by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
On the campaign trail
The UK General Election is over, but that doesn’t mean campaigning has stopped. BunnyLord is running for mayor, and you, as part of the BunnyLord Fun Club, are tasked with helping him get elected. You won’t be going around handing out leaflets and kissing babies, however. Instead you’ll be killing gang members and blowing up their hideouts to gain public favour. Not A Hero is a 2D action game from Roll7, and published by Devolver Digital, and as you would expect from both the developer and the publisher, it’s high octane fun.
It’s pretty simple on the face of things. You can run left and right, shoot, reload, and instead of a jump button you can slide. Sliding helps you get into cover quicker, and tapping the button switches between one object to hide behind and the next. When you’re hidden you sort of recede into the background behind a protruding object. This stops you from getting hit by incoming fire, but if someone runs up on you they can punch you to the floor, bringing you out into the open. You have the same ability though. If you slide through an enemy, they get knocked to the floor and you have a brief window in which you can perform an execution on them.
The variety comes from the character that you choose to play with. Do well on each level to increase approval ratings, which in turn unlocks more characters. Cletus can blow enemies backwards with his shots. Samantha is the only character that can run and shoot at the same time. Jesus (pronounced Hay-sus, he’s an over-sexualised Spaniard who wears pink spandex, not our lord and saviour) runs really fast and can shoot while sliding for that extra badass factor. Once I unlocked Mike, I spent a good portion of the game playing as him. He can execute people silently with knives, rather than shooting them and alerting enemies behind closed doors. His downside is that his shotgun only fires two shots and suffers from a lengthy reload time. Also he has a pretty twitchy eye.
Not A Hero is made up of pixel art, but there’s a good level of detail to it. I mentioned Mike’s eye, and everyone has their own death animation. For example Jesus will take out a cocktail to take a final sip before crumpling to the floor. The whole game is drenched in light hearted humour. BunnyLord absolutely loves using adjectives, and pretty much everything he says is complete hyperbole. Even the side objectives on each level, beyond the grisly murder of everyone in it, are funny. You might need to find some lost pinwheels, or rescue a fluffy animal.
It also has great audio. The music drives you forwards and everyone has their own character-specific quips, usually in some sort of regional British dialect. English gangsters will beg you to “Lend us a pound, yeah?”, and Jesus will often try to do his best Marlon Brando impression.
Beware though, because Not A Hero is hard, particularly in the later levels. When you’re introduced to a sort of Pan-Asian Yakuza/Triad hybrid gang, you’ll start coming up against enemies who can kill you in one hit. Even those enemies that don’t have such deadly weapons will send you all the way back to the start of the level with one wrong move. You need to keep your distance, make sure your gun is fully loaded, and hope nothing is coming up behind you. The final quarter of the game became more of a frustration than a good time, constantly having to restart a level, often when I was very near the end. It’s unforgiving, and can sometimes feel unfair when samurai suddenly burst out of a wall or dive in through the ceiling.
A silly amount of fun
Earlier in the game though, the action is a joy to control, particularly when you get into a rhythm. You’ll be sliding into enemies, clearing out a whole floor of guys in seconds, and then diving through a window across a deadly gap into a room full of even more gangsters. Pigeons will take flight as you run across rooftops, and there are many moments where you’ll feel like an action hero. You’ll sometimes find grenades, or molotov cocktails, and sometimes even a cat bomb (where a cat with a suicide vest entices an enemy to pet it before it explodes). Sometimes enemies will drop powerups which increase the potency of your main weapon. For example you might simply get a bigger clip size, some explosive ammo, or have your bullets become lasers. Because, why not?
It’s all very silly, which is a good thing. Some of the best parts are the cutscenes in which BunnyLord gives you a Powerpoint presentation of what the next mission will be, or when you meet him at Aunt Ruby’s after a successful day for a milkshake. It’s not enough to be funny, though, thankfully, the action is top notch too. If you’re good, the game won’t last very long. If you’re not good, then you’ll probably become frustrated by the difficulty spike towards the end. If you’re looking for some politically charged, bloody action, then Not A Hero will get your vote.
Action controls really well, good variety of characters and mission objectives
Not particularly lengthy, and a difficulty spike adds frustration