Not a Hero will have a lot of attention coming its way. Developer Roll7 won a BAFTA for their skateboard game OlliOlli and their platform shooter is equally as addictive.
The game may hark back to the days of classic platformer design, things you’d likely see from a Spectrum, Commodore and occasionally 16-Bit consoles. But the look is very much of the 80s vibe. From the days when gaming’s limited colour palette meant bright and fun level designs.
The premise is intriguing and continuously funny (I’ll explain that statement later). The idea is that the not-so-evil visionary, Bunnylord, has decided to go back in time to become Mayor. Mostly because the world got in to such a state in the future that only he could change it by going back to the past. When he is there, he hires a group of mercenaries to eliminate those opposing his leadership. You are those mercenaries.
You’re not technically the bad guys though because Bunnylord is right and although his methods might be one you’d attribute to an evil megalomaniac, you are in fact cleaning up the town. And if you’ve played OlliOlli or any other Roll7 game, you’ll know that it’s something you’ll be doing at a frenetic pace that requires precision timing. Not a Hero does this perfectly with gameplay that’s reminiscent of the best shooting platformers of the 8-bit and 16-Bit age like Robocop Vs Terminator or that decent Batman game. You have very simple options but it’s the timing that makes it work. You can shoot, which is the easiest thing, get in to cover and shoot, fly through a door and tackle enemies or execute them.
Instead of the awkward, or should we say challenging, control methods of other violent games like Hotline Miami, Not a Hero is incredibly easy because it operates with only one or two buttons, and very rarely are they operated at the same time. Like OlliOlli, the time that you hit the button and the moments you choose to pop out of cover, or jump out of a building is more important than the shooting itself. Scenes of buildings with a slightly isometric front on view give a great indication of what’s around you as well as an interesting city landscape dominated by “Bunnylord for Mayor” signs. He’s not evil, he’s cute…
Until he starts speak to one of your nine characters that is. This is where the game is continuously funny and incredibly sweary. A lot of people have put a big importance on procedural generation within games, however that’s been limited to the gameplay and the levels. Just check Steam Early Access or Kickstarter and you’ll see that procedural generation is now massively prevalent. Not a Hero has put some procedural generation in the speech rather than the levels, or at least you could say some randomisation. What happens is certain key words are replaced and changed when Bunnylord is talking to you and given you orders, leading to often hilarious and new passages of dialogue every time you play. It gives a new lease of life around the game repeatedly, especially when the levels are so gosh darn replayable.
We are introduced to the world when Steve, a former assassin, gets involved with “mayoral candidate from the future” Bunnylord, and becomes his campaign manager. Then begins the slanted 2D, or 2 and one quarter ISO-Slant technology as Roll7 call it, craziness of the cover-shooter… Which actually isn’t limited to shooting. Samuari swords, kick ass Tarantino-esque moments, jumping out of 5 story windows directly in to a van (which was a very enjoyable part of the demo we played) and a various cacophony of comedic 8-bit violence. The missions themselves are normally a fixed objective but you do get, much like in OlliOlli, a list of secondary things that you can accomplish in the level. Things like 3 executions slide tackle 5 enemies, that kind of thing. And these are occasionally randomised as well so that brings another new level of challenges to the game.
In our play through with Cletus, our shotgun gave us some great range. Being able to shoot through doors and enter a room straight in to cover like a violent pixilated ballet gave us great hope for the rest of the game. The characters all have their own weapons and unique personalities and I’m not sure there’s a better, non-evil, humanitarian potential candidate for government than Bunnylord in all of existence. I kind of hope he hijacks our actual national election and given the pictures on the official website I don’t think he’s beyond that, especially as the release date on Steam (PC) is May 7th… Election day. Coincidence? I think not. Whoever becomes mayor, the PS4 and PS Vita will see a release later in the year.