UK developer Roll7 has been around since 2008, but the studio didn’t really come into their own until the 2014 release of OlliOlli. The popular skateboarding title impressed critics with its addicting gameplay and neon-hued visuals. After bringing out the even better sequel, though, the studio took their back to basics approach to gaming to a different genre. Not A Hero: Super Snazzy Edition, the Xbox One release of the original Not A Hero, also has a similar colorful scheme, but instead of mastering tricks, you’re mastering kills.
Travelling back in time from the year 2048, the giant, purple BunnyLord has one goal on his mind: to become mayor. While the popularity of political office is always great, BunnyLord actually wants to win this election in order to save the world from total alien destruction. However, since speeches and debates can only do so much, the mayoral candidate wants to employ a different approach to winning the public’s approval. His plan involves ridding the city of crime, but his methods are, let’s say, a little more vicious. BunnyLord has decided to set-up a task force of sorts in order to forcibly eliminate criminals and gangsters, which is where you come in.
If you couldn’t tell from the appearance of BunnyLord, the storyline of Not A Hero is a little out there. Rather than explain things, though, plot development takes a back seat to humor. Unfortunately, the scattershot approach to comedy here often lead to just as many groans as it does laughs. The humor delves into the painful world of randomness, which involves someone saying something odd and hoping you’ll laugh. Don’t get me wrong, there are laughs to be had, but the “zany” type of humor falls flat more often than not for me.
Mashing together the cover-based shooting of kill.switch and the dashing antics of Vanquish, Not A Hero takes the typically 3D tactical shooter and moves it to a two dimensional frame. In order to survive every encounter, players need to utilize both the copious amounts of coverage, as well as the slide mechanic which allows them to dart in and out of view. While not as hectic as PlatinumGames’ 2010 shooter, the switch to 2D has given the typically slower-paced third-person shooter a shot of adrenaline. And you’ll need every last dose of adrenaline you can get in order to accomplish your goal of cleaning up the streets.
While you’ll be doing plenty of murdering, there are actual goals in each level of the game. Each stage has one core objective, which could involve you destroying piles of cash or putting up campaign posters, as well as three optional goals. The main goals are fairly straightforward, but the optional missions are designed to put your skills to the ultimate test. Whether you’re trying to rescue several hostages or working to clear a level in less than 140 seconds, you’ll need to be at your absolute best to succeed. Accomplishing every objective, while not mandatory outside of the main one, is crucial to raising BunnyLord’s approval rating.
Besides getting our favorite purple rabbit elected, increasing his approval rating also unlocks new playable characters. Since the gameplay of “slide, take cover, shoot, repeat” never changes, different killers are really the only variation the title has. Each new character has their own unique weapon, as well as differences in stats such as speed, reload time and accuracy. For example, the shotgun-wielding Mike is incredibly powerful, but can only fire twice before reloading. On the flip side, Jesus, who, of course, resembles The Big Lebowski’s Jesus, has plenty of ammunition, but limited accuracy. It’s best to play around with each one, because if you’re like me, your preference may change several times.
In addition to the handful of characters, players can also find special weapons and accessories in each level. Special weapons include grenade launchers, laser rifles and bullets that reflect off walls, while accessories include the traditional grenade and the less-traditional exploding kitten. Due to their limited appearances over the course of a level, these special pick-ups are a nice treat that could help you get out of a jam.
You’ll need all of the help you can get, though, as Not A Hero is brutally tough at times. Regenerating health is about the most help you’ll get from Roll7, as antiquated mechanics such as no checkpoints and non-automatic reloading make the already tough levels even more difficult. It’s because of these two odd design choices that I sometimes feel that the difficulty isn’t so much challenging as it is cheap. There’s a fine line between the two, but after you have to restart a difficult mission because the game decided it was alright to throw a dozen cops in your way right at the finish line, you can see why I’d feel this way.
Besides the Snazzy sub-title, the Xbox One release of the game comes with three new missions. Instead of letting others do the work for him this time, BunnyLord decides to take matters into his own hands. Wielding a powerful and stocked machine gun, the time traveler is a force to be reckoned with. Depending on how you feel about the core game, these missions, which don’t stray from the basics, are either more of a good thing or a bit disappointing. Personally, by the time I got to these missions, I was a little sick of doing the same thing over and over again. Part of that stems from the difficulty, which led to me repeating levels several times, but I do wish these bonus missions offered up something new.
By now, you’re either for or against the 2D pixel artstyle, and Not A Hero isn’t going to change your opinion. The visuals here are in your standard blocky, but colorful style, and that’s fine. The character models are well-designed, even if some of the enemies repeat a little too much for my liking. I was disappointed with the level design, though, as they don’t look amazing to begin with and tend to look very similar to each other depending on which chapter of the game you’re in.
While it doesn’t have as much sway over me as Roll7’s skateboarding opus, Not A Hero: Super Snazzy Edition does demonstrate that their back to basics approach to gameplay can successfully move from one genre to another. I may have gotten sick of the game after putting plenty of time and tears into it, but the cover-based gameplay is easy to learn and more importantly, it’s fun when it needs to be, providing you with many of hours of enjoyment to be had.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the title, which we were provided with.
Frustrating as it may be, Not A Hero: Super Snazzy Edition is frequently exhilarating and a fresh take on the relatively stale genre of cover shooters.