NOT A HERO, always in all caps, is an indie 2D shooter for Windows with unabashed brit humor and over-the-top 8 bit violence developed by UK based indie group Roll7 and published by Devolver Digital– the guys that also published Serious Sam, Hotline Miami and Hatoful Boyfriend.
Prepare for a sidescrolling, gun toting, roaring rampage of… political campaign!
NOT A HERO
You are part of a mercenary force hired by an anthropomorphic purple bunny from the future to help him secure his mayoral candidacy so he can save us from an apocalyptic event. Yes, it’s that sort of game and I absolutely love it. Think that Broforce and Hotline Miami had a one night stand and this is the baby.
Much of the background story is told in the trailer above, but the creators also did a lovely piece of viral marketing with a Twitter account for Bunnylord– your employer- and a website against “time traveling immigrants” that hosts a “hacked” demo of the game. Bunnylord’s, BL for short, twitter has some hilarious tweets and the fake website is a clever and funny idea.
In the game itself you are treated to a speech by BL explaining your next mission. Of course he goes out on weird tangents, uses bizarre Powerpoint presentations, and please ignore the bound, gagged and bloodied hostage in the background. After finishing the level your character will lounge with him at a cafeteria while BL talks more funny nonsense and if he remembers to do so will rate your efforts.
Delicious 8 bit gore
The gameplay is fluid and while easy to learn it’s hard to master. The game is tough, specially if you’re going for the extra objectives, but not unforgiving. As you make progress you unlock up to nine characters with different skills, weapons and personalities. For example there’s Cletus, he can blow enemies away with a shotgun and he pretends to be Scottish- not much else.
It’s a nice throwback to simpler, NES dominated times, with the violence we come to expect in modern times and the twisty humor only the nation to spawn Monty Python can deliver. You’ll find powerups, extra weapons, secret levels, easter eggs and an incredibly good time playing this. There are absolutely NO checkpoints in this game, however you have infinite retries so feel free to die. A lot.
The hallmark of the gameplay is the cover system. When you begin the gunplay you can take cover in the shadows and emerge to shoot and so can your enemies! So it becomes a classic, hollywoodesque shootout between the good guys and the bad guys. Unless of course you tire of that and perform a slide, knocking your enemy down and allowing you to perform a brutal execution with your hero of choice. Or you can shoot a fire extinguisher and make it explode, the environment plays an important role in fights as well. You won’t get tired of it.
Every level has sidequests also, and it affects your mission rating- and not much else, since the game lacks Steam achievements for the moment. It unfortunately feels like padding, since the game is awfully short at 24 levels.
Vote Bunnylord, or else
NOT A HERO hits the sweet spot when it comes to art. Blocky and pixellated enough to bring out nostalgia and the aesthetics of the brutal games of old but clean and clear so you can appreciate what they made. The run down buildings, the uniforms on the enemies, the backgrounds, the vehicles, everything is done with loving attention to detail. The hostage drips blood, enemy machines smoke when you damage them, baddies are outright fountains of gore, glass windows break as realistically as any 8 bit game could make it and the ghettos even have readable graffiti on the walls.
The sounds are excellent as well, the mercenaries you control can’t help but quip one-liners as they mow down foes, many enemies speak clearly and it makes it all the funnier then that BL only speaks in bleeps like games did in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The music is too reminiscent of those old times, I wish it would be more fast paced in some levels. The sound effects are flawlessly executed, never a dull moment sound-wise.
Taking out the trash
The game is by no means perfect. At 21 levels and 3 secret areas, this game is incredibly short. If you don’t care about completing every single objective you could rush and finish it in a single sitting. There is no level editor either, so there goes user made campaigns and the replay value.
A co-op mode would also have gone a long way in enhancing this game, I can’t imagine what fun you are missing by not being able to play with your friends. An online mode would also have been great, I imagine something like Gang Garrison 2 but free for all instead of team based, and it would have added loads of replay value.
As well polished as it is, I gotta take down points for the lack of content. The game makes you fall in love with it and soon after, it ends. The game has some fake longevity built-in in the form of hard side objectives. You could argue that the lack of checkpoints is this too, but I disagree, I think it’s a throwback to the NES era and part of the game’s appeal.
You may feel the gameplay becomes repetitive later on, which didn’t really happen to me but I recognize the pattern. The lack of multiplayer is another downer.
If you see it discounted during a sale by all means buy it without a doubt! But until then, $13 is too much to ask for an experience that as awesome as it is, still feels short.