VOTE FOR BUNNYLORD!
You will know whether you like Not a Hero within the first 15 minutes of playing it. Why? It’s simple. It’s an easy to understand game that keeps you invested by giving you an interesting challenge with just the core mechanics. That is why even though the game never really changes after that first 15 minutes, it never needs to. Not a Hero is a game with a funny premise and fun mechanics. That’s it, and that’s all you will need. So what is Not a Hero? Well, it’s a 2D-shooter about politics! Seriously!
Bunnylord, an anthropomorphic purple rabbit (yup), wants to be Mayor and needs your help on the campaign trail. By help, he means kill gang members in the city, rescue hostages, recover various items for photo ops, and even post election ads. As the game progresses, election day will inch closer and closer as you eventually take on the three biggest crime syndicates in the city, all for positive press for Bunnylord.
There’s not much story beyond the premise and it doesn’t need any, as a lot of the enjoyment from the premise comes from Bunnylord himself. He briefs you before and after every level and his dialogue is hilarious. Bunnylord is a possibly criminally insane politician whose first language probably isn’t English, as he talks in bizarre collections of redundant phrases and strange descriptions. Prepare to kill thugs to death like a stunning oak tree of childish vengeance! It’s very terrific.
Like a lot of retro-inspired titles, this game goes for the pixelated graphics aesthetic. The pixel art is very well done, as despite the blocky look, the characters are very expressive and fluidly animated. It makes for a lot of comedic situations and visceral looking deaths. The soundtrack is pretty good with chiptunes that enhance the comedy and action when appropriate, but I don’t think I’ll be listening to the music outside of the game. Some songs stand out on their own but not many. The voice acting that’s in the game is pretty hilarious. Your characters will spout out hilarious one liners while enemies will talk smack one minute and beg you to spare them the next. I know that sound sadistic, and it is…but it’s also funny.
In Not a Hero, you will shoot, blow up, and disintegrate enemies while completing other tasks like turning on a billboard, collecting objects and more. You have five bars of regenerating health that can be depleted rather quickly so you’ll be using the cover mechanic often. In addition, you also have a slide maneuver which will be your main method of evasion as well as a quick way of getting around. It will also be used to stun enemies for a quick execution kill, though you won’t be relying on this late in the game.
Starting off, you will only have one character to select from, but as you progress through the game, you will unlock more characters, each with different traits and abilities that will make some levels easier or harder, depending on how you like to play the game. These include faster reloading times, using a shotgun instead of a pistol, the ability to shoot open doors, faster movement speed, shooting in both directions in exchange for no special weapon pickups and more.
For a relatively simple concept, Not a Hero gives you a lot of options on how to go about said concept. While they are ultimately minor changes, they make all the difference in the heat of a gun fight. You will judge your ability to swiftly take on a room of thugs before you even enter it based on these subtle differences. With one character, you might think to run in guns blazing, using cover when needed while with another you will use the door to stun all of them for a quick mass execution. It’s quick action while not being frantic (in most cases) that makes for an exhilarating and fun experience.
From a level design perspective, Not a Hero suffers from a lack of variety. All of the levels involve you ascending or descending various buildings, all of which look the same aside from some decoration to reflect the current gang you’re fighting or the contents of some special rooms. What it lacks in aesthetic design, it makes up for with enemy placement. Enemies are always placed to be challenging but fair. Even when the game has enemies run after you from other floors, they are shown in clear sight so you can be ready. With the exception of the final section of the final level (which inexplicably ignores most of these rules), these design choices keep frustration down to a minimum.
However towards the end of the game, you’ll find yourself struggling with the cover and sliding mechanics. See, they are mapped to the same button. If you tap the button, you’ll slide to the next available cover. If you hold the button, you’ll slide until you lose momentum. If you hold the button but let go before you’re done sliding, you’ll lock into the nearest cover. In the heat of battle, I found myself sliding around when I wanted to go into cover and going into cover when I wanted to slide into an enemy while I could. I wish there was an option to map these two mechanics onto separate buttons, as it would’ve fixed the issue.
Not a Hero has 21 levels to complete. It took me about five hours to beat it, and I died a lot so it’s not a very long game. That said, each level has extra objectives that will raise your rating if you complete them. This will raise your Approval Rating, which will help unlock more characters. Most of the game’s difficulty and replay value comes from these challenges. A lot of them will have you explore the level more or kill enemies quicker, bloodier, or more methodically, which is fine. However, others have time limits which feel unnecessary. The ones involving payphones or reporters are the most annoying, as you’ll never get them the first time because you don’t know where they even are!
Technically, I had no issues with Not a Hero. Everything ran fine at a solid 60fps with no frame drops or glitches. However for a PC game, Not a Hero is sparse on options. Not that a game like this would need a lot but there’s no vsync, multiple resolutions, or even a windowed mode. You can’t even turn down the audio! You can just turn the music and sound effects off and on. Thankfully, you can remap the buttons on your controller but even that doesn’t allow you to see what the previous mappings are. Tsk. Tsk.
The Verdict: 8.0 of out 10
There are a few things that keep Not a Hero from being a current day action retro classic in the vein of Hotline Miami, but it doesn’t prevent the game from being enjoyable. With fun and challenging gameplay, charming presentation, and a great sense of humor, you should pick up Not a Hero. After all, you want to be on Bunnylord’s side. He can get free milkshakes at Aunt Ruby’s restaurant. They have vanilla, strawberry, and wombat flavors, you know!
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.