NeverAwake is a bizarre yet amazing indie game about a poor girl who is stuck in a coma and is fighting to wake up. This unique shoot-em-up by Neotro Inc and Phoenixx takes a beloved genre and does something extra special with it.
So is NeverAwake a game that you need in your ever-expanding game library? Or is it okay to let this girl continue sleeping? Let’s find out!
The story of NeverAwake is a simple one, but do not let that fool you. This is a heavy topic done in a masterful way. You play as Rem, a mysterious-looking girl who is fighting off all kinds of scary and nightmarish things, but you learn quickly that Rem is helping another girl who is in a coma and cannot wake up. Rem is essentially breaking the chains that are keeping this little girl locked down so that she can eventually break free from this seemingly eternal sleep.
More of the story unfolds through short cutscenes at certain points, but there are also moments where diary entries are shared that open our eyes to even more. There are multiple parts of the body that are shackled down on the little girl, and Rem enters each of these shackles as a “world” and battles her way to breaking those chains. It is a powerful visual that shows the desperation of someone wanting to wake up so badly but cannot.
I was not expecting a whole lot in regards to the story in NeverAwake, but I was sucked right into it and desperately wanted to save this little girl. The game does a phenomenal job of giving the player purpose and helping them to achieve the in-game goal. It is a challenging experience, but it is one you will want to see all the way through, multiple times even.
NeverAwake is a stylish shoot-em-up, and the controls are subject to a twin-stick model, where the left stick moves Rem around and the right stick aims and shoots. There is an aim assist feature for those looking for a little extra help, but this is optional. Rem is also equipped with a dash that helps in tricky situations, and she also has a special move that can be changed and/or upgraded over the course of the game. Rem is quite formidable, and she needs to be, especially considering the plethora of enemies and bosses that come her way.
It is important to note that NeverAwake is not an easy game, similar to most shoot-em-ups. The first few stages may feel a little on the easy side, but it does not take long for the “bullet hell” feel to kick in and enemies and bullets flying at Rem from all directions. What is cool about NeverAwake, though, is that it recognizes this reality by giving certain options to the player in order to clear a stage if they are having difficulty. Oversoul is such a mechanic, and this basically gives Rem super-powers after dying a few times.
Many of the enemies are one-shot kills, but there are those that are bigger and stronger and they require a lot more concentrated fire, which can be tough, especially with other enemies coming at you. This leads to my next point, and that is Looping. In order to clear a stage, Rem needs to collect enough Soul to help the girl wake up, and you receive Soul by defeating enemies. 100% Soul clears a stage, but stages are still only so long. If you do not collect 100% Soul in the first fun, NeverAwake takes you for a loop and repeats the stage from the beginning until you receive 100% Soul. A very interesting idea that compliments the natural gameplay.
Each world has 10 stages and three bosses, where the final boss is the toughest one. Bosses are fantastically designed and represent something that the little girl in a coma is terrified of. As Rem makes her way through these bosses, it helps the little girl to overcome those fears. Bosses come in three stages and reward 33.3% soul for each completed section. This again wonderfully compliments the unique gameplay in NeverAwake, and these are some of the most entertaining bosses I have ever played in a shoot-em-up.
Not only are these bosses entertaining, but they are of phenomenal design. The incredible detail in each of the enemies is a marvel, but it is the bosses that take the cake. They are littered with specific things to make them appear more disgusting to give you more empathy and connection to the little girl. Honestly, NeverAwake is one of the most stunning indie games I have played to date, and although some may find the art style grotesque, it is truly one of the prettiest games on the Switch eShop.
In addition to the amazing art style, NeverAwake also boasts a great soundtrack that will keep you in your shooting groove while also not distracting you, which is an important take, because shoot-em-ups, especially this one, need lots of concentration in order to succeed. That is why NeverAwake contains the perfect soundtrack for what they have presented and entertains while not distracting the player. There is something special to say about that.
NeverAwake may not be your traditional shoot-em-up, but this is a spectacular experience from start to finish. It may not be the longest game, but again, this is standard fair in the genre. However, NeverAwake excels in every area that it needs to, and unlike others in the shoot-em-up genre, this game delivers incredibly with its story, as it encourages players to finish unlike anything else I’ve ever played before.
This may not be for everyone, as the graphical style might be disturbing for some and the difficulty may discourage others, but I cannot recommend NeverAwake enough. It does so much right to simply focus on the small issues, and it is definitely something fresh for the genre.
If you have been looking for a new shoot-em-up with a twist to challenge you, please look no further. NeverAwake is a gem and one of the best indies to release in 2023 thus far. You will not be disappointed.
Excellent twist on the shoot-em-up genre
Simple yet compelling story
Tight controls and lots of powerups to mix things up
Stunning graphical style
Beautifully grotesque yet fun boss fights
Difficulty may be a little high for some
A little on the short side
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.