Oh boy, the 2024 election season’s coming up soon, are you ready to fucking die? I sure am. But forget about the future, let’s look at a fictional election of the past: the election of Bunnylord over some UK city, as depicted in Not a Hero.
Not a Hero is a game by roll7, the studio most known for their OlliOlli games. However, instead of doing sick skateboarding tricks, you’re going on sick murder sprees, as per a lot of games published in the Devolver Digital catalog. A time traveling giant bunny man is looking to win a mayoral election, but he faces stiff competition. To win, he needs to win the hearts and minds of the people and to do that, he decides to kill all the cartoonish criminals that run the streets. You play as members of the Bunnylord Fun Club, a collection of killers setting out on his command to clean the streets. Whoo boy, this is going to be a normal game to talk about.
Before I start ranting about writing and themes, let’s tackle gameplay first.
Not a Hero is a 2.5d cover shooter with a lot of fast-paced action.The level architecture is scattered with objects and doorways you can take cover in with a simple slide. When in cover, you’re mostly immune to damage coming from the direction you’re covering from. However, this does not protect you from a guy simply walking up to you to knock you out of cover, which will almost always lead to a quick death from a point-blank bullet spray.. You don’t die in one hit and your health can regenerate so you have some breathing room if you catch a few shots, but a full spray from a machine gun is pretty much an instant kill, so you gotta make full use of that cover.
And you really should, since the enemies do. Gun-toting enemies will gladly shoot from behind the safety of objects and duck in cover when they’re not attacking. While shooting, enemies will eventually run out of bullets with an audible click, which is a good signal to you to break cover and go for the throat. A good punish is a shot at point-blank range, which deals a critical hit that usually kills.
Alternatively, forget normal shooting. Your slides can knock over most enemies, allowing you to execute them while they’re down. It’s situationally useful to do, and it’s definitely not as useful in the last set of stages with enemies that are immune to getting knocked over. Is it satisfying to do though? Definitely.
I think the whole gameplay system is nice, but the execution feels finicky. For one thing, because sliding into cover/sliding into enemies are mapped to the same process, the game sometimes misinterprets what I want to do. Sometimes instead of sliding into cover, I slide beyond that to tackle the guy standing behind that cover, which sometimes led to me getting swiss cheesed since I didn’t expect to be out of cover. Sliding past the cover I aimed to go behind was actually a general issue, with me sometimes taking cover behind an unintended piece. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happened often enough that it felt aggravating, because it really throws off my flow.
The Bunnylord Fun Club is made up of a nice mix of characters with different weapons and attributes. But! The moment you unlock Mike, you probably don’t want to use anyone else. He’s too good. He fights with a short ranged shotgun that doesn’t take too long to reload, which beats out Cletus, who has a shotgun that takes forever to reload. While short-ranged, a good shot mercs most enemies and knocks back everyone that wasn’t killed, serving up a quick layup for an execution.. And sure, Jesus and his flaming homosexual stereotype ass can do stylish moving executions, but Mike’s is quick, silent, and does not use ammo, so it’s way more efficient. While Mike’s gun only uses two ammo (which also drastically nerfs his ability to use bullet power-ups, which even inaccurate shooters like Jesus and Samantha can readily take advantage of), the rest of his kit is powerful enough that if you can work around the limitation, you’re unstoppable. Most importantly: he’s fast, and you need to be speedy if you’re gunning for the objectives.
Each level has three bonus objectives, and if you want to truly clear a level, they all must be done in one go. There’s plenty of ones that require you to do something out of the way, which is made harder when paired up with objectives requiring you to reach a certain location within a short time limit. Meanwhile, debatably less stressful, there’s objectives requiring you to do stuff like maintaining clean killstreaks. These objectives aren’t exactly required to play through the game, but the voters go wild for Bunnylord if you complete them. Voters simply love 100% completion.
So, with the election in mind – what’s with the writing in this game?
When it comes to the writing style, I feel that it’d be something real hit or miss for people. It feels like edgier Invader Zim with a mix of political satire. I sometimes read some of Bunnylord’s dialogue in Richard Horvitz’ voice in my head, as if the plot was Zim trying to take over the world through politics in a setting more befitting of Adult Swim. The humor wound up being real hit or miss for me; I’d say it hit more than miss, but I think it depends on your sense of humor. Conceptually though, I like the bizarre team briefings and after work cooldown conversations. It really does give the vibe that all this is just business – fucked up and evil business, but y’know.
What are the themes of the game? Does it love extrajudicial punishment? Well, as stylish as the violence in the game is, the game isn’t exactly pro-killing criminals. Bunnylord and his fun club are pretty much a gang of fucked up losers. Based on some of the level briefings, the criminals you’re killing are rarely actively doing anything bad; for the most part, you’re just swinging into their operations unprovoked and if anything, they’re just fighting in self-defense. Some levels even have the added complication of a SWAT team swooping in to fight you for your crimes; I mean, I protest the fact that the police are actively heroic in this game as if Bunnylord isn’t some supercop that’d probably be given the Punisher treatment if it was real life, but whatever.
It was just sort of a weird game to play as an American living in 2022, where a non-insignificant amount of people are perfectly fine with the police executing people. I can imagine somebody in Not a Hero’s universe uploading a video of one of the Fun Club’s massacres and some chud replying to it with “context?” Point is, there’d definitely be people today who’d unironically become a full Bunnylord stan.
Befitting Bunnylord and his A-team of hammy killers, the three enemy criminal factions are cartoony archetypes, consisting of a Russian mafia, a black street gang of drug dealers and a general Asian criminal syndicate. The game’s kinda tongue-in-cheek about the last group with how lots of media treat different Asian populations as interchangeable, as this group is presented as the “Pan-Asian Triad Yakuza.” Though aware of stereotyping, it feels like it sincerely leans into those stereotypes anyway far more than the others, featuring the unique enemy types of samurai, ninja, and magical geisha that teleports around and fling knives. The street gang had a unique Mr. T like enemy that fucks shit up, but none of the other groups didn’t feel as tropey as this one. To be honest, I don’t think I’m qualified to say how stereotypical it is; like, maybe I’m just hypersensitive to this stuff after seeing a deluge of G4’s anti-Japanese content on Twitter. Still, gave me weird vibes.
However, I will say this: thank fucking god this game was made by a British team before the 2016 American election. If this was a game made after, I just know that it’d be fucking obnoxious like Citizens of Space was.
Have I been enjoying Not a Hero? Yeah, I guess it’s fine. I don’t consider it a must play, but I think it’s mostly okay at what it tries to do, Adult Swim show stylings notwithstanding. The later levels are a bit of a slog because they’re kinda lengthy and this is not a game with checkpoints, so that late-game is a bit annoying to casually play through. For the most part though? It’s a real okay time.