Review: Not a Hero: Global MegaLord Edition

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It’s funny how art imitates life so closely sometimes, even if unintentionally. In the case of Not a Hero, developer Roll7 must’ve had some kind of crystal ball to the future of what the U.S. political landscape (not to mention Europe with the whole Brexit situation), and known that wackadoos like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and Gary Johnson would not only run for president, but also somehow become legitimate candidates people would actually vote for. As an independent voter myself, with no party allegiances or identity team politics to blindly root for, the choices voters have on both sides of the aisle are pretty horrifying–picking between Trump and Hillary at this point is like choosing between a crap sandwich and a fried turd, because they’re both full of shit–making the game’s central figure Bunnylord seem like even more of a hilariously on point parody of Trump and the smarmy, bull-shitting politicians than he did when the game first hit Steam last year. Now the game has come to PS4 and Xbox One (though for the record I played the PC version), welcoming in a new audience of potential voters. As if this political season couldn’t get any worse…

An anthropomorphic purple rabbit from the future, Bunnylord has traveled back in time to run for mayor. Where does he stand on the issues? Well, he loves drugs and hates kids. He’s also hugely in favor of putting an end to illegal hippo spanking. But for the most part he just wants to uppercut crime in its flaming hairy armpit. So he’s called on Steve, his campaign manager, best pal, and a trained assassin, to go all Suicide Squad on the city’s criminal underworld by assembling a crew of fellow anti-heroes to clean up the streets as a means to attract voters and win the election. Yup, it does kind of sound like something ‘The Donald’ might do.

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Bunnylord’s election scheme spans 21 missions, each consisting of a primary objective as well as three side challenges. Some of the objectives are commonplace, like raiding a Russian mob warehouse, rescuing hostages, putting up posters to raise voter awareness, or chasing down an investigator carrying incriminating evidence. Others are a little more offbeat, like reclaiming stolen cakes to give to a school for horrible children, or rescuing dogs before they can be turned into tasty dog sushi. Completing more objectives increases approval rating, leading to new playable character unlocks while also determining which of four elected offices Bunnylord claims at the end of the campaign, from Mayor of England at the low end to Global MegaLord for completing all objectives and challenges.

Each mission begins with a dreadful intense power point presentation outlining the task ahead. If you’re successful at killing bad guys right in the face, Bunnylord will pick you up in his van or helicopter at the stage’s exit and take you out to Aunt Ruby’s cafe for a debrief while sucking down naughty delicious milkshakes and maybe even playing a diabolically charming game of poke the banana. I don’t know what that is exactly, but it sounds straight saucy amazeballs.

Okay, enough of the jibber-jabber. Why am I speaking in suck weird phraseology? To give you an idea of the sort of comedic dialogue Not a Hero deploys to get a laugh. Seriously, Bunnylord speaks as if his speechwriter just fed a bunch of random words into a MadLibs script. Even upon replaying missions, the dialogue is randomized so you can never predict just what in the hell will come out of Bunnylord’s mouth next. Some of the lines hit, others smack of forced humor. I imagine it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the writing is unpredictable and consistently outlandish and funny more often than not. The main drawback to the delivery is how slow and choppy the text speed is, as if the randomization algorithm behind the phrasing has to pause to load after every few words. There is an element of comedic timing to it, but before long you begin to wish you could hit a button to quick load all of the text to read at your own pace instead of having to wait as it’s slowly typed in.

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Conversely, Not a Hero‘s gameplay is anything but slow and choppy. This is an intense, violent, stylish, challenging, quickly paced run-and-gun shooter, with ISO-Slant technology introducing an extra quarter of a dimension to power the game’s unique quick-snap cover mechanic. With the tap of a button, your chosen assassin will slide or roll into the nearest cover point, fading into the background to denote that the player character is out of harms way. The slide mechanic also adds fluidity and trick-like flair to the action, empowering you to quickly cover long distances and even slide tackle enemies into a temporary prone position vulnerable to one-hit executions. The cover mechanic at times can feel a bit sticky or imprecise, causing you to overshoot a hiding spot or accidentally drop out of cover while under fire. But for the most part the controls are tight and snappy in their response.

