Not a Hero Review (PC)
Not a Hero is a good example of a game with a ton of personality. From the off-color humor to the eccentric but lovable characters, this game feels like a completely unique and new experience without actually doing much innovative or new. Not a Hero is an appropriately arcade-like shooter that never takes itself too seriously, and that approach keeps the game fun and the funny. The longer the game goes on the more the charm starts to wear off however.
The story of Not a Hero follows the last three weeks of the mayoral campaign of one Bunnylord as he attempts to rid the city of crime in three different districts of town. In order to do this, he hires several mercenaries (the playable characters), to kill criminals and rid those districts of crime. Every mission starts with a briefing by Bunnylord on what that day’s objectives entail. This is where one of the game’s only unique features comes into play. Bunnylord’s dialogue before and after missions is randomized the same way Mad Libs are. This is funny for the first few missions, but it becomes extremely hit or miss quickly. There are times where the dialogue doesn’t make complete sense because of randomly generated adjectives and nouns.
The same goes for mission details. The objectives in individual missions don’t change when you retry them, but the details do. For example, you’ll be collecting video tapes as an extra objective in one mission, but if you come back to it those tapes might be kittens or rat heads. These randomized details actually help the game’s replayability since the mission briefing changes accordingly as well. All of the playable characters are likable as well, and are fully voice acted. Even the common enemies and bosses are all voiced, Bunnylord is the only character that doesn't say actual words but rather makes a bunch of random noises when he talks. Seeing as how this was a deliberate decision it really helps cement Bunnylord as a strange and ominous character, so it ends up working.
There are several different mercenaries that you unlock during your playthrough as you beat missions and Bunnylord’s approval rating goes up. Each one plays differently and none of them feel objectively superior to another. For example one character can shoot while running but is less accurate when doing so, and another has a machine gun but runs much slower than the other characters. You can help boost Bunnylord’s approval rating by completing the extra objectives in each mission. You’ll learn pretty quickly that there are some objectives that can’t be completed with certain characters, so unlocking them all is recommended. The bite-sized missions really help with that, since you can just come back to them with the appropriate characters and knock it out in about two or three minutes.
Shooting, sliding and taking cover are your bread and butter here, and learning how to use cover effectively is essential. The action is quick and bloody with all of the pixel art blood and visceral sound effects, and clearing out a room full of enemies in just a couple of seconds is par for the course. There’s not much more to the gameplay than get to the objective, kill everything in your way and escape alive. Every now and again the game mixes it up a bit, but the basic mission structure is the same. This simplicity and repetition actually works out well for Not a Hero because no mission or district of town overstays its welcome. You only spend a week, or seven missions, in each district and each one has a completely new set of enemies with different ways of fighting them.
The final district is where the game starts to show its weakness however. Not a Hero introduces several one-hit-kill enemies and only explains how to fight one of them. This makes the majority of this district trial and error, which is very annoying in a game that avoided trial and error gameplay for the first two-thirds. Luckily the fantastic soundtrack makes repeating these missions a bit more tolerable, but playing a mission over and over until you figure out the right combination of moves to kill these difficult enemies is frustrating. Sure, learning how to efficiently get through these enemies and sections is satisfying when you pull it off, but getting to that point is not fun. At this point, the novelty of the humor has run its course as well, so it feels like Not a Hero has lost the momentum it built up for the majority of its admittedly short run.
Ultimately, Not a Hero is a good game that gets in its own way with a poorly executed final third and increasingly hit or miss humor. It’s perfect for small sessions and has a good amount of replay value thanks to some strong and funny characters and a very good soundtrack. The entire game is a compact experience, so having the last section drag on as much as it does is a bummer. The actual gameplay and shooting is fun, and if it weren’t for the gratuitous violence, it’s easy to imagine this game being a classic arcade game. True to its name, there are no heroes in Not a Hero, but there is a very fun shooter despite its flaws.
This review is based on a download code of Not a Hero provided by the publisher for PC.