NOT A HERO is what you get if you mix a foul-mouthed blood-thirsty purple rabbit who’s running for mayor with Hotline Miami and then throw them both in a 2D side-scrolling arcade-action game. The game has been out for a little while on PC, so many of you may have played it or read reviews from that version already. However, many console gamers may never have heard of it, so with that in mind I’m going to do a spoiler-free review for the newly-released PlayStation 4 version. Let’s begin.
Story-wise, there’s not a whole lot happening in NOT A HERO, although what is there is hilarious from beginning to end. The story follows a gun-obsessed purple rabbit called Bunny-Trump Bunnylord. Bunnylord is trying to get elected in an upcoming race for mayor, but he only has one loyal follower – Steve. With just 21 days until the election, the aim of the game is to draw as much attention to Bunnylord as possible. Our purple friend certainly has some shady tactics up his sleeve. In fact, one could say he has more in common with a crime lord than a political candidate, but no matter what happens he can always put a positive spin on events for the papers – sounds like a normal day in American politics, then. In one mission you end up killing an innocent detective, but in the eyes of Bunnylord you took down a crooked cop. You could say Bunnylord can get away with anything.
The gameplay is simple and translates very well onto the Dualshock 4. Use right analog stick or D-pad to move your character, X to slide, square to shoot, circle to reload while triangle throws grenades. The action takes place on a 2D plane as you move up and down through buildings shooting people, or blowing them up, all in the name of kicking crime in the ass… or at least that’s how Bunnylord would view it. It’s a cover-based shooter with nine unique characters to choose from, although you start the game off with just Steve. You unlock more characters for the ‘Bunny Fun Club’ as Bunnylord’s reputation rises. Each character has their own unique abilities, such as Cletus who can run faster or Spanish Jesus who can shoot faster. On top of their own abilities, random power-ups are left on the map or drop from enemies. These range from faster reloading and grenade launchers, to ricocheting bullets and cat-bombs. As far as the moment to moment gameplay goes you work your way through buildings using cover to defend yourself. Your character will appear as if a shadow was cast over them while in cover and in full colour when out of it, but beware enemies will also use cover to avoid your gunfire and they’ll often try to flank you while your reloading. You use the X button to slide, this will allow you to safely enter cover and knock over certain enemies for a brutal execution. Unfortunately that’s all there is to it, you’ll constantly be fighting your way through similar environments and then escaping in Bunnylord’s van or helicopter. Rinse and repeat
The mission structure is simple: you listen to Bunnylord’s speech in the briefing room, you go on the mission and kick crime in the butt, and you close out with a milkshake with Bunnylord and he tells you how awesome you were. NOT A HERO’s 21 missions take place in four colour-coded areas: Vodkaville (purple), Sushi Central (red), Barrington Court (blue), Bredrin Park (green). A wide variety of enemies across zones adds a tactile layer to the game, although it’s not as deep as we’d hoped. You have your standard enemies, samurais that charge at you with a sword for a one hit kill, drug dealers that you can’t slide tackle, and a couple of others. Some decent choice is present, though there’s plenty of room in the themes of each environment for a few more custom enemy types.
The art direction hearkens back to the 8-bit era, and I’m happy to report that Roll7 has mastered the look and pulls it off with style. The soundtrack is brilliant, ranging from slow-yet-upbeat, melodies to loud, fast, booming tracks. As I mentioned earlier, the game is hilarious. The dialogue, in the briefing room and in the milkshake shop, is some of the funniest I’ve heard in a long time, although it occasionally comes across as forced. Here’s a direct quote from the benevolent Bunnylord – ‘yesterday I was more despondent than a chicken who’d been murdered in the eyes, but today was a wonderful day Steve. We should celebrate with a badass turtle party or something.’ Buddylord truly was blessed with his oratorical skills.
However, all is not good in NOT A HERO. In fact, I would say a handful of pretty big issues hold it back from brilliance. Firstly, as I touched on earlier the game is very repetitive. What you do in the first mission is what you’ll be doing in the next twenty, which is shooting your way to an objective, then shooting your way to the exit. A lot of games fall into this trap, but most of them manage to dress it up a little better. Not a Hero’s issues, in this department, seem to stem from a lack of depth in gameplay variety. There are three additional objectives in each mission which could add replay value for some players. These range from beating a mission in under a certain time or collecting items, to wiping out all the enemies, or saving a panda. Unfortunately, no matter what that extra objective may be you’ll still be doing the same thing – shooting your way to it.
Luckily, the game is short. It’ll probably take players around five or six hours to complete, although the difficulty spike in the last few levels can drastically slow things down and become frustrating. Outside of the main missions and their three extra objectives, there’s little more to do. Additional characters give a bit of depth to how you can replay each stage, but you’re still going back through the same areas. It’s a pity that Roll7 didn’t try to add in some mini-games, such as a survival mode, to take advantage of the fun gameplay mechanics they introduced. While they wouldn’t add a lot to the game they would give players a little something extra to mess around with outside of Bunnylord’s election campaign.