App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Every time a new action game with slow-motion mechanics comes to mobile, I wonder if it will be the one that messes it up or feels overly tired to me. But, time and time and time again I'm always smitten with the result, particularly by how often it papers over the weaknesses of playing games that demand precision using a touch screen. My Friend Pedro is no different. This short but sweet action shooter is loaded with satisfying levels to stunt through John Woo-style, and it ends before any of its flashy action wears too thin.
Bullets for bananas
My Friend Pedro is a goofy shooter starring a masked gunman who is helping out Pedro, a talking banana, in his search for his kidnapped family members. This search largely involves sliding, jumping, grinding, and skateboarding through various environments and shooting down anyone who tries to stand in your way.
You pilot this gunman by tapping and pulling on the screen to plan jumps or slides, and it's in this "planning mode" that the game starts moving in slow motion. Once you release your move, the game speeds back up until the next time you want to plan a move. The kind of move you want to execute is automatically determined contextually based on where your character is and what they're capable of in a given moment, so the only other thing you have to worry about controlling is your guns, which you fire by simply tapping on the screen.
The primary goal of every level in My Friend Pedro is simply to make it to a green exit door without dying. This is easy enough to do if you play cautiously, but it also makes the game quite boring. To encourage you to take some risks and chain together fast maneuvers and enemy takedowns, My Friend Pedro scoring system operates on multipliers that you can extend by getting more kills in a short period of time, and the only way to get a three star rating on a level is to sail through it while maintaining the highest multiplier possible (which also requires not taking damage).
Making complicated chains of leaps while gunning down enemies would feel almost impossible on mobile without the slow-motion mechanics. With them, though, it transforms the breakneck action into a sort of gentle physics puzzle. There's no limit on how often or when you can enter the game's planning mode, so you can keep the pace at a crawl for an entire level if you want. In some of the game's later levels, it almost feels necessary if you want to keep your multipliers up and max out your ratings.
My Friend Pedro never gets overly complicated with its level design or mechanics. Across its 37 levels, you encounter 3-4 weapon types, a handful of light puzzles, and some odd motorcycle sequences to mark your move between different environment types. Some more variety would have been nice, of course, but you hardly get a chance to tire of anything the game has to offer before it ends.
The last thing I'll say about My Friend Pedro is it has a fascinating free-to-play model. If you opt not to pay for the game, it plays like an arcade game. You have three hearts to get as far as you can, but if you die you're booted back to the beginning of the entire game. If you opt to pay for the game's one offered in-app purchase (for $ 2.99), dying merely puts you back at the start of the level you died on. Buying this upgrade also gives you access to a new mode called "Blood Rush," which is essentially a time attack mode where kills give you more time to complete levels.
The bottom line
It's hard not to feel cool while playing My Friend Pedro. It's stylish action is completely manageable thanks to slow-motion mechanics, and its scoring system is a fun, non-punishing incentive to push through levels as smoothly and quickly as possible. Since it's a free-to-play game with no ads or currencies, there's no harm in trying it out. You might even be able to beat it without dying to see almost everything it has to offer without spending a dime. If you do, though, you might want to throw a few bucks to unlock premium just to support developers for making such a great action game on mobile.