When I sat down to play Not a Hero, it wasn’t because I had longed to get my hands on it since it’s initial release. No, it was more that I was having a bad night picking up other games as written in my Cache Update on the topic. I can say that I’m glad that series of events lead me to the game.
Not a Hero, developed by Roll7 and published by Devolver Digital, is a pixel art 2D side-scrolling shooter with a sharp satirical edge. You play as a series of anti-heroes who work for a purple anthropomorphic bunny from the future who wants to be mayor of the city. Your primary objective through each of the missions is to complete goals that paint future mayor Bunnylord as the best possible candidate by ridding the city of crime and saving hostages. After each successful mission, Bunnylord treats you to a milkshake at his favorite diner while explaining how you are a total badass.
That sets the stage for the tone of the game. Every briefing before, every debrief after, and every comment made during the missions is completely tongue in cheek. There’s nothing like an interruption of an important briefing by Bunnylord to discuss the puppy he brought with him that day or how tasty milkshakes are with bits of gerbil. This carries over to each of the characters that can be played in the game, including one who constantly hip thrusts and another who thinks he’s Scottish. The tone adds something extra to set this one apart from others.
As mentioned, there are a number of available player characters. The game starts with one with more being earned as Bunnylord’s popularity grows. Popularity is earned with a star system seen in many mobile games; complete more objectives, get more stars, earn more popularity (of the nine possible characters, I unlocked seven by the end game). Each character comes with their own style of weapon and bonus abilities. Weapons range from pistols to shotguns to pray-and-spray submachineguns. Abilities include faster movement, special takedowns, and firing/reloading while moving. Each new character is not necessarily better than the last, but offers a new combination that enables you to complete a mission or get higher marks in a repeated mission.
Gameplay is simple but well done. Each level takes place in some sort of multi-story building. The player can shoot and reload, perform a slide tackle, instant kill anyone downed by a slide tackle or shotgun, and duck into cover behind objects in a fade-into-the-shadows sort of way. Weapon pick-ups are available that change the shot style al a Contra and special weapons, like grenades or an exploding cat, are also scattered about. The verticality of each level brings leaping out of windows to traverse buildings or falling through skylights. Movement through levels and the takedown of enemies are closer to solving a puzzle than straight up action. Missions are often repeated while learning the best path and method to take down the obstacles in your way. Enemies encountered are well varied, each with their own weapons and takedown strategy.
Graphics are pixel art to the core. The style is well executed and detailed enough to get the gist of what the developers wanted to portray regarding the scene or character’s state of being. The style also allows the player to form their own opinion of what characters would look like with a higher fidelity, much like forming images of characters when reading a book.
Overall, if you were able to pick up Not a Hero as a PSN Plus member, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot. It was an enjoyable five to six hour experience for me. If it’s not already in your library, consider picking it up on the cheap during a Steam or PSN sale.