Not a Hero / Not a Hero: Super Snazzy Edition

A game by Roll7 for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, originally released in 2015, with the Super Snazzy Edition released in 2018.
Not a Hero is a game about running a successful political campaign and getting your candidate elected to office… sort of. The game has absolutely no simulation elements; rather, this is a run and gun actioner where all of your goals are accomplished with the liberal application of bullets, heavy munitions, and the occasional exploding kitten. You play an assassin who blasts his way through a bevvy of baddies while BunnyLord waits for you in his BunnyWagon, or his BunnyCopter, to whisk you away to a diner for breakfast as a reward for your dedicated service.

BunnyLord is your political candidate, and he is a giant purple anthropomorphic bunny who is about as grounded in reality as the Katamari Damacy series’ King of All Cosmos. BunnyLord hopes to win undecided voters to his constituency by ridding the streets of the criminal element – and occasionally enacting revenge on his enemies – with his team of oddball assassins. His cockamamie schemes are conveyed in between-level sequences that are filled with zany dialogue. While the assassins each have speaking voices, BunnyLord sounds somewhat like a squeaking balloon.

Each assassin has his or her own personality, which is expressed when the character is highlighted on the selection screen. Each character also lets out quips during gameplay when objectives are completed or when the player character takes damage… or most often to remind the player to reload. The player begins the game with a single assassin at his disposal, but eight additional hitters are unlocked as BunnyLord’s approval rating increases.

While each of the assassins has his or her own skill set, basic gameplay is consistent between most of them. Players can run, slide, take cover, and shoot, with an infinite ammo primary weapon that must be manually reloaded. Even if the player expends a full clip and runs the ammo counter down to zero, he must press the RELOAD button before a new clip is loaded. With all of the high-speed action, explosions, and general insanity going on in any given level, it can be difficult to remember this key element and find yourself killed at the most inopportune of times.

Taking cover allows players to pop into the background and avoid enemy fire, but many enemies can use this tactic as well. Taking advantage of the cover system also means paying attention to enemy timing, waiting for them to stop firing, and listening for the distinctive click when an enemy has run out of ammo. In the early going, players learn how to take cover, tap the button to slide quickly into the next cover point, and to lean out and attack enemies. And, while this is a perfectly viable tactic for completing many levels, the real thrill comes from performing critical attacks and executions.

Most enemies can be killed instantly if the player runs up and shoots them at close range, resulting in a satisfying spray of blood as their heads are removed from their shoulders. In addition, the player’s slide move serves multiple purposes: it allows him to quickly move between cover points, it allows him to slide under enemy fire, and it allows him to trip enemies. By tripping an enemy, the player has a short window in which to press the ATTACK button to perform an instant kill, even if the player has run out of ammunition.

Some characters are better suited for execution-style kills as they can perform these attacks without coming to a full stop. This is important because nearby enemies will respond to noises and run in to attack. Stopping for a couple of seconds to finish off a downed enemy is all the time it takes for a machine gunner to bust in and polish you off.

The player starts his 21-level journey in a tutorial level with Steve, a well-rounded character who has a handgun that fires at a moderate rate with a good range. His weapon holds 12 rounds and he reloads quickly, allowing him to gun his way through most situations. The next unlockable character is Cletus, a Scottish redneck who takes an entirely different approach. He has a shotgun that is capable of blasting open doors to knock down enemies, interrupting enemy reloads, and knocking enemies backward with great force… which can be handy when said enemy is standing near a window. However, the shotgun only holds 5 rounds and his reload speed is much slower.

Other characters change things up with faster movement speeds, on-the-run executions, stealthy kills, or more powerful weaponry. Each of these characters is unlocked by completing the game’s secondary objectives – which increase BunnyLord’s approval rating – including completing the mission under a certain time limit, performing stylish execution kills, wiping out certain enemy types, or keeping a long kill streak going.

There are three secondary objectives per level, and all three must be completed in a single run for maximum approval rating points. Particularly challenging are levels that mix time-based challenges with those that require the player to complete the level without taking much damage, or by only firing his weapon a certain number of times. Given the differences in their speed and firepower, some assassins are better suited toward executing these objectives than others. A level select allows players to retry completed levels at will.

To support the player in killing everything that moves, a number of limited-ammo upgrades and secondary weapons are available. Secondary weapons are found in specific locations within the level and include things like grenades, Molotov cocktails, and turrets, along with sillier constructs like the drill bomb that flies upward to destroy enemies on the floor above you, and the cat bomb that allows the player to drop a kitty that walks around and mews before exploding spectacularly and wiping out everything in sight.

Weapon upgrades are found as occasional enemy drops. These modify the player’s existing ammunition to allow for additional effects, like exploding bullets, ricocheting shots, and shots that engulf the enemy in flames. These effects last for as long as you have ammo in your clip, allowing high-capacity characters to take more advantage of these upgrades. Most weapon effects are nullified if the player manually reloads before his ammo is depleted, but there is also a rapid reload powerup that remains with the player until he picks up a new upgrade. Players can also shoot certain objects to cause explosions – although the player needs to get clear of them before they go off – and some levels have the player planting bombs.

The player has five units of health, with basic attacks depleting the meter by one. Heavy attacks like shotgun blasts can deplete the meter more quickly, and taking the brunt of a full clip of machine gun fire can kill the player in just a couple of seconds. The health meter refills automatically while the player is not taking damage, but losing all of your health requires that you restart the level from scratch.

Unfortunately, the basic design of most levels is very similar, with very little visual variety. However, things are changed up from time to time with objectives that require players to hunt for hidden items – and even a hidden doors that take them to optional levels – to escort someone through a level, or to hunt down someone who is actively fleeing, requiring the player to chase them through the level… or smash through a window to drop down to a lower floor and head them off. There are some hostage rescue missions as well, where players must find ways to get in behind the hostage takers to kill them before they can blast their victims.

There are some minor control oddities that occasionally impact the game’s otherwise fast and carefree pace. For one, there are two types of stairwell: one with stairs leading up and one with stairs leading down. In both cases, these appear as doorways in the background with a graphic indicating the direction of the stairs and an arrow on the top of the door. In most games, entering a doorway in the background would be handled by pressing UP, regardless of the direction of the stairs on the other side of the door. Here, players are required to press UP for stairwells that lead up, and DOWN for those that go down.

In addition, since the player does not have the ability to jump, it is occasionally impossible for him to return to previous sections of the level – which is by design – but players are sometimes unavoidably knocked backward when smashing through a window and immediately encountering an enemy, potentially pushing them back out the window where they fall to a lower area, and falling from too great a height results in instant death.

Not a Hero was developed by Roll7, who is best known for their work on OlliOlli. The studio was founded in 2008 by Ribbins, Simon Bennett, and Tom Hegarty, and is based in Deptford, South-East London.

The game was published by Devolver Digital, which has published a number of 2D indie games including Serious Sam: Double D XXL, Luftrausers, Broforce, Foul Play, Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike, Hotline Miami, Hotline Miami 2, Titan Souls, Ronin, Downwell, Enter the Gungeon, Mother Russia Bleeds, The Swords of Ditto, Minit, The Messenger, Crossing Souls, Gato Roboto, Katana ZERO, Carrion, GRIS, and Witcheye.

OlliOlli is a 2D skateboarding game that summons the spirit of the (good) Tony Hawk games to allow for rail grinding, dozens of tricks, and big air through a number of cityscapes and other themed environments. Players are tasked with stringing together long combos to increase their score, at the risk of losing it all if one of these tricks is failed, which results in the player character ingloriously flailing and tumbling through the environment until he comes to a bone-crunching stop.