Does anyone remember Xiao Xiao? The stick figure animations mimicked famous action franchises of the day. It was something I used to watch, hoping that one-day games would be just as fluid as the animation on the screen. The promise that one day I could be a digital John Wick, kicking ass with a grace that only The Baba Yaga could. My Friend Pedro attempts to fulfill that promise but falls short of the goal.
Fluidity was key to the success of Xiao Xiao. It was the moves the main character would string together that were a combination of impressive and impossible. In My Friend Pedro, you are giving the abilities to pull off the same moves, except your character isn’t as precise as you would hope. In one scene, our main character jumps through a glass window, riding down a zip line while shooting multiple enemies. The described sequence is something that should go off flawlessly with “bullet time” mechanic that slows downtime. However, it does not go smoothly. Each of the movement requires a button press that’s close to another action button that bundles your movements. Add an aiming system that requires you to manually point your gun in the direction that you want to shoot, and in moments of high intensity, I found myself stumbling over the controls, trying to pull off what should be a ballet of death.
The game adds a variety of level designs and mechanics to balance out the standard levels. Free-falling from a skyscraper, chasing a meat truck on a motorcycle, and running from a hovercraft on a skateboard. These are all welcome additions. However, they never reach their full potential. The skateboard segments never really work because you have to manage to ride the board while aiming and shooting. And when you fall off the board, it’s hard to walk over to the board, kick it over, and continue killing those around you, so you don’t die. The same thing happens when the game introduces traditional platforming experiences. Your character feels too floaty to complete the challenge in front of you accurately.
I like My Friend Pedro, it was entertaining but lacked the cohesiveness that I wanted from this type of game. If the developers could find a way to automate some of the mechanics to give players better control of creating a spectacle, I think they would have a winner on their hands. But for now, it serves as a proof of concept.