By: Jeff Cater
Developed by Roll7 and published by Devolver Digital, Not a Hero is a blast and a half. Literally! It’s a 2.5D side-scrolling shooter that uses cover mechanics. In Not a Hero, you’ll pick from a cast of likable scumbags with the assigned task of being an Anti-Hero and cleaning up the streets via supreme measures, all in an attempt to elect BunnyLord as mayor to effectively save the world from itself.
Not a Hero keeps things pretty simple. Movement is governed by use of the d-pad or thumb stick, but entering the “background” to take cover is done with “X.” “X” will also let you perform a running slide to get into better positions without taking too much fire.
Speaking of fire, you’ll use Square to shoot, Triangle to set trigger power-up weapons that lay scattered among the level, and Circle to reload. That is, if your current character has a gun rather than a sword — late-game characters sometimes carry blades. Roll7 matches the furious action within Not a Hero with excellent control response and simple concepts.
While the pixelated 2D look is seriously getting tired these days, Not a Hero serves up multiple visual effects when it comes to power ups, from turrets that sprout out of the ground to laser shots that ricochet about. Each character that is available to play as has a visually different motif, like the Swedish Redneck Cletus, or even Jesus. Yeah, Jesus shows up to help out BunnyLord.
When the bullets start flying tons of viscera joins them. Bodies will fly back from the force of a shotgun blast or a door being kicked into them, and shell casings will start lining the entire level as well. The levels are full of interesting small details, like the strange fuzzy monsters you’ll have to sometimes rescue to room upon room of good, sweet Ganja that you’ll have to burn away.
The sound of Not a Hero is pretty mixed. The BunnyLord himself has that sort of Peanuts grown-up voice, and there’s no way to speed up his dialogue without skipping it, so reading along with what the story is trying to tell you can be incredibly grating because of his voice.
Music is good and pumping, and it does a swell job at helping the player keep pace on their way through a stage. Thankfully the players’ characters all have funny lines of dialogue, and they’re all also very well performed, so that more than makes up for the minimal BunnyLord scenes you’ll have to endure.
While there can be some pretty frustrating objectives, like not letting hostages die while also trying to complete a level under 150 seconds, the core gameplay of Not a Hero is stupendous. Plus, while you’re clearing the mean streets (or, more accurately, mean buildings) you’ll often have a small list of side objectives to complete as well.
For example, you’ll have to painfully burn down ganja grow-ops, rescue cats and slap propaganda posters up in addition to sweet killing. As you complete levels and secondary objectives, BunnyLord’s approval rating goes up and more Anti-Heroes will join your cause.
Each Anti-Hero has a particular set of skills, mostly involving finding and killing enemies. For example, the sly Samantha (clearly inspired by Neo/Trinity) can run while shooting and reloading. The suave 007 of the bunch, Clive, can shoot both directions with pinpoint accuracy.
While on mission, you’ll be dashing room to room as hastily as you can, gunning down thugs and killers with extreme prejudice. Sometimes you’ll be caught with enemies on both sides, and sometimes you’ll get the drop on them and earn some spiffy Execution points. It plays, looks and sounds like a side-scrolling Hotline Miami, and that isn’t a bad thing.
While the market is truly oversaturated with 2D pixel titles, Not a Hero is definitely one of the standouts of the bunch. The game is very easy to pick up, the difficulty has a gradual curve, and the humor of the game makes it very easy to just keep playing.