Not a Hero (Switch eShop) Review
3D cover shooters, we have seen an abundance of these games over the past decade, so much so that it wouldn’t surprise if the thought of a 2D cover shooter had never crossed your mind. Enter Not a Hero, another game brought to the Switch by the lovely folk at Devolver Digital.
The basic premise of the game revolves around a bunch of people recruited by a giant purple bunny named Bunnylord, who is attempting to gain political power in order to save the world. All of Bunnylord’s recruits go out to destroy, maim and disembowel everything in sight to lower the crime rate in the city so that Bunnylord’s popularity polls increase with the general public.
This story is told through mostly static screens, where Bunnylord explains his intentions to his hired goons. The writing is intended to be humorous, and it’s often hit and miss in this regard. It feels like a lot of the verbs and adjectives written into every sentence were chosen from a random word generator. Such is the case when Bunnylord shows a PowerPoint presentation where he describes a graph that compares how awesome his helicopter is compared to a broken pigeon. It’s meant to be laugh out loud funny, but as it’s text based the punch-lines aren’t delivered well.
The game itself takes place over 21 days, and as the game progresses, more recruits are unlocked. Each recruit has a specific skillset that they bring to the game. While one character has a powerful shotgun, another can reload their gun while running. At the end of the day, it all boils down to what style you like as an individual. Personally, I stuck with the original character the most as he felt much less gimmicky.
Each of the 21 days represents a different level. Each level contains main objectives that must be completed in order to get into Bunnylord’s van and leave the scene, these are the objectives that Bunnylord has instructed personally. These range from killing specific people, to turning advertisement billboards back on and so on. Every level has several secondary objectives which become very hard to pull off early on. They add to the overall replayability of the game, but many objectives are simply too frustrating to pull off without some serious skills.
The basic abilities of every character include running, shooting, sliding, reloading and taking cover. Sliding is something that is done a lot as it both allows your character to trip over enemies and initiate a critical shot to the face of a tripped opponent and allows the character to take cover behind the nearest object. Taking cover is something that is essential to completing most of the later levels, as gunfights can become insanely hectic. Enemies will shoot at you while their buddies get in close to knock you over and kill you at point blank range. Without reloading at the best possible moments, death comes quickly and often.
Unfortunately, the mechanics of the game don’t work as well as you would want them to. In crucial moments, I found my character rolling right past a cover spot and directly into enemy fire. I often found it difficult to keep a track of how many bullets I had left before reloading, and because of the constant shots being fired from all over the place, sometimes I’d shoot five or six times before realising I wasn’t firing anything out of my gun. Some of this is on me, but having the ammo amount away from the action means I am not going to shift my focus in the middle of a gunfight. Having the character automatically reload after emptying their chamber, or at least giving the option to do that could alleviate this for some players.
The difficulty of the game represents the classic games found in 90s arcades. The first few levels are easy enough in order to draw you in, but then suddenly there is this sheer cliff of difficulty that would make The Wall from Game of Thrones look like a backyard fence. It doesn’t help that some of the objectives require the player to perform certain feats, but enemy drops are random so in some cases, a power up that would really assist in the level won’t even show up because a different power up was dropped by a fallen enemy. The game feels confused as a result, and it’s difficult to decide whether the developers want the player to adapt to their conditions or to play each level in a certain way.
The visuals are a mixed bag, and as there have been a lot of games based around the pixel-art aesthetic, they don’t necessarily stand out from anything else we have seen over the past few years. The pixels are all colourful and vibrant for each character in the game, but the environments themselves are lacklustre. Each level takes place in a different building for a different purpose, but they all feel exactly the same. The soundtrack is excellent though, and there is a great selection of chiptune artists ranging from Big Giant Circles, Dubmood and more. As it stands, the music is well worth listening to alone. I could easily see myself listening to the tracks available on Spotify while at the gym.
Not a Hero is a game that initially draws you in with a host of colourful characters, semi-humorous writing and an amazing soundtrack. Once you begin to look beyond that, the difficulty spikes, uninspiring environments and characters doing seemingly what they want despite your input to prevent this from being a game I could recommend.
+ Nice, vibrant pixel-art for each character
+ Amazing soundtrack
- Environments are uninspired
- Controls can be fiddly
- Writing is all over the place