Not A Hero is More Important Now Than Ever

Though it has been slightly less than a year since its Steam launch, personal impatience ran high for the console launch of Roll7’s Not A Hero. It released to rave reviews, with no small reason. It was quirky, fun and not a little over the top. It was also chock full of unique concepts for the discerning gamer to enjoy. Still, fans who prefer the infrastructure of the console experience had to wait. Now that it has launched on PlayStation 4, even more gamers will have a chance at the campaign.

The plot revolves around BunnyLord, an anthropomorphic rabbit thing that looks like an 8-bit purple version of Max from Sam and Max fame. This…thing has no small aspirations. He has his eye on becoming mayor and he knows how to win the public over: wanton and unrestrained violence against the criminals that populate the street. As BunnyLord will only get his own hands dirty in special circumstances, he enlists a gang of ne’er-do-wells to take care of the heavy lifting. Heavy lifting here means shooting dudes in the face.

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As missions and side-goals are tackled, the candidate’s approval rating grows. As his rating grows, new playable characters are unlocked, and a non-sequitur filled conversation with the future mayor takes place.  A particular favorite is the hip gyrating Jesus. His ability to shoot while sliding makes the ducking and dodging play even more fun. Still, they all have their positive traits. Except Cletus, whose shotgun is about as useful as Michael Bay at a awards ceremony celebrating artistic achievement in film.

The gameplay itself is where this title really comes into its own. Not A Hero is a 2D sidescrolling shooter that merges the slide and cover mechanics of Vanquish with the brutality and over the top nature found in Hotline Miami. The Vanquish invocation is earned through the sliding and cover system. Using the ‘X’ button, players slide forward on the floor. When released, the rapscallion will take cover at the next point moving forward. That is, unless the slide runs out of momentum. The challenge, blood, and trial and error points found in Hotline Miami are also present. This is a more forgiving affair, though. Each character does have a regenerating health bar, so peeking from behind cover and taking a slug to the face is not the end of the world. Too much carelessness will lead to a level restart in extremely short order, though, so cockiness is not advised.

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Graphically, this title is charming. The retro style is extremely well animated, with each character having their own personality showm through in their movements. What really stands out for me is the mouth animation of BunnyLord himself. The way his mouth moves has this mesmerizing, horrible fashion to it. Like staring into the maw of The Thing That Should Not Be, one cannot help but observe with morbid fascination and growing horror. This really is meant to be a compliment…

The only downside to this Playstation 4 port is that players who have already experienced this title on Steam have no reason to double-dip. As it was before, so it is again. Sure, it controls very well and it’s nice to have on the big screen without needing to run long cables from the desktop to the television. However, those who have already not been a hero will have no reason to work for the campaign again, unless the Playstation trophies are a motivator.

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The most interesting thing about this title is the accidental timing of this release. With the Presidential Primaries underway and the continued loss of dignity and any semblance of trying to be generally appealing that many major candidates are embracing, this title seems more pertinent than before. The frankly nonsensical nature of BunnyLord’s comments to his supporters and his base reliance on violence casts a spotlight on what we are seeing now.

For that reason alone, no matter where the player may fall on the political spectrum, Not A Hero is required playing, no matter the platform of choice. It’s easily possible to ignore any statements, accidental and otherwise, and just have a great time. The action and gunplay is challenging but fair and the concept itself is intriguing. For those who already own it but have not played it, please fix that soon. Besides, Devolver Digital published it. They have an established eye for quality.