The lights are on
When OlliOlli developer Roll7 announced Not a Hero, I'll admit to being a bit confused. "How do you move from skateboarding to tongue-in-cheek political murder?" I thought to myself. And then I spent time with the game at PAX East and realized that the two aren't all that different.
If you haven't yet played OlliOlli, it's a side-scrolling skateboard title that recaptures the magic once bottled by Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Skate. You can read our review here.
On the surface, Not a Hero looks like it abandons everything Roll7 accomplished with it's critically acclaimed Vita skater. Players are under the employ of Bunnylord, who is running for mayor, but has no chance of winning. Of course, he does what any politician would do in that situation: he hires part-time killers to eliminate the competition.
There will be ten different employees, each with their own skills. Four of them are unlocked by progressing through the city's five districts, with another five hidden in the game. You start with Steve, who is the all-around character, but we also had a chance to play with Jesus, who can shoot while sliding, and Cletus, who starts with a comically overpowered shotgun.
The pixelated side-scrolling title uses a clever cover mechanic. Sliding automatically puts you behind cover, and the closer you get to enemies before pulling the trigger, the more points you'll score. Chaining together multiple enemies gives you a bonus, and using the sliding mechanic to break through windows and re-enter through the floor below makes for some amazing trick combinations.
"Oh! That's how you go from skateboarding to tongue-in-cheek political murder," I thought to myself as I moved my way through the levels, collecting new ammunition types and exotic explosives. The levels are static, but the pickups are randomized, which means on one time through you might find grenades or land mines, and another it could be a drill bomb and a nuclear kitty (the latter of which could as easily explode gloriously or just fall asleep).
In some ways, Not a Hero is Hotline Miami's bombastic, satirical cousin. It doesn't have the same (or any) gravitas as Dennaton's popular title or its sequel (which we also previewed at PAX East). However, with the different employees, a trial and error approach, different ammo and explosive types, it scratches the same itch.
Instead of wincing at the brutal, pixelated murder, I found myself giggling and cheering when pulling off a flashy string of kills and slides. Tossing a grenade, sliding through the explosion, out a window and then through the glass a floor below to do it all again is thrilling.
Not a Hero might not have wheels, but it sure has legs. It will be out on PC, Mac, and Linux in 2014. Roll7 is looking into console and Vita releases, also.
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Anything described as Hotline Miami's bombastic, satirical cousin demands my attention.