Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on a killing spree for an insane, purple humanoid rabbit named Bunnylord just so he can become Mayor? Well wonder no more – Not A Hero is here to satisfy your mindless killing urges, with you working for mayoral candidate Bunnylord as he sends you out to clean up the streets by any means possible. By any means possible, he means through the use of extreme violence though. Obviously.
It may sound utterly insane but that’s the core concept of Not A Hero, the latest title from OlliOlli developers Roll7. They seem to have a knack for taking a game formula, giving it their own stylish vibe and then making it their own by offering bat sh*t crazy gameplay. One thing you can always guarantee with a Roll7 game though is that it’ll be highly entertaining and that’s certainly the case with Not A Hero.
At its core Not A Hero is a 2D cover shooter that sends you on a killing spree through fairly large levels, offering one primary objective and three secondary objectives. These objectives range from destroying drug caches to taking out the leader of a violent gang – you’re doing all this for the better good after all.
Levels all take place through multi-tiered buildings that have you working up and down floors, taking enemies out. You’ll get to travel via some cooler methods too, such as rolling off a building and through the glass roof of another, landing on an enemy and taking him out in the process. The pixel art on each level looks great, sending you through a variety of buildings including abandoned warehouses, gang hideouts and even Japanese temples. However, whilst levels look different in design they never feel all that different – you always seem to be working up and down a building, walking through doors or leaping between rooftops.
Thankfully there’s plenty of variety in your objectives with most enjoyment coming from the secondary challenges. They come in different varieties such as firing less than a hundred bullets, performing a certain amount of executions or only receiving a certain amount of damage. There are also more unique objectives such as finding a hidden bonsai tree or reaching a certain point of a level within a set time. Some of the objectives are tricky, and in order to get the highest possible rating for a level you have to complete all objectives in one run – it’s difficult and you’ll certainly get frustrated at times, but the game is enjoyable enough that it’ll have you coming back for ‘one more try’ over and over again.
Roll7 have done a good job of implementing a cover system into a 2D game, although it is pretty bare boned. You simply press a button to lean into the shadows behind an object and then press it again to come out. You can’t blind-fire from behind cover though, so if you want to try and shoot down a foe you’ll be putting your wellbeing at risk. Enemies can head in and out of cover too, setting up some pretty great shootouts throughout the game – timing plays a big role in Not A Hero, so an itchy trigger finger can mean the difference between life and death.
The shooting also consists of simple mechanics, with shooting directions being limited to left and right. You do have a few special abilities at hand though, like the ability to deliver a brutal execution on an enemy if you shoot them from up close. You’ll be popping caps in gangster’s skulls and watching their heads pop aplenty, though it does get a little more difficult to pull of when you reach the later levels of the game.
You have unlimited standard ammo at hand, but there’s also a good variety of specialist ammo to collect that offer different kinds of special attributes – my personal favourite has to be the ammo that blasts your opponent way back through a level, though the explosive ammo got me out of a few tricky situations too. You have also have access to a secondary weapons such as grenades, turrets and… cat bombs. Yes, you can send a suicide-cat out to do your dirty work and blow up your foes (don’t tell PETA). That’s Not A Hero for you though – expect the utterly insane.
As you progress through the game you’ll unlock a variety of different characters that each have their own special abilities and different weapons on offer. I’ll have to admit that I found myself mainly using initial character Steve – he had a standard, accurate pistol and the ability to slide into foes to knock them off balance. The patriotic side of me wanted to use Welshy Samantha who has the ability to reload and shoot whilst running, but I just found her inaccurate compared to the efficiency of Steve’s aiming. There’s plenty to choose from though and the fact that you unlock them through progression in the game means you have something to work for.
Experimenting with the characters is sometimes the best way to achieve success in a mission. For example, if a mission has objectives require you to work quickly then you’re best of using Mike, the fleet footed vegan. It’s all about finding what works best for you and thankfully there’s a great variety of characters to work with. As if to follow the theme that Not A Hero has set, they’re all absolutely bonkers too.
Casual players be warned though – Not A Hero is not an easy game by any means. There are times when the game hits some sharp difficulty spikes seemingly out of nowhere. At times I’d be on a killing spree and feel unstoppable, only to hit a room full of enemies that would completely destroy me. There are no checkpoints either, so each death results in starting the level over – something increasingly frustrating as you’re attempting to complete each objective in a level.
The narrative of the game plays a big role between levels, with Bunnylord offering an introduction to each mission as well as a speech commending you on your success after each completed mission. The humour is a bit hit and miss – there were times when the game had me genuinely laughing out loud, whilst other times the British humour could feel a tad boring. I think I got so used to the insane nature of the game that when the insanity was toned down in some scenes, I couldn’t help but to feel a little disappointed. Why can’t the Clown always be accompanying Bunnylord?! It’s also a little frustrating that I couldn’t speed through the dialogue – text speed really slow, and the only option is to wait it out or skip it altogether.
With OlliOlli Roll7 took the skateboarding genre, simplified it but also made it incredibly fun and utterly insane. They’ve done the same thing with the cover based shooter genre here in Not A Hero – it’s simplified, but highly enjoyable and totally chaotic. Whilst it is guilty of having an often unforgiving difficulty and lack of variety in level design, it doesn’t stop Not A Hero being an incredibly fun game with a good wealth of content to keep you hooked for hours and hours – or atleast until Bunnylord is Mayor anyway…
– Chaotic gameplay that never stops being fun
– Good variety of characters that each feel unique
– Each level offer additional challenges that’ll take you a long time to master
– Level design can feel a little samey
– Often unforgiving difficulty
Developer: Roll7 (www.roll7.co.uk)
Publisher: Devolver Digital (www.devolverdigital.com)
Release Date: 14/05/2016 (PC), 02/02/2016 (Playstation 4)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (reviewed), PC, Mac, Linux