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NeverAwake Review

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NeverAwake has no right looking as good as it does. It probably has no right playing as well as it does either. Thinking about it, we’re pretty amazed by the constant arrival of in-game perks and abilities too. We’re saying it now, NeverAwake is a little gem that you shouldn’t sleep on. 

The set-up of NeverAwake is a fairly simple one. You find yourself playing through the mind of a young girl – Rem – as she bears witness to a host of nightmarish events. Working the usual twin-stick shooting guidelines, it’s up to you to blast your way through various levels, each of which are themed to this girl’s most horrendous thoughts. There are vegetable forests, hospitals, dog parks, school days and more, each brilliantly designed, cleverly created in order to fit a theme. 

neverawake review 1
NeverAwake is a great twin-stick shooter

We’ll admit that there have been moments of NeverAwake that have blown us away. Not in terms of full-on wow moments, but in the ingenious designs and craftings that have taken place. It’s all been extremely well thought out, from the creatures and nightmares you meet, right down to how stages are strung together. 

But whilst this plays as a standard twin-sticker (with an auto-aim system if you need it), there are ideas that we’ve not seen elsewhere. The most prominent of these is a ‘loop’ system. This sees you playing through stages, reaching a conclusion, before having the entire stage loop in once more. You see, that’s because the ‘end-goal’ in each NeverAwake stage isn’t to just blast to safety, but to pick up souls. Only once you have 100% of these, will a stage end and you can be rewarded. What this means is that, in theory, you could be done and dusted with a level in a mere minute or two, but should you fail to go collecting, more drawn out affairs come to the fore. Switching in and out accessories, perks and buffs help aid each playthrough and your own playstyle too. And then if you feel you need to go back for even more, NeverAwake holds speedrunning close to its heart. 

It all looks brilliant, so much so that NeverAwake has been one that has utterly surprised. Fairly closely zoomed on the action, we expected this one to give bigger playfields, initially shocked by the condensed vibes. But get used to that and you’ll understand the reasons for it, and why the team at Neotro have gone down the lines they have. Granted, it takes a bit of getting used to, but in turn allows the visual brilliance of NeverAwake to utterly shine. 

Levels are extremely well detailed too. Working through this girl’s nightmares has allowed the opportunity for the dev team to go to town with their creativity; stages and enemies frequently excelling. Consider your player character too and you’ve got what could well be seen as one of the most intense twin-stickers in visual terms. And the audio complements well, helping immerse in the frantic nature of what NeverAwake brings. 

neverawake review 2
Visuals are on point in NeverAwake

For many it’ll be the constant changing and teasing of ideas that means NeverAwake will be seen as a near-must playthrough. New weapons, specials, accessories, perks, buffs and the like are well integrated, dropped at a very considered rate. We’ve found ourselves looking to take in ‘just one more level’ in hope of trying a new weapon type, or as we looked to go purchasing some new perks. That’s the sign of a game that does much right, continually engaging the player to head on in. 

And you’ll find that you’ll need to utilise all the options on the table too. Whilst levels themselves are fairly simple to blast through, bosses bring the pain a tad more. Failing with one loadout will just build the urge you find to try again with another, as NeverAwake forces you forward. And if you continue to fail, the game is more than happy to help you through, powering Rem up and allowing her to blast through tricky moments. And at all times this one is as smooth as butter. Rem controls brilliantly, stages skip by without a jolt and, no matter how intense things get, NeverAwake flutters on without issue. 

Honestly, there’s not too much we don’t like about NeverAwake. Aside from wanting more stages with the same clever designs and genius creations, perhaps the only change we’d request for a NeverAwake 2 would be a slight lessening of the zoomed-in playfield. 

Perhaps that’s more to do with our history of playing twin-stick shooters within fairly large play areas, but NeverAwake feels a tad too focused for our overall liking. Yes, you can fast get used to the arenas you are in, but just a small shift outwards, zooming out, creating larger screen real estate and allowing for a more open space would be a preference this end. 

neverawake review 3
Blast that veg!

Aside from that we’ll conclude with similar thoughts to how we opened our NeverAwake rundown. This is a highly accomplished, brilliant looking twin-stick shooter that should be seen as one of the very best examples of the genre. If you’ve any interest in running bullet hell experiences, or working with a whole variety of weapons and abilities, then NeverAwake allows for it. Chuck in a nifty little narrative to tie it all together and speedrunning opportunities for those looking for them, and there’s no debate this is one you should be playing right away.

NeverAwake is a twin-stick shooter that is right up there with the best of them. 

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Looks absolutely stunning
  • Plays great
  • Tons of weapons and accessories
  • Clever stage loops
  • Super imaginative
Cons:
  • A zoomed in play area may not appeal to all
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Phoenixx
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS4, PS5 , PC
  • Release date and price - 29 June 2023 | £20.99
Neil Watton
Neil Wattonhttps://www.thexboxhub.com/
An Xbox gamer since 2002, I bought the big black box just to play Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. I have since loved every second of the 360's life and am now just as obsessed with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S - mostly with the brilliant indie scene that has come to the fore. Gamertag is neil363, feel free to add me to your list.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Looks absolutely stunning</li> <li>Plays great</li> <li>Tons of weapons and accessories</li> <li>Clever stage loops</li> <li>Super imaginative</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>A zoomed in play area may not appeal to all</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Phoenixx</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS4, PS5 , PC <li>Release date and price - 29 June 2023 | £20.99</li> </ul>NeverAwake Review
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