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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

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Not a Hero is like a 2D Vanquish

And it's every bit as good as that sounds.

There are problems that crop up during a game's development, and then there are problems. Right now, Not a Hero - the next game from OlliOlli developer roll7 - has one of the best I've ever heard of.

The cocaine, as it stands, is a little unbalanced.

At least that's what studio director Tom Hegarty tells me as he fires through an early build of the game, designed by John Ribbins, that's being unveiled today. Available as a power-up for your pixel-art anti-hero, it makes you faster, a little more powerful and, as a result, a lot more arrogant. The cocaine seems fine to me right now, though - it's another characterful, slightly overstated part in what's looking like a worthy follow-up to one of my personal favourite games of the year so far.

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But, if OlliOlli's anything to go by, roll7's all about balance. Right now Not a Hero's at the stage where that's being tuned in, but judging from an early play the fundamentals are all perfectly placed. This is a quick-fire shooter that takes the intensity of something like Hotline Miami and layers on oodles and oodles of style - if you want my own lazy comparison, which you probably don't, I'd describe it as a 2D Vanquish with a hipster bounce.

Before you start sighing at the introduction of another shooter with a retro-chic aesthetic, it's worth considering that roll7's gone for a slightly different angle. It's an angle the team's suggesting it's invented itself, in fact, even if the claim's being made with tongue firmly in cheek. Not a Hero's blend of side-on perspective with isometric assets has been branded Iso-slant by the team, and regardless of where you stand on the name it's hard to deny the aesthetic works.

The cover-based shooting works too, and it earns its right to be compared to Vanquish (secretly one of the best games of the last generation). You slide between objects and doorways, snapping to cover automatically and bursting out again every time you fire your pistol. There are added layers of style - you can slide into enemies and knock them over, and if you're quick enough can spring to your feet and unleash a single, fatal shot to the head that paints the nearby scenery red.

This is Cletus - say hello to Cletus!

Reloading attracts nearby enemies, who rush you down, which adds a little intensity to an already intense game. Shootouts have the flavour of Hollywood at its most bombastic, and they're told beautifully in Not a Hero's pixel-art - windows can be shot out and leapt through while offices are quickly riddled with bullet-holes, and the guns crackle with a real ferocity.

There are different flavours of guns, different flavours of bullets and different flavours of enemies, though only some have been implemented while I'm sure there are others that are yet to be invented. The kitten bomb's an early highlight amongst the power-ups, though, the little critter strolling nonchalantly into a room before detonating messily. I'm sadly yet to get my hands on the cocaine.

Not a Hero's a simple game, but a joyful one. Levels are short with basic objectives - clear a building before rushing to the exit, clear a building while hacking terminals, clear one while setting up a bomb or just clear one by joyfully shooting away at all the inhabitants - and they're tied together with an uncomplicated scoring system. Multipliers are kicked off by consecutive kills performed without taking a hit, and you're graded at the end of a level by how long it took you to clear the mission and how many times you took a bullet.

Behind the playable characters is a bunny overlord that's getting you to do his dirty work, naturally enough.

Depth comes from different characters with different abilities - you'll have to see through each mission with each one to see it through to the end - as well as a suite of different weapons. Not that Not a Hero needs to worry too much about boring the player given the energy and spark with which its fire-fights crackle.

Not a Hero's currently running on PC - courtesy of publisher Devolver - and without the pad support that's inbound before its summer release. As for a release on console and Vita? It's not a part of the launch plan, but very much an avenue roll7 wants to explore further down the line. You don't have to wait until then, though - it's sitting on the show floor ready to play at Rezzed today.