Not a Hero isn’t some brainless shoot ’em up though; tactics, reflexes, and fast-twitch skill are a must. The side-view maps allow you to see a slice of the surrounding environment so you can scope out adjacent rooms and form a plan of attack before crashing through doors guns blazing. However, trigger points that spawn in unseen enemies become more and more common, so you always have to be on your toes and keep your trigger finger itchy. The spray and pray method can be useful in spots, but as enemies converge from both sides, ducking in and out of cover as they approach, it’s better to stop and pop, spacing out gunfire so that every shot counts. Maintaining a constant awareness of ammo capacity is crucial, because expending a clip and having to stop to reload at the wrong moment almost always leads to death. Health works on a timer based recharge system whereby lost life bars will refill if you’re able to stay out of harm’s way for a short duration without taking any additional damage. Sometimes it’s smart to flee until health is restored before reengaging the enemy.

The eclectic–and eccentric–cast of playable characters adds tremendous variety to the gameplay, as well as greater replay incentive. Each not-a-hero has distinct animation, locomotion, weapon type, shooting style, and usually some form of special trait to go along with a stereotypical personality or accent. Mike has a deadly shotgun and can perform silent stealth executions, but he can only fire two shots before having to reload. Jesus is fast, has a high rate of fire, and can shoot while sliding. Samantha can shoot and reload while running whereas those actions force other characters to stand in place. Clive’s packing twin pistols that can be fired simultaneously in both directions. Caught somewhere between wanting to be Captain America and Thor, Ronald Justice wields an insta-kill hammer with limited uses that need to be refilled be performing executions. Eventually you’ll find a preferred character that suits your play style and skillset, but it definitely helps to play the field, because certain characters have abilities that are better suited for certain level layouts or objectives, especially if you plan on ascending to the office of Global MegaLord by completing all secondary challenges.

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One potential point of contention for some players will surely be the lack of checkpoints. From start to finish on a successful run, the individual levels rarely take longer than a few minutes. However, there is still a lot of dying and retrying that goes into finally completing a mission, and no matter where you die–even if it’s right in front of the escape vehicle–you have to start the whole level over again from scratch, secondary objectives and all. This isn’t much trouble early on, but later on when you start facing off against samurai and ninja enemies that kill in a single hit, and as endless SWAT team assaults become more prevalent during the final escape phase of missions, it can get pretty damn frustrating to progress through a level only to get caught off guard by an unforeseen event or make one small mistake and have to do it all again. Impatience inevitably kicks in, and you begin to rush and try to brute force through areas you’re tired of replaying, leading to more failed attempts. As the difficulty ramps up, there is quite a bit of trial and error that goes into memorizing the map layouts and enemy spawn trigger points before you’re likely to succeed.

While the game debuted last year on PC, Roll7 has this year launched the game’s first DLC, the Me, Myself & Bunnylord mini-campaign, which is sold separately for $2.99 or comes included with some other digital extras as part of the Global MegaLord Edition. The DLC only offers three new levels, but the maps are a little larger than those in the main game, new enemies such as teleporting foxes in black suits and the Killinator make an appearance, and most importantly of all, you finally get to play as Bunnylord himself, who’s armed with an AK-47 and a carrot dagger (actually it’s a turnip painted orange, because carrots are too bendy). Each level has the same structure of one mandatory objective and three optional challenges. Accomplishing everything provides up to another couple of hours of gameplay. So no, the DLC’s not particularly expansive, but the extra gameplay is worthwhile for only a few bucks.

A challenging, quick die and retry 2D shooter, Not a Hero settles into a satisfying gameplay groove that’s somewhere between Hotline Miami and OlliOlli, with an obsessive overuse of adverbs and adjectives, over the top, gushy-sounding pixel art gore, and a heavy handed dollop of puerile humor on top for maximum absurdity. So forget Trump and Hillary–cast your vote for Bunnylord this election season, and come join his Fun Club of murder and mayhem.

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Pros:
+ Fun balance of run-and-gun action and cover-based shootouts
+ Great variety of objectives and playable characters
+ Challenging secondary objectives add replay value
+ Satisfyingly over the top pixel art violence
+ Absurd, Mad Libs-style randomized dialogue text

Cons:
– Lack of checkpoints can get frustrating
– Slow text dialogue speed
– Humor sometimes feels too forced

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PC, also on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Roll7
Release Date: PC – 5/14/2015; PS4 – 2/2/1016; Xbox One – 5/24/2016; DLC – 7/18/2016
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by publisher. DLC purchased by reviewer.

Buy From: Steam, GOG.com, Humble Store, PlayStation Store, or Xbox Store for $12.99

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!