While it may be making its debut on Nintendo Switch more than three years after its original release, time has done little to dull the sharpness of Not a Hero’s pixel art blades. Repackaged as the Super Snazzy Edition - with an extra DLC campaign thrown in for good measure - Roll7’s gutsy shooter is still as bloody, brutal and brazen as it was when it first blazed its guns for all to see in 2015.
Don’t let these screenshots fool you, either - what you’re seeing is far more than your usual 2D platformer. While it jokingly refers to itself as a 2.25D experience, the use of two different planes creates the opportunity to leap into cover while all those bullets are flying. Mapped to ‘B’, you can dash forward into the nearest piece of cover in the background, before seamlessly stepping back into the foreground to return fire.
It’s just a facet of a movement model that’s all about using speed, accuracy and brute force to get the job done. That dash can be used to slide along the floor (perfect for tripping most enemies up, opening them up for an insta-kill execution) as well as providing a means of leaping through windows to nearby platforms. Despite the fact you can’t actually jump - heresy for most platformers - Not a Hero gets away with it thanks to that clever use of cover and the sheer speed of its gunfights.
And what gunfights they are. With the foul-mouthed and power-hungry BunnyLord calling the shots - an anthropomorphic rabbit who has travelled back from the future to establish his mayoral career - it’s up to you to step into the shoes of his colourful campaign team and clean up the streets, preferably with buckets of pixelated blood and a mountain of shell casings. Each one of its nine characters - who are gradually unlocked the higher you increase your master’s approval rating - possess a unique set of traits, making them ideal for certain missions and general playstyles.
Steve - with his Danny Dyer-style voice-over and penchant for dropping the F-bomb at almost every juncture - is your first avatar, and while his pistol isn’t the most powerful, he can slide tackle enemies in a pinch. Then there’s Mike, the loud-mouthed northerner who boasts a fast movement speed but a sawn-off shotgun that’s only got two shots per reload. Whether it’s their NSFW voiceovers or the sheer personality of their animations, these madcap murderers are bound to leave a smile firmly cracked across your face.
Steve screaming, “Your mum!” after dispatching a bunch of rude boys. Cletus blowing yakuza right out of a window with his shotgun. The way Sammy’s red jacket flutters behind her when she runs. Jesus’ constant hip-swaying (and his last swig of a cocktail everytime he dies). It’s a game that’s brimming with swagger, bravado and innate charm at every turn. Sure, the sheer amount of swearing might put off some players but, then again, this is a game about securing political success through mass murder so it’s probably not afraid to shock a few people along the way.
Running at a smooth 60fps, the action never lets up, and with three different chapters split into 21 missions (where you’ll attempt to wipe out the Russian mafia, a gang of drug-peddling gang bangers and the yakuza) there’s an impressively vast set of enemies to eviscerate. Most require a certain amount of tactical prowess, so simply running and gunning won’t do here. Shotgunners will blast you backwards - potentially sending you out of a window to your doom - while thick machine gunners will instantly block your sliding dash.
While each character sports their own unique weapon, you can mix things up with power-ups (which do everything from turn your gun or sword into a laser or transform your bullets into grenades) and cause creative destruction with extra items. You can leave mines for groups trying to rush you or send a cat with explosives strapped to it into a room full of heavily-armed foes. It's a game that gives you enough space to get creative with your death-dealing and, in doing so, it gives what could have been a very repetitive shooter a little extra spice.
If there’s any shade that can really be thrown in Not a Hero’s direction, it’s the fact that each level is specifically designed to offer a single optimum route buried within an open-ended set of levels. There’s plenty of objectives to complete in each mission - ranging from finding a certain collectable or reaching a payphone in a given time limit - but for all its empowerment, it’s not hard to see a more linear path gradually revealed the more you play. It does set up for some brutal set-pieces - with the third and final chapter ramping up the difficulty a little too acutely - but some procedural generation would have really added to its replay value.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Not a Hero: Super Snazzy Edition is a reissue of a game that’s already been out for years on other platforms, so if you’ve already emptied its virtual clips before there’s not much here to coax you back in (bar the fact you can now enjoy it on a portable console). However, if you’ve yet to sign up to BunnyLord’s mayoral bloodbath you’re in for an ultraviolent treat. With an enjoyable, if brief add-on campaign to boot, this little side-scrolling platformer is a blast whether played on the go or blown-up on your TV. Canvassing has never been so much fun.