all, there’s a very Media Molecule kind of sense that creativity – and a good laugh – is best shared, and Ågren’s looking forward to working in a team again after Pedro releases. “The journey becomes a bit more valuable when you share it with someone, like a co-worker.” Or, indeed, a banana.
It’s a bloodthirsty, gloriously silly ‘Yes, and...’ simulator for ridiculous John Wick stunts
Victor Ågren, creator