Not A Hero is a side-scrolling 2D cover-based shooter where you're employed by a pink rabbit who wants to be the mayor but who needs to show his ability to clean up the town so that people will vote for him. To do this, he's hired you, playing as one of several anti-heros, to pretty much go in and blow away bad guys in order to make the town a better place to live.
Yes, a pink rabbit. Called BunnyLord. Problem? No? Good.
Set across the 30 days before the polls open, the game has you cleaning up drug dens, eliminating those that threaten to derail the election via crooked means and, in one notable mission, escorting a mumbling old lady with a penchant for gunning down street trash with an Uzi back to her flat. Gameplay is effectively a matter of taking cover from those that wish to do you harm, popping out to gun them down, before taking cover again. That's if you haven't performed a manic slide across the level in order to trip them over before they reload, so that you can execute them without threat as they lay prone, of course.
That isn't to say that things are easy. In fact, the game becomes pretty tough well before its halfway point, meaning that you'll be trying to beat levels again and again and will undoubtedly get stuck for a good while on one or two of them. For the masochists out there, completing the main objective isn't the only thing to do, since Not A Hero provides three extra challenges per level. Whether it's beating a level within a certain time limit, only using a certain amount of bullets, or completing a 10-opponent killstreak, there will doubtless be at least one thing that you didn't manage to accomplish on your first run. But, you'll never be all that far away from completing the hat-trick, so it's always tempting to go back into a level and try for the full set, even if you've just had to try 20 times simply to get to the end.
A lot of the times you fail will be down to trying to approach things too quickly. Getting close to the end of a level, only to be gunned down in a hail of bullets because you forgot to reload – which is a manual process – and couldn't get into cover in time, will cause you to think that you can just blaze back through to where you were without thinking. That's rarely the case. If you run in all guns blazing, you'll likely pay the penalty. Pressing the A button gets your character to jump into cover but there are times when they'll run to a cover spot that's further away than the one you intended them to get to. That, mixed with times when something that looks for all the world like it's a cover spot actually isn't one, can cause frustration.
But Not A Hero does a good job of pulling you back in when you feel like you've been unfairly punished. No sooner will the phrase "But I didn't want you to do that!" leave your lips, you'll be back in at the start of the level, taking another run at things. This is partially because of the challenge that the game provides, but is in equal parts due to the pure fun level that's on offer. Sometimes in gaming, the most tactical option for approaching a situation isn't as fun as just going nuts and seeing where that gets you. In Not A Hero, that's not the case. Sure, you have the option to burst right through a door, try to take out the two kidnappers, then watch as they shoot the hostage anyway. If that happens, you'll still be able to complete the level. But it's way more fun to take the tactical route, climbing the stairs, jumping out of one window and smashing through the one below, giving you the extra time that the element of surprise provides in order to ensure that the hostage is safe. Or how about if you see that a whole group of enemies are on your tail? You can take cover, picking them off one by one as you'd assume the game wants you to, but you have got the Drillbomb in your pocket that blows up anything that's on the level above you. Maybe a quick sprint and slide down to the ground floor is in order, so you can get in position to fire that thing and take them all out at once before they get to the stairwell. There are multiple approaches to be had once you get out of the early levels and have access to the various pickups that are on offer that enhance your arsenal.
Included in the Xbox One edition is the "Me, Myself and BunnyLord" expansion which adds three new levels and the ability to play as BunnyLord himself for the first time on any platform. These are a nice addition of course, but they're not really anything that will convert anybody into a buyer if they weren't already sold on the premise. They're more of a palm greasing for waiting this long to take on a game that has been available on other platforms for a good while.
It should be noted that despite the boss being essentially a children's character in a suit, Not A Hero isn't one for the kids. Far from it, in fact. While the 2D presentation obviously limits things in terms of the visual effect, there's plenty of the old claret flowing from the outset and while swearing isn't necessarily big or clever, the mixture of more adult language with the accents provided by the range of characters is darned funny - probably more so to British folks - and fits well.
Plus, it's hard to argue against the fact that "the economy is being a bit of a willybag" after all.
Not A Hero is an enjoyable 2D shooter that will provide a decent challenge to the majority of gamers. There are failings to be found here and there, but they're relatively rare and the comedic presentation generally provides enough coverage to paper over those cracks. It probably isn't a game that you'll blast through in a single sitting and it certainly won't be for everybody, but Not A Hero is definitely a good deal of fun.