Not A Hero puts you in control of hired gunmen under the employment of an anthropomorphic, time traveling purple rabbit named Bunnylord. Upon warning you of an immanent apocalypse if he fails to be elected as mayor, Bunnylord will send members of his growing army of misfits on missions to fight crime in order to boost his approval rating. The plot, as well as Bunnylord’s peculiar dialogue, is about as bizarre as they come.
Although the game’s objective is to eventually save the world, Not A Hero’s game play definitely lives up to its title. Throughout the ruthless slaughtering of criminals, players will, on a handful of occasions, have to mow down waves of “corrupt” police officers. It is under this nihilistic neutrality that your characters are without a doubt anti-heros. Those who are sensitive to various offensive themes (exploding cats, torture, cultural stereotyping) might want to consider something else.
Game play is fast and bloody. Utilizing self-proclaimed “2 1/4 D” cover-based tactics in a side-scrolling shooter took a bit of getting used to but practice and repetition, for the most part, yielded fluid and satisfying runs. Though the amount of health your player is given will allow for a few stray bullets, a mob of enemies can drop that health bar instantly. Keeping a safe distance for reloads, acknowledging every NPC in a given room, as well as staying alert for approaching mobs had me moving at a slow pace during my first play through. It was upon meeting each levels’ side objectives post completion that the game really shined.
Each level presents three additional challenges that help boost Bunnylord’s approval rating and unlock additional characters. With the completion of each challenge, players can attain the ranks of Priminister, King of England and Global Megalord, respectively. Having attained a rank throughout every level will determine which ending you will receive. After originally finishing the game as Mayor, I was quick to go back and fully complete missions that were too difficult early on. Given the four different endings, as well as several characters that hadn’t been unlocked even after my first completion, it wasn’t a hard decision to make.
As I retraced my steps for the rank of Global Megalord, I discovered the many different ways in which a level can be completed. Side missions practically guided me through a multitude of different approaches to a level. In some cases, needing to reach a phone booth or group of reporters in a short amount of time forced me to think outside the box. Though my first impression when encountering a room or building full of enemies would be to take them all out, sometimes simply slide tackling my way through, or even finding a way around the place altogether was all it took to meet the objectives. My initial minimalist approach soon felt like a tutorial for playing levels the way they were meant to be played, also giving me a feel for which characters are best suited for each level.
Each of the nine playable character has unique skills and abilities. The starting character, Steve, has powerful slide tackles and fires a pistol. Average speed and rate of fire makes him probably the most balanced, while others require a bit more practice to get used to. Mike in particular wields a powerful shotgun and uses a knife for silent executions. He is also vegan, for those wondering. Although he has to reload after every two shots, stealth and speed soon made him my favorite. A heavy contrast to Mike, Stanley offers the highest rate of fire while also being the slowest character in the game. Whether using pistols, shotguns or automatic rifles, characters are pretty well balanced for the most part. It’s also good to keep in mind which weapon upgrade suits your character best before trading it off, as many are randomly dropped from enemies. For example, explosive upgrade will best suit automatics, while quick reload goes hand in hand with shotguns.
As punishing as one false move could be, being able to quickly retrace my steps was paramount in preserving my stamina.
Balancing a game’s difficulty can be one of the most frustrating challenges developers face when making these types of games. This is especially true when patrolling enemies are procedurally placed in a given area. Roll7 was very careful with this element of the game. Only certain enemies are procedurally placed and there’s always the same number and type of enemy in a given room. Not going overboard on these random patrols allowed me to learn from my mistakes while still improvising. It’s also nice that the game is quick to put you back on your feet. As punishing as one false move could be, being able to quickly retrace my steps was paramount in preserving my stamina. Cut scenes within levels are brief and infrequent, so having to replay them wasn’t too frustrating either.
Not A Hero’s extensive music score is also worth noting. Quality chiptunes, similar to those in Hotline Miami, attributed well to the game’s look and feel. For a game with only 24 levels, 27 tracks spanning a variety of artists made each level feel more unique. That said, the game did feel kind of short, also missing the mark in a few areas.
I may be beating a dead horse when I cast my opinion of Not A Hero’s hit-or-miss humor, but unfortunately Bunnylord’s jokes do often fall flat. Given the context of the London-based studio’s timely release of the game during a big election season; as well as elements of British humor, tied together with randomly generated quips, it’s understandable that Not A Hero’s jokes can be lost on others. Much of the game’s more preserved humor comes from the other characters’ one-liners, so I sometimes found myself tempted to skip through Bunnylord’s incoherent ramblings between missions. Though I didn’t, it was nice to be given the option to do so.
The game also contains three secret levels, one in each district. They can be reached through various, creative ways (usually launching your character across the map with exploding objects). With the exception of the last secret level in the game, it didn’t seem like much effort was put into making them stand out. On the subject of bonus material, Not A Hero could have kept me playing longer if there were more trophies. Roll7 was late in adding the game’s twelve achievements following their PC release last year. What was given doesn’t really present additional challenges if you’re already gunning for Global Megalord and hunting down those secret levels. I guess we’ll have to settle for the eighty four challenges already in the game. Still, a few creative and fun ones could have been nice.
So this is Not A Hero. It’s great that we finally get to play it from the couch. Nothing has been altered from its original version, and hopefully we’ll hear more soon in regards to the upcoming PS Vita release. Vote Bunnylord! As he puts it, “A vote for me is the most cute decision that you will make in your shitty life.”
Much like Roll7’s previous Ollie Ollie titles, Not A Hero delivers one hell of a fast-paced challenge. As newcomers to the pixelated shooter genre, the studio has succeeded in producing a fun, challenging and gory experience. While the game’s bizarre sense of humor often falls flat, Not A Hero’s brutally addictive game play and well-thought up challenges certainly make up for it.
Not a Hero
- Available On: PC, PS4
- Published By: Devolver Digital
- Developed By: Roll7
- Genre: Tactical Shooter
- US Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "As newcomers to the pixelated shooter genre, Roll7 has succeeded in producing a fun, challenging, and gory experience with Not a Hero."
- Creative level designs and Challenges
- Music Score
- Bunnylord’s humor
- Lackluster Secret Levels and Trophies