There's never been a more topical time for a game like Not a Hero to come out. With politics the hot topic at the minute, it's worthwhile comparing our own candidates to Not a Hero's aspiring leader, Bunnylord. He's a time-travelling rabbit with a simple plan; kick crime in its ugly mug so that he can impress voters and become mayor so that he can save the world from future destruction.
To do so, he'll enlist the help of campaign manager turned professional assassin, Steve. Each level consists of mowing down criminals and attempting to meet certain (optional) criteria, such as executing enemies (done by downing them and then finishing them off from close range), finding collectibles, or even being conservative with your ammo.
As you impress voters, you'll have new characters at your disposal, each of which with their own unique skills and quips. I particularly enjoyed the run-of-the-mill Steve, who is well-balanced, and Samantha, mainly because of the incredulous way she says, "Wales? Yes, it's a real place!" Your playstyle may dictate which characters you lean towards, while there are times when it seems better to make use of a particular skill.
Not a Hero is an incredibly violent and crass 2D, side-scrolling cover shooter. You can duck from cover to cover, but the game plays best when you channel your inner action hero, sliding from point to point, playing at pace, and firing a barrage of bullets at onrushing foes.
There's plenty of offbeat and juvenile humour; be prepared for cultural stereotypes, expressions that might resonate with the youth of today like "totes" and "amazeballs," and times when it pokes fun at itself. It doesn't always find the mark and some scenes pre- or post-levels can overstay their welcome, but for the most part it fits the package and entertains.
While the action is intense, Not a Hero is quite an accessible game. Buttons are kept to a minimum, while actions like picking up special ammo and weapons or opening doors and flicking switches is done by simply standing in the relevant place for a brief moment or two. Characters are capable of taking a couple of shots, though sustained fire will kill you - as will plummeting too far out a window. Health regenerates fairly promptly, so you can continue to play at a frenetic pace.
But as you improve, the game keeps the challenge up. Some characters just can't be knocked down easily, some pack some serious firepower, and there are levels that challenge you to complete them in a set amount of time or find some hidden collectibles, so there's certainly reason to re-explore missions that you completed.
There are times when the difficulty runs the risk of overwhelming the player. After dispatching the first crimelord, a Russian gangster, of course, a SWAT team arrives. They crash through rooms randomly with an arsenal of weaponry and numbers. After falling at their hands a couple of times, I eventually decided to try the brave Sir Robin approach and simply ran for the exit.
Not a Hero is a lot of fun, gloriously violent and packed with quirkiness. It's best played in short stints, but those stints are a hell of a time. And after becoming privy to Bunnylord's propaganda, approach to campaigning, and inner thoughts about voters, he's certainly number one on our ballot paper.
Not a Hero made its debut on PC last year and is now available on PlayStation 4.
4/5 - Mark O'Beirne