NeverAwake is a simple game. It is a scrolling arcade twin-stick shooter. The game has nothing new to show or hide, but it isn’t trying to. NeverAwake aims to be a fast-paced arcade shooter with an excellent art style and manages to do so very effortlessly. A predictable one complements the simple but great gameplay mechanics. But the sweet story is decently woven into the gameplay mechanics. All this helps the game to be fun and addictive. The game moves along smoothly with its short levels and fun art style.
NeverAwake is fun and fast-paced. While it might not be a so-called masterpiece, it is very good in its own right with its gameplay. As mentioned in the Title, the game is just a good game. The game does not suck a slouch either, with its difficulty being pretty high. It manages to get to a good difficulty level where it never feels too frustrating to repeat a level. This makes one play on with the non-stop sucking the player into the game.
NeverAwake launched on September 28, 2022, for PC for $19.99 and is set to release on PS4/PS5/Switch consoles on January 19, 2023.
As mentioned, the game has a pretty sweet story. The Title of the game, NeverAwake, refers to how the game’s main character is in a coma. She is unable to wake from her coma. One is not aware at first of how she got to the hospital. At the same time, we are stuck in her head as she navigates her nightmares. It tells a touching and somewhat realistic depiction of a depressed girl. We play through her demons and encounter what she most despises and fears. This is a really interesting narrative hook. Each of the worlds in the game is centered around what the girl fears and hates.
This helps each of the levels to have a distinct art style. As travelling through her mind the first level is literally a level of vegetables as the main character hates her vegetable. The story is told mostly through cutscenes after we beat each level. This tells how the girl has been bullied or how she did not like vegetables. The second level is all about how Dogs always troubled her. So that level is filled with dogs as enemies. The way they are shown is pretty morbid and creative, with a distorted view as though we are watching it through the eyes of an imaginative child. So it is fun and very interesting.
Themes and Setting
She starts to remember as we go through each of the worlds as the player. The story is also told through some journal entries which the girl remembers as we explore her nightmares. This story has themes of bullying, depression and exclusion. This is nothing new but it is done pretty well with the painted cutscenes. The story is nothing new but it is done pretty well. The story works as a great backdrop to service the gameplay. It is smartly done to make sure it does not disrupt the flow while making the players engaged.
All that story of NeverAwake is in service of the gameplay. It is simple in the first instance. The screen is scrolling while the player is always shooting. You point at the enemies and you shoot. The levels are laid out in a way where the players scroll in a direction. And to complete a level one needs to collect souls. Once the souls are collected then the level ends. This is indicated by the percentage bar on the top but as the level ends we loop through it. It is mostly done pretty well. We loop through the loop over and over again as it gets harder and harder with each loop. The enemies move a bit faster and it is great. Most levels are not pushed beyond 2 loops until or unless one plays way too passive. So every successful run is at most a minute or two.
Power-up and Buffs
The game never really stops which keeps it moving. The player also has a secondary power-up which can be used to clean the screen more efficiently. The powerups are fun and we can select what kinds of power-up one can equip. The secondary powerups can be bought and levelled up with the souls one is collecting within the levels. It is well paced with most powerups being effective during their levels. There are also passive buffs which can be equipped.
The possible number of passive buffs that can equip can also be bought with the souls. Some can be very effective such as allowing the player to collect all the souls present on the screen. The buffs are mostly passive with some actually affecting the game very much. They help to increase health, secondary power cool down and much more. By the end of the game, they help one get really powerful. All these powerup help in facing the various enemies and bosses.
Enemies and Bosses
As told each of the stages of the game has its own enemies based on the type of nightmare the player is faced with. So the enemy designs are really varied when it comes to the game with seven locations to explore and face. But all locations have enemies which do perform a certain function. there are grunt enemies which are mobile and move towards the player. These are weak and can often be one shot. They are accompanied by small by with more heath units which soak up damage but give more souls. They are also turrets which are hard to kill but are present as obstructions. There are also bigger enemies which are mini-bosses. these often have a fixed path in each loop. They have a distinct weak point which needs to hurt to perform the most optimally. These leave the most souls.
And there are Boss fights. These are present at least one or two times in each of the levels. These are almost always in three phases with each of them granting a third of the souls. So these boss fights are very much like bullet hell levels while dodging each of the bullets while one shoots them. The bosses are a good break from the other levels and work well. They are fun to fight after a while of the fun scrolling gameplay.
There is, sadly, one weak link to the gameplay, which is the challenges. These are unlocked after completing four worlds. These are hard but most are irritating. I don’t mind it being hard but the challenge can be grading. Other than that the game manages to hold its fun and addictive gameplay together really well.
Graphics & Sound
The game looks beautiful