NOT A HERO (2015)

Developed by: Roll7

Published by: Devolver Digital

Night falls swiftly, like an obese man tumbling down a flight of stairs. An owl hoots with grave sentiment. A blogger gets carried away with his intro. You, yes you, venture out into the world to walk your Siberian Husky. You should have done it sooner, but time got away from you while playing League of Legends. It just happens. You’ll sit down at your computer at nine-thirty, and before you can say sleep deprivation, it’s like two P.M. tomorrow. Anyways, as you lumber down the side-walk a man approaches you, clad in a dark trench coat. Your stomach tightens. Something just feels wrong about this guy. He keeps drawing nearer. Soon, you’re both so close you could touch! What is he going to do? He passes by, saying nothing, hardly even registering your presence. Relieved, you stop to wipe your brow. That’s when your dog turns to look at you. He opens his furry jaws and speaks in a booming voice.

“Pitiful human, Nyarlathotep shall consume this quaking sphere. Also, you need to check out NOT A HERO, it’s pretty radical.”

You clutch at your melting face and scream: “Holy cow! My dog likes to play videogames!”

perlexed black dude

“This is a review, right?”

Now tell me good sir/madam, have you ever fantasized about starring in your very own action movie? Really, you have? High-Five. With NOT A HERO, you can finally live out your dreams. It’s a veritable candy-shop of shoot-’em-up thrills neatly packaged in madcap scenarios. Yay!

The Awesome

1. Logic? We Don’t Need No Stinking Logic!: NOT A HERO’S plot is something a boardroom of rambunctious five-year-olds would come up with after drinking a full pot of coffee. The result is glorious and a bit nuts. I’ll try to sum it up for you.

A man-sized, purple rabbit named BunnyLord travels back in time from the year 2048 to run for mayor. Why? Because if he’s not elected then the world will be destroyed. That’s a pretty good reason, IMHO. BunnyLord decides to focus his political platform on “cleaning up crime,” and takes a very…hands on approach. He hires a slew of hitmen and vigilantes to go positively HAM on the seediest parts of the city, blowing away thugs and kingpins. Through these extreme yet effective measures, BunnyLord hopes to sway the general populace to his side, win the mayoral campaign and thwart planetary annihilation.

fighting politicans

Thus making him the most level-headed and competent politician who ever lived.

As a medium, videogames operate beyond the scope of normal story-telling rules, allowing plenty of room for creativity to run wild. You can do anything you want as long as it frames the gameplay adequately. While some developers play it safe, Roll7 embraced this freedom to invent something original. Perhaps it’s a bit silly, but it’s the best kind of silly. If NOT A HERO was a person, then it would be someone that you’d totally wanna party with.

party guy

Just like…this…guy?

2. A Game for Filthy Casuals and Sweaty Try-Hards: Each level counts as one day in BunnyLord’s campaign and there are exactly twenty-one days until election time. The player must navigate treacherous apartment complexes to help the time-hopping public servant further his cause. He might have you hang up political flyers one day, and destroy a weed farm the next! There are also three optional objectives in each level that can boost your approval rating. Trying to complete these “side-quests” is extremely challenging because you must perform all of them during the same playthrough. If you screw one up by say, letting a hostage get shot…


My bad.

…you’ll have to start completely over. I found myself becoming totally engrossed while trying to ace every level. It just sucks you right in! Even if I was totally getting wrecked, I didn’t want to log off until I was victorious.

NOT A HERO is commonly described as a “cover-based shooter.” There are objects and furniture on each floor of the various apartments that can be used to avoid bullets and return fire from. This system is deceptively simplistic. It’s actually far deeper than it seems to be at face value.


Making it very similar to Kanye West’s ego.

Enemies also take cover. They’ll charge forward to flush you out of your hiding spot when they see you reloading. Sometimes they even attack from both sides. You’re constantly forced to think on the fly, compensating for new variables while figuring out the best way to proceed. Things only get more complicated when you factor in the additional objectives I mentioned earlier.

For example, level 13 is insanely hard because two of the prerequisites are: use less than a hundred shots and don’t get punched; in a map that’s huge, convoluted, and has angry drug-dealers swarming out of the walls like termites. Don’t feel ashamed if you fall to your knees sobbing for mercy. It took me an act of God to beat it 100%.


“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Goombas, I shall fear no Bowser.”

(I suggest using Samantha for this level because her accuracy makes it easier to conserve shots. Run from bad-guys when possible, and employ every power-up and bomb you can find.) In an era of games that a paraplegic could speed run, soul-crushing difficulty is refreshing. A tad frustrating perhaps, but still refreshing. However, if you aren’t a hardcore completionist and just dabble in videogames to relax, you can do the bare minimum and still have a great time with NOT A HERO.

