It’s not often a piece of media asks, “what are you afraid of” and “can you destroy that from your childhood which drives you to nightmares?” What would you do if you could take on all the real-life objects that haunt the corners of your dreams and blast them away into faraway memories? NeverAwake is up to the task – filled with colorful characters and a unique set of enemies, it’s time to put an end to all those bad experiences that once trailed you throughout the land of the waking.
So, what is NeverAwake, and what sets it apart from its contemporaries? Namely, it’s a twin-stick shooter with its own set of house rules, many levels, and a story that features the unique selling point of multiple endings. The narrative is simple but it’s the theming that counts.
Enter the protagonist, Rem, who just happens to be asleep. It’s your job as the player to sift through her various nightmares in the hopes of eventually helping her awake. There’s a bit more meat to her story too – namely the glimpses into her daily life from when she was awake and the different objects of her nightmares. From vegetables to dogs, to a hospital and even dreaded schoolmates, NeverAwake touches upon subjects that might hit close to home in your own life too. It works because surely there’s at least something here you might have had bad dreams about, and through those experiences, it’s easy to relate to Rem’s conflict.
Each level is accented by several enemies that largely change between stages. For example, you’ll find spitting tomatoes and grotesque-looking peas in the vegetable world. There are yapping dogs in the dog park world and the hospital has you travel through someone’s body and fight off things like viruses and dodge syringes. It’s unsettling, to say the least. Whilst each world does have its own theme, some of the same enemies do persist throughout, which is a take it or leave it kind of situation. On one hand, it would have been nice to see a little more variety in some stages, but on the other, you at least get a feel for the attack patterns and can react accordingly.
Getting into NeverAwake doesn’t require any familiarity with the Shoot ‘Em Up genre – in fact, there are several streamlined features that make it approachable for both newcomers and veterans alike. Rem is easily controlled by the right stick on a controller setup. You’ll press one button to dash and dodge while another initiates her Special Attack to help you get out of sticky situations. There’s an auto-aim option as well that can be enabled in the game’s settings. It’s a very pick-up and play style that doesn’t require complicated combos or inputs.
The object of each stage is to collect 100% of a currency called souls. Souls are obtained by defeating certain enemies and collected by Rem as she makes her way through scrolling levels. By completing each stage, you’ll start to receive unlocks and upgrades for Rem. These souls come into play here specifically as you can buy different weapon upgrades, defense and strength items, and others that’ll boost your stats during battle. On top of that, souls can be spent in a sort of eleventh-hour moment. Should you die before completing a stage, spend 60 to ramp up your weapon and go in with added shields in what’s called “Oversoul” mode. It’s helpful for those who get stuck, although you can simply retry as you were if you don’t want the extra buffs.
NeverAwake features several different worlds with additional stages unlocked through story progression. Whilst you do have to collect souls to advance, NeverAwake sets itself apart by saying you never have to completely defeat bosses. Once you gather up 100% of souls, as indicated by a counter at the top of the screen, you’re free to move on. This makes completing each stage a breeze, provided you don’t get stuck. If you do, remember to mix and match the various weapon abilities and accessories Rem can wear to tackle different situations – including the boss fights sprinkled throughout. Each level operates on a loop system – that is, Rem will keep going back to the beginning after a set point in the level to gather enough souls. Be warned, however, NeverAwake does get harder with each loop in play. Things can get especially tough in stages with gimmicks like dodging impervious objects or when an increased number of mobs come out right as the loop resets. The former obstacle especially can become frustrating as you try and learn each individual pattern to successfully avoid them. All of this is there to promote the concept of replayability, which NeverAwake has in spades.
This sort of unique mindset in design philosophy extends to NeverAwake’s visuals. Each nightmare is painted in a dreary yet still colorful way. The stylistic approach to enemy designs and even Rem herself evokes a gothic cartoon flavor. The accompanying music is just as fitting, with different tracks adding to the nightmarish flair.
NeverAwake Review | Final Thoughts
It’s all of these things put together that make NeverAwake such a unique outing. The variety in world design is welcome, the unique story pieces make it more than an arcade-style shoot ‘em up and the visuals pull together the overall theming centered around nightmares and the ultimate goal of waking up Rem. While some repetition remains with enemies and the like, and certain gimmicks can be overly obtrusive, NeverAwake manages to be a fun pick-up-and-play experience that’ll give you roughly six to seven hours through the first time to complete all worlds. With the optional stages and the chance to get a higher score and faster clear times, there’s plenty to keep you coming back for more in this world of nightmares.
TechRaptor reviewed NeverAwake on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
- A Colorful, Unique Take On The Shoot 'Em Up Genre
- Plenty Of Replayability
- Satisfying, Pick-Up-And Play Gameplay And Upgrade Systems
- Multiple Story Paths
- Repetitive Enemy Design In Some Places
- Some Level Gimmicks Are A Bit Too Unforgiving