The recently-released Hotline Miami 2 managed to win me over with its brand of tense, perfectionism-focused game play. I shelved the first Hotline after a handful of hours, but being forced to stick with part two for the sake of my job finally made something click in my brain—to the point where I actually went back to finish the first game shortly after posting my review.
That's not to say Roll7's Not a Hero is directly inspired by Hotline Miami, but the similarities are hard to ignore. Both games feature chunky pixel graphics, and while Hotline portrays the action from an overhead view, the overarching goal in Not a Hero remains roughly the same: causing unspeakably brutal violence to abstract representations of human beings.
The biggest difference here, outside of Not a Hero's incredibly British humor (Or is that "humour?"), can be found in the way Roll7's creation provides a safety cushion of sorts. While Hotline Miami's playable characters fall into bloody heaps after a single attack, those found in Not a Hero have health meters that recharge over time. Not to mention it only takes a single button-tap to slip into cover and become completely invincible against anything the enemy could possibly throw at you. These added defensive options aren't there for the sake of making an easier experience, though; since Not a Hero tasks players with objectives more complicated than "kill everyone," you'll need all the help you can get.
Getting to the end of a level proves much easier than Hotline Miami, but if you're keen on meeting each stage's optional challenges, you'll have to play a lot more aggressively. After learning the ropes through some of the earlier stages in a hands-on demo, I eventually tried to meet these optional goals, which do a great job of encouraging players to experiment with combat options. While you can play it safe and stick to cover, sliding into and stunning enemies makes for a much quicker approach, even if it puts you in more danger. The earlier challenges encourage this more direct approach by rewarding players for incapacitating enemies, and then following this move up with a critical hit execution—which essentially explodes their heads.
Still, even if you've finished a level, doing so while meeting these optional challenges is a different story altogether. And if you're thinking you can simply meet dip in and out of levels, meeting each challenge individually, think again. This is where Not a Hero's focus on optimization comes in: Since the levels are relatively brief, it actively encourages playing them over and over again in order to figure out the best possible way to escape with every optional challenge completed. Some of them play into actions you'd normally do, while others place more of an emphasis on near-perfection—like taking less than a prescribed number of hits, or eliminating a certain number of enemies while remaining unscathed.
Even after getting just a taste of Not a Hero, I'm definitely psyched to dig into the final version when it launches for the PC on May 7th. (And, in case you're curious, our own Mike Williams is fond of it as well.) And while the comparison might be getting a little tired at this point, if you're into Hotline Miami, there's a lot to love about Not a Hero. But even if you aren't, you may find its sense of humor and slightly forgiving nature a lot more enjoyable than Dennaton Games' creation.