Empowered by Unity, NeverAwake takes advantage of the engine to tell its unique story through its grotesque bosses, visually inspired backgrounds, and the typical bullet hell experience that can reduce a player’s HP to a sliver with a single blink. The developer Neotro may be one of many Indie game companies in the gaming world today, but its newest release is sure to challenge its players and keep them coming back for more.
*Note that while the title is currently on the PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and Steam, this review has been conducted on the Steam version of the game.
▍No Level Overstays Its Welcome
NeverAwake puts you in the role of Rem, an enigmatic spirit tasked with collecting Souls to awaken the girl she inhabits within. The player can dodge, destroy enemy projectiles, and defeat enemies with attacks and special weapons by using the twin sticks and bumper buttons with your controller.
Unlike many shooters, the player completes each level by collecting enough Souls to reach 100%, instead of defeating all the enemies inside the map.
Players might fear that they will automatically lose the level if they reach the end, but what this title does differently compared to other on-rail shooters is that the level will essentially ‘loop’ once Rem reaches the end of the map, allowing players to collect more Souls but makes enemies more aggressive as a trade-off.
If the player fails to complete a level by taking too much damage, they’ll be given the chance to change their equipment around, or can even activate Oversoul; a powerful buff that boosts Rem’s capabilities!
Any newcomer to the genre might feel overwhelmed picking up any game in the genre; tons of bright, flashing bullets and hordes of enemies from any angle might cause players to feel exhausted after a short session and put the game down, especially if it comes from a bout of frustration.
Shooters aren’t easy to master and can be a struggle for players unused to exercising situational awareness for extended periods of time. Yet NeverAwake does an amazing job making each level feel fresh and exciting, introducing new enemies and mechanics while taking advantage of the auto-scrolling mechanic to its fullest.
▍Progress Through Experience, Win or Lose
Obtained Souls can be used to purchase upgrades to help them complete their journey. From increasing the amount of Shield Points Rem starts with to being able to collect Souls from afar, NeverAwake has many active and passive upgrades that suit different playstyles.
The game also handles unlockables in a user-friendly way; any weapons or accessories unlocked by completing a world are useful for the next world, encouraging players to try many different builds and see what they like best. Souls are also quite plentiful, so even if a player chooses to activate Oversoul for every level, they can still obtain enough currency to unlock a good portion of weapons or accessories available to them!
▍Tough Challenges Create Replayability
After completing a few worlds in NeverAwake, players can unlock Omoide Challenges, which place restrictions on previous levels that have been completed. Each level has a specific challenge, such as collecting enough Souls to reach 100% within the first Loop or destroying a Wormhole hidden in a level.
True to their name, Omoide Challenges reward photos for the Album, which depict memories of the girl featured in the game. Though these photos aren’t necessary to complete the base game, completing the album will unlock a secret World for the player to challenge themselves with!
▍A Gripping Story Told Through Brief Vignettes
NeverAwake throws players in media res, where the entire game takes place within the comatose body of an injured, young girl. To add to the mystery of her injuries, each World encircles an important location on the human body, starting from her limbs and ending at the top of her head.
It isn’t long before players begin to learn more about the girl’s tragic tale. Her story is not overly heartbreaking yet relatable all the same, as she suffers from a lack of attention from her arguing parents and her anxiousness in ‘fitting in’ with her classmates. Unlockable diary entries paint a depressing narrative, and it’s hard not to feel bad for the third grader.
Bosses in this game are an absolute marvel; with monstrous appearances and fearsome attack patterns, they’re accurate representations of the girl’s fears. To drive it home, one boss depicts her feuding parents, reflecting the girl’s uselessness in her family’s unrelenting conflict.
▍NeverAwake is a Short and Sweet Journey
NeverAwake is a great shooter game for players looking for something to do on the weekend. With generous quality-of-life features, gamers with little to no experience in the genre won’t have to worry about getting stuck on a single level. The equipment system makes the game as hard as the player wishes it to be, providing a suitable challenge for experienced players in the genre. Despite its flaws, if the gameplay alone doesn’t sell the idea to you, then NeverAwake’s hand-drawn aesthetic, diverse enemies, and catchy soundtrack might change your mind! NeverAwake has a rating of 4 out of 5.