[REVIEW] Not A Hero
By Dan Spence on August 5th 2015
Not A Hero is the latest game to be released by indie dev team Roll7; the creators of 2014’s BAFTA-award winning skateboarding game: OlliOlli. Published by Devolver Digital, the game’s main premise is to aid a giant anthropomorphic bunny rabbit (by the name of BunnyLord) in his bid to be elected mayor. In order to increase BunnyLord’s electoral chances it is decided that you must clamp down on the city’s crime in the most direct way possible.
You begin the game as Steve, a cockney professional hitman/Bunnylord’s campaign manager. As the sole member of the BunnyLord Fun Club it is your job alone to violently stamp out crime until you can gain enough voter approval to attract more characters to your cause and get BunnyLord elected.
Graphically, the game features a simple pixel-art style that fits the action well. Roll7 describe the game as “the greatest 2¼D cover-based indie shooter of all-time, ever.” Which in practice means that the game is a 2D side-scroller with a slightly isometric perspective (which the developer describes as IsoSlant technology) that gives the game’s buildings and cover a pseudo-3D effect. The game’s stages look good and are filled with numerous small details usually in the form of graffiti and signs. Characters and enemies are relatively simple in design but they match the game’s aesthetically pleasing levels well.
As previously alluded to, the game is a 2D cover-based shooter. Meaning that the player’s basic actions are limited to running, shooting, reloading and taking cover.
Other manoeuvres that the player is capable of performing include: a slide tackle by holding down the cover button that can be used to KO enemies, execution kills by shooting near an opponent’s unconscious body and critical shots that are performed by shooting an enemy at close range for an instant kill.
There’s a variety of different enemy types many of which may require the player to use a different approach: shotgun users, assault rifle users, melee attackers, enemies immune to slide tackles and ninjas all help to keep gameplay interesting (not to mention the game’s diverse array of sub-weapons: grenades, molotov cocktails, drill-bombs, sentry turrets, exploding cats, etc).
Overall, the gameplay consists of fast, frenetic mayhem that still manages to remain surprisingly tactical. The use of cover makes timing reloads a tense affair for both you and your enemies, as these moments can be utilized to advance towards your opponents: rolling between points of cover or performing a crucial side tackle. Pick the wrong moment to leave cover however, and some enemies will kill you nigh on instantly. The action is quick but precise due to the game’s very tight controls and helps to ensure that the game’s tricky missions can be attempted with maximum ease.
Much of Not A Hero’s great personality comes from its characters; a wonderfully voiced cast featuring almost exclusively regional British accents (the exception being the spandex-clad, hip thrusting Spaniard, Jesus). A few of the more interesting characters include: a Scottish hillbilly named Cletus, a low-budget, hammer-wielding super hero called Ronald Justice and my personal favourite: Mike. Mike is a sawn-off shotgun wielding, knife-obsessed lunatic from St. Helens (“Born and bred!”); he’s very fast and capable of performing silent executions thanks to his knife but can only fire 2 shots at a time before the need to reload sets in, due in no small part to the nature of his powerful sawn-off shotgun.
The game’s replay value is definitely enhanced by the fact that each character does force you to play the game differently; Jesus can shoot while sliding across the floor, shotgun-users like Mike and Cletus are capable of blowing doors off their hinges (temporarily stunning any enemies that should happen to get in the way) and some characters entirely eschew the game’s sub-weapons, opting instead to rely on powerful, personal abilities like shooting in 2 directions at once or special executions.
Each mission is preceded by one of BunnyLord’s PowerPoint presentations that brief you about the coming mission. Similarly each level ends with a trip to the local cafe to drink milkshakes and discuss the mission outcome. These segments are a prime example of the game’s wonderful offbeat humour but can also be something of a mixed bag. BunnyLord’s dialogue does its best to remain on point to ensure that the player is successfully informed about the mission but some sections of his dialogue are randomly selected from a pool of various words and phrases. These randomly selected lines help to keep the dialogue fresh and ensure that you’ll rarely want to skip the briefing, however this is also where a number of the game’s jokes come from and it seems to be something of a dice roll as to whether or not each joke will get a laugh or really miss the mark; some of the comedy contained here can be very good but it can also devolve into humourless random whimsy or pointlessly referencing memes you might have heard of.
Each mission features a main objective that must be completed before the player can exit the level via the BunnyVan or BunnyCopter. These objectives can range from destroying all of the ganja in a level, to killing a private investigator or meeting with an informant/clown. Each mission also features 3 sub-objectives; these can include (but are in no way limited to) finding hidden collectibles, killing all enemies, saving hostages, completing the level in a set time or using less than 100 bullets. The sub-objectives are where the real challenge of Not A Hero sets in; to achieve the highest rank on a mission the player must complete the main objective as well as all sub-objectives in a single run. This can be especially difficult for missions with timed objectives, where each attempt becomes almost like a race with the player trying to find the quickest way around the level while still completing all of the objectives. It’s akin to learning a racing line; attempting to find the most efficient path around each part of the course, albeit one with hordes of gun-toting criminals. It’s through this “one more try” gameplay that Not A Hero gains most of its replay value; I repeatedly found myself wanting another go, to try to do better, to achieve one more objective. Mercifully, it’s designed to allow you to retry failed missions quickly so that you may constantly refine your route through the level with minimal interruption.
Not A Hero’s most obvious comparison is Hotline Miami, another game with a pixel art style that also requires you to learn level layouts and dispatch enemies in the fastest way possible. The key difference between the two (other than one playing from a top-down perspective and the other from a side-on view) is that objectives like “kill everyone” are relatively scarce in Not A Hero whilst they are nearly always the main goal for most of Hotline Miami’s levels. Not A Hero’s objectives are much more varied and provide a very different experience as a result.
Not A Hero is not a game without flaws, however. I did encounter several minor glitches during my time with the game.
The first involved a grenade that got stuck in the terrain and rapidly bounced around on the spot for 30-40 seconds before finally exploding. The second glitch involved the aforementioned “destroy all of the ganja” mission. After detonating the bombs to destroy the ganja there was a single cannabis plant left behind that I was unable to destroy or interact with in any meaningful way; this meant that my only option was to restart the level and try again. This happened twice. The game also inexplicably crashed at one point during my playthrough. Thankfully, these glitches (while a minor annoyance) were not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the game; I still had a great time and finished it regardless because even with the occasional hiccup the core game is still a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Overall, Not A Hero is a fun experience that I found to be highly entertaining. While it does have a few minor technical problems and a couple of its jokes may fail to hit the mark, the rest of the game manages to shine through despite this; making up for any perceived problems that the game might have with superb gameplay, a great cast of voice actors and an irreverent sense of humour. Vote BunnyLord.
Not A Hero is: RECOMMENDED
Not A Hero is also set to be released on PlayStation 4 & PS Vita.
PC version used for purposes of review.
Posted on August 5, 2015, in Indie Games, PC Games, PS VITA, PS4 Games, Reviews and tagged Devolver Digital, Game Reviews, games, gaming, indie games, Not a Hero, PC Games, Reviews, Roll7, video game reviews, video games. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.