Vote BunnyLord. At least, that's what Roll7 wants you to do. Their creation, an anthropomorphic rabbit, is running for political office and they want you to help him. How? By canvassing people on the street or making phone calls? No. Your job in this 2D platformer is to shoot people. Repeatedly. And then shoot them some more. Probably in the head.
Roll7 are best known for their skateboarding series, OlliOlli. The underlying DNA of those games makes an appearance here, especially towards the end where the challenge solidifies. The final missions are hard as nails and they'll require many, many restarts for all but the most skilled players. Like its stablemates, Not A Hero requires quick reflexes and an evolving understanding of each level.
You control one of a growing roster of characters, and steer them through hazardous levels filled with enemies who are all out to kill you. Each character has a different ability, for example, one can run and reload at the same time, another can shoot while sliding. Or there's variation in the weapons, with one character sporting a shotgun, while there's another with a rapid fire submachine gun. Especially towards the end, we found certain characters more reliable when it came to taking out enemies. For some levels it doesn't particularly matter who you choose, but as things get more complicated it gets increasingly important to pick the right tool for the job.
There's a lot of shooting. Downed foes drop power-ups that can change your tactics at any given moment. Some upgrades are more effective than others. There's ammo that can set fire to your opponents, or nade-shots that send your target flying back before they explode (hurting anyone they land next to in the process). Some ammo will expand your clip or allow you to reload faster, while others can shoot through cover. There's also secondary weapons you can grab - grenades, a turret, a cat the detonates itself - so there's additional ways of keeping yourself alive dotted around the place if you look hard enough.
Cover is a fundamental part of the game. You can tap in and out of recesses found in the isometric platforms. When you're hidden your character goes a darker shade, and for the most part nobody can hurt you (this is not the case when certain enemy types get up close, so you need to be alert and deal with each class accordingly). There's various enemies to tackle, and throughout the game your opponents develop additional skills and get increasingly dangerous. They also become more plentiful. It's often crowded with enemies and therefore progress can be a bit unpredictable, especially when you're sliding in and out of cover and firing back and forth as enemies descend on your position. It's a neat system that leads to some frantic gunplay, a deadly dance of bullets and death.
Voiceover for the playable characters can be heard throughout, and some of the lines they deliver are very funny; for us it was the standout feature of the game. The quips repeatedly raised a smile, and there's many frustrating passages of play that are lit up by the clever writing (with the humour coming from either your character or the enemies you're fighting against). The comedy that Roll7 has added to the mix is certainly a positive, but at some points, especially during the scenes with BunnyLord and in some of the titles of the missions, we were left with the feeling that they've tried a mite too hard to be obscure or absurd.
BunnyLord explains each mission for you before you pick your character and get to work, and after every bloodbath he debriefs you in a cafe. There's some funny lines, but annoyingly there's no option to speed through the text. Instead you have to wait while the text appears one word at a time (to the sound of BunnyLord chirping away in the background), or skip it entirely. It doesn't take a long for this protracted delivery to start getting a little annoying, especially when it's juxtaposed by the frantic gunplay in the missions these scenes bookend. The narrative is very surreal, and as such some people may end up skipping through to the next mission rather than waiting to see if there's a good joke plodding around the corner.
As you'd expect from he studio that made OlliOlli, the soundtrack is great. There's some decent chiptune tracks in there, and the audio and voicework is all done to a high standard. The pixelart style is also very appealing; there's some lovely animations, and the attention to detail is really pleasing. In terms of presentation, this very much feels like a nice alternative to Roll7's previous games, even if it doesn't stray too far from the studio's distinctive style.
There's plenty of levels to battle through, and like previous games from the same developer, each has additional challenges that can be completed (in this case boosting the player's popularity rating and thus unlocking more characters). Towards the end of a run an untimely demise can get a touch frustrating - especially when your character slides a bit too far or won't get in cover during a firefight exactly when you want. It's never unfair, but at certain points it doesn't feel as precise as OlliOlli, probably because of the random element brought about by having so many different enemy types and the broad range of options you have to deal with them. The levels are also a bit longer here, so getting to the end of the latter stages and dying can be frustrating, simply because of the extra time it takes to get through each level, it left us thinking that perhaps it might have worked better to have shorter stages, just more of them.
Having spent several hours blasting through Not A Hero we've come to the conclusion that we like it, even if it never really blew us away and frequently had us screaming out loud. There's some decent levels, some really funny moments, and some pulsating sequences to navigate, but despite all that we don't think it reaches the high standards already set by the studio. When the dust has settled BunnyLord gets our vote, even if the overall result isn't quite the landslide we were hoping for.