Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch

Nothing against straightforward action games. I love good, no-nonsense brutality, after all. That said, there's something strangely intriguing about action games that also border on surreal. Absurd or nightmarish elements are what push games like Hotline Miami and No More Heroes to that next level, because not only do they make good with the gameplay, but they also create a unique world that's almost hypnotic. My Friend Pedro from DeadToast Entertainment is a master class in shoot 'em up gameplay, but its semi-fantastical setting helps establish it as one of the weirdest and most entertaining action games of the year.

Who Needs Friends When You Have a Banana?

At its core, My Friend Pedro is a heartwarming tale about companionship. I'm just messing with ya — this game is totally about pure, unbridled video game murder! You play as a gun-wielding, mask-wearing killer who's got a bounty on his head and a score to settle. Everyone in the game world is out to get you, except for one: a talking banana named Pedro. Is this high-functioning piece of fruit an imaginary friend? Are talking bananas a normal thing in this world? Is the protagonist just insane? Who cares?! You've got guns and a talking banana buddy!

While the story element isn't super prevalent, Pedro chimes in from time to time to tell you about himself, discuss video games, and help you figure out who put that bounty on your head. Sometimes it feels like he's egging you on. Other times you might think he's just using you. Ultimately, you're dealing with a talking fruit here, so don't look too deep into any of that. Just enjoy the wild ride and the quirky writing.

The Creativity of Killing Fools

The tidbits of writing in My Friend Pedro are certainly worthy of a few hearty chuckles, but it's the gameplay that will keep you coming back. While this is a 2.5D shooter with some basic mechanics, there are plenty of tools at your fingertips to help you dispose of bad guys in fun and creative ways.

My Friend Pedro employs slo-mo, which allows you to get an edge on enemies when you're surrounded by up to five dudes who are all firing their guns or swinging their swords at you. Speaking of which, if you're dual wielding pistols or uzis, you can aim at two enemies simultaneously and then unload a flurry of bullets on those suckers. It's surprising how such a simple mechanic can make a world of difference in terms of both effectiveness and overall fun factor.

The weapons at your disposal are but a minor part of the puzzle that makes up the absolute elation you'll experience while playing My Friend Pedro. Banana pal aside, the environment itself is your greatest ally. You'll constantly wall jump to catch enemies at higher levels by surprise. You can swing from light cables. You can ride a skateboard across ramps. All of this while engaging in smooth combat with dozens of baddies at a time.

Surprisingly, even if you're playing sloppy, almost everything you do looks really badass and stylish. At one point, I was aiming at two enemies while hanging from a lengthy rope, which prompted the player character to flip upside down to grip the rope with his legs. It looked like something out of a movie!

There are so many ways to put down your enemies, and I could go on and on about each in great length, but instead, I'll just provide a handy list:

Kick dynamite toward enemies and then shoot said dynamite? Check!

Kick dudes in the face/gut/other regions? Check!

Ricochet bullets off metal fixtures so they hit unsuspecting villains? Check!

Toss a conveniently placed frying pan into the air and then unload all your bullets into it so bullets fly every which way and kill all the bad guys?! Oh, you better believe that's a big ol' check!

Stylin' and Profilin'

You know a game is confident in its ability to make you, the player, look cool when it allows you to create and save GIFs of your best kills. My Friend Pedro is that rare power fantasy that doesn't just feed you brainless enemies but instead tasks you with taking on challenging situations in creative ways to ensure you've always got a fighting chance. There are just so many options available to you that you're bound to pull off crazy kills the majority of the time, sometimes even by accident!

While the action looks stylish in terms of animations, the graphics are also a visual treat. Despite the urban underbelly setting, there's a distinct artful tone to the whole thing that makes it look super gritty in certain areas and dreamlike in others. The enemy designs are, unfortunately, a bit weaker, with disposable, generic-looking dudes making up the majority of your encounters.

Similarly, the music is also quite quirky and overall delightful to listen to. There are a handful of catchy themes in the game, but the soundtrack could've probably used a few more memorable songs.

You can play through the entirety of My Friend Pedro in about five or six hours. While that's not too lengthy, I found a lot of enjoyment in revisiting stages and trying to increase my scores. Playing on the Hard difficulty setting, I never experienced any frustration. The enemies were tough and the bosses — which are a total riot — were hard to beat, but the game never felt impossible. I'll definitely be returning to the game to check out the Bananas difficulty. Wish me luck!

This year has been filled with neat surprises such as Ape Out and most recently Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. You can add My Friend Pedro to that list. The game is chaotic, brutal, gruesome, and above all else a hell of a lot of fun. If you're in search of a good time, look no further than My Friend Pedro.