I love a good nap. Actually, I just like to sleep in general, especially since I never know what wacky dreams I may encounter. In the deepest recess of the mind, you can become a total badass while you lay dead to the world in a deep sleep, and that’s what draws me to Never Awake, a twin-stick shooter that puts you in the shoes of a girl, Rem, as she goes ham on all the things she dislikes from her childhood.
And you know what? I heavily relate. Nobody likes the dentist, so shooting off a few rounds at dentist-inspired enemies feels rather cathartic in a way, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to set the scene for you. In NeverAwake, as the name implies, you’re in a dreamscape, though it has nightmarish vibes. But that’s okay. It adds to the atmosphere and makes you feel even more incredible as you shoot down some evil veggies.
Speaking of veggies, the very first world you encounter in NeverAwake is the Vegetable Forest, and yes, it’s time to fight back against the broccoli! Prove to the ghastly pieces of food that you’re un-beet-able, and that no amount of enemies can stop you from laying waste to some of the most traumatising experiences of your childhood. We’ve all been there. In fact, I’m that cliche kid whose mum made her eat her veggies (they’re good for you, she says), only for me to choke on them… ‘are they good for me now, mother. Are they!?’
Still, each level, of which there are more than 80, is a lot of fun as you chaotically dash around the screen, guns blazing. That’s the gameplay in a nutshell, as NeverAwake utilises a twin-stick mechanic, so the left is how you move, while the right allows you to aim and shoot. It’s total carnage. Enemies come from all sides, and you need to shoot them all down, less you go down in a blaze of glory. In order to complete your mission, you need to collect souls, this works on a percentage metre, and when you hit 100, you complete the level.
Not only do you need souls to finish the levels, but to purchase an assortment of accessories and weapons as well, each of which possess unique traits that can turn the tide of battle in your favour. You’re a one-woman army, after all, you need all the help you can get. Plus, many of us like to approach combat a little bit differently, even under manic circumstances such as this, and different gear combinations can help you achieve the playstyle you want.
You need to find the approach to combat that suits you best, and not just to up your enjoyment levels (though mine are pretty high from the offset thanks to the chaos). NeverAwake doesn’t just feature a plethora of levels based on typical childhood hatreds. It also has over a dozen bosses that personify the most distasteful parts of your past. Not just the dentist and vegetables either, but certain animals, school friends, and more. Actually, it turns out that Rem hates dogs, and while I don’t share this disdain (hey, Monty and Scrappy, look at mama write things), I still find a lot of enjoyment in helping her get even as she shoots up the place.
The bosses provide a tough challenge, and while the frustration gets to me at times, I thrive on it. I’m a SoulsBorne fan, I love Cuphead, I have platinum trophies for those and Hades, I’m no stranger to adversity, and I love how NeverAwake makes me work to overcome it at times. However, one of my favourite features in the game actually makes it that much easier to beat the levels, and that’s auto-aim. You see, I’m on the side that games are for everyone, and there’s no harm in additional mechanics that you can choose to use to lessen the difficulty and up your enjoyment.
Admittedly, the auto-aim feature does trivialise NeverAwake significantly, but you know what? It turns it from an intense but fun shooter to a somewhat chill yet still enjoyable gunner. No matter what, this is one great game, and I can guarantee that you’ll have a good time with it if you enjoy shoot ’em ups.
Not only does NeverAwake feature satisfying gameplay, but a terrific soundtrack also accompanies it, one that captures the essence of what’s in front of you. When you combine that with beautifully crafted hand-drawn graphics and stunning animations, it’s hard to find any fault. In fact, I can’t, the only complaint I possibly have is that its appearance doesn’t quite match up to other platforms on Nintendo Switch. This is clutching at straws, to be honest, as I highly recommend NeverAwake on the hybrid console.
To top it all off, the controls are sublime. Neotro Inc incorporates the twin-stick mechanic beautifully, and combat feels incredibly smooth, from shooting to moving around. There’s no hindrance in sight. Even when you use special moves, it’s easy and flawless.
As for the story, it honestly takes a backseat to the fun gameplay for me, and I don’t want to divulge too much about it. However, it takes you deep into the mind of a girl that wants to demolish certain childhood memories. She’s asleep throughout all of this, so ultimately, it all comes down to a simple question really – can you wake her up? Plus, as Neotro Inc explains, you can alter how Rem’s story plays out. Pay attention, and see what ending you achieve.
If it isn’t already clear, I highly recommend NeverAwake, and thanks to its auto-aim feature, both hardcore and casual shooter fans can enjoy it. With intuitive controls, fun enemy designs, and an intriguing world and story, on top of a rewarding challenge, I can safely say that NeverAwake is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played for a while.
With intuitive controls, beautifully crafted levels, and a story that takes you deep into the mind of a girl and her childhood, NeverAwake is one of the funnest games I’ve played in a while. I simply can’t get enough, and thanks to its auto-aim feature, both hardcore and casual gamers can progress through the levels