3. Whoa, Dude! Ultra-Kool Graphix: Some people complain about 80’s-style pixel graphics, saying their overdone, or that the developers were being lazy. Wrong! Why are these people so wrong? Someone smack them upside the head with a pillow! First of all, what are indie game developers supposed to do? Hmm? They don’t have the means to pull off hyper-realistic graphics like the Witcher or Mass Effect. They just do what they can. That’s like complaining about a flyweight boxer because he doesn’t take on heavyweight opponents in the ring.

Jet Li Picture

Only Jet Li can take on someone five times larger and win.

Secondly, if their done well, pixel graphics can be downright sexy! NOT A HERO’S graphics are like dropping acid and then plunging your face through an arcade machine. That’s a good thing, obviously! The game may be set in a strictly urban environment, but drab greys are almost nowhere to be seen. Everything hemorrhages neon colors. The apartment buildings themselves are tinted abnormally with sassy magentas and venomous greens. I like looking at this game. I…I want to stroke it’s hair.

Videogames don’t have hair.

But not only are the visuals most excellent, so are the audibles! By that I mean the soundtrack. It’s a pounding array of electronica that pays homage to the buzzy, glitchy music of primitive videogames while still exhibiting a modern, “Is that Skrillex or…what?” kind of vibe. It really gets your blood pumping as you send tiny gang-bangers to digital hell. Muhahaha!

4. Variety is the Spice of Taking Lives: There are nine playable mercs in NOT A HERO, and they each have a very particular set of skills.


Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Well, unless you count Steve, who is sort of the base character  you start off with. Nobody loves you Steve! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that Steve. Come here, give me a hug. Part of the game’s strategy is deciding which character to use. Need to get somewhere fast? Try Jesus (pronounced Hey-Soos) or Mike, two of the speediest characters. Tactful selection is another detail that contributes to NOT A HERO’s unexpected layer of depth.

Sometimes when you kill an enemy he’ll drop special ammo for your gun(s). There are also explosives hidden around the level like: grenades, molotovs and the adorably lethal “kitty-bomb.”

cat bomber

kitty-bombs are basically this, minus the jihad.

They’re all plain fun to use and–speaking of strategy–can frequently mean the difference between failure and success. Explosives are especially handy for the missions with a kill-clock that requires you to rack up a certain amount of bodies before it resets. Toss a grenade at four guys, BOOM!, move onto the next floor of adversaries and mow ’em down without missing a beat. There ain’t nothing better than incendiary multi-tasking! Maybe it sounds stupid to praise a game for having such an archetypal thing as power-ups, but hey, this is a list of all the awesome stuff and they are definitely awesome!

But now for The Not-So-Awesome

1. When Hide and Seek Goes Terribly Wrong: Pressing “X” on the keyboard will make your character dodge-roll and duck behind the closest object. That’s how you “take cover.” What I’ve noticed though is that there has to be a certain distance between your character and the cover doodad in question. Let’s say you’re standing right next to a water-heater and you want use it as a shield so you press “X.” Unfortunately the game doesn’t work that way, so instead of slipping into the water-heater’s shadow, you end up somersaulting to a box several yards ahead.


“Feng-Shui” the videogame.

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” you murmur to yourself like a crazy person. “Yeah,” I respond huffily, “not until there’s a dude with a Kalashnikov standing between the water-heater and the box, and you slide headfirst into his barrage of screaming death.” I’ve learned to work around this little quirk, but it can be slightly aggravating when things get hectic. Oh, and always remember that you can roll backwards too. That’s something I forget and it’s cost me dearly on more than one occasion.

2. Read ‘Em and Weep: Before every mission, BunnyLord gives the player a mission briefing. Then once you’ve completed the level, there’s also a short coda where he chats with the character you used. The problem with these segments is that the text crawl is so friggin’ slooooooow! You can skip them, which is nice, but if you actually want to read what BunnyLord has to say, you’ll have to sit there for several long minutes as everything sluggishly materializes. I wish you could press a key to make the words appear faster. It’s such an easy fix that would take care of this inconvenience completely.

To be honest though, the faults in this game are little more than nitpicks that barely effect the overall experience. Is it a perfect? Eh, maybe not, but I’m easy to please so I’ll give NOT A HERO: 17 immolated triad-yakuza out of 17. (That’s not a typo, triad-yakuza are an actual thing in this game.)

If you like tense, side-scrolling gunplay with an old-school je-ne-sais-quoi, then pick up NOT A HERO from Go with my blessing, child. And may the good BunnyLord smile upon you.