There are many things Not A Hero is not. Besides being a hero, of course. It’s not a game for the faint of heart, for one. It’s probably one of the most intense indie games you’re likely to play. It is also not at all bad. In fact, if there’s one thing Not A Hero is, it’s a throwaway game.
Taking that into account, there are a few things that hold Not A Hero back. But before going through with that dumb play on its name, here’s a quick rundown of what Not A Hero really is. A purple bunny man from the future is in town and wants to be mayor. Still with us? He also wants to wipe the city clean off of the criminal element. That’s where you come in, an increasingly numerous team of gun-totting crazies out for blood and guts, all for the glory of the election process.
Each one of these guys and gals has their own style of play, such as Jesus, who besides stopping to drink martinis in the most inappropriate of times, can run really fast, or Cletus, one of the earliest unlocks that happens to be my personal favorite, wielding a close quarter meat grinder shotgun. It’s a cool touch that adds some depth what would be a game with a gimmick if it only had one character.
Basically, Not a Hero plays like an even faster paced side scrolling action movie. Your only means of defense is your gun and the ability to slide and take cover. Levels play out in a very quick and mostly trial and error way that award you for precision and for being quick. Enemies are varied enough and help throw a fair bit of challenge, especially in greater numbers. The thing is that your foes are always down to storming your defenses, so sticking to one place is never a good idea. On the other hand, you yourself can do some storming, if you can handle the backlash of enemy forces.
These bombastic moments are pretty much Not A Hero‘s hook. Down to its core gameplay ideas, it isn’t a really complicated game. The real challenge is surmounting the continuous and incredibly aggressive force that enemies put up from level to level. Still, there are some objectives to be met besides killing tons of little pixel people and making it to the end. Stages feature a main objective and optional sub-missions that add up to unlock extra characters. It’s fun to go for all of these in a single run, which adds plenty of replayability to the game, as well as possibilities to experiment with the cast.
Not A Hero borrows its visuals from the current pixel art craze and features very detailed levels for the amount of pixels there are to be messed around with. Characters are very small and sometimes blend in easily with backgrounds, which can be considered both a pro and con in regards to gameplay. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook enemies until it’s too late, while in others, kill streaks just happen accidentally due to them bunching up together in just the right way.
Much like Hotline Miami, there’s a certain mindset you can fall into while playing Not A Hero. That blood lust that helps carry you from stage to stage, or from attempt to attempt, if you get stuck in a particularly difficult stretch. Longer levels are deviously easy to screw up and if you have any hope of making a perfect run, be ready to restart at the drop of a hat.
This is the type of game that is great for spurts. Sit down, knock a few levels out and go back to whatever it was that you were doing. It isn’t a blemish against Not A Hero. In fact, it’s probably its best qualities, one that makes it a double click you’ll want to jump back into repeatedly until you get a certain stage just right.
All in all, Not A Hero isn’t a game for everyone. But if you’re the kind of player that loves really getting into a game and taking it apart in search of THE perfect run, not minding the trial and error that comes with it, you won’t go wrong with this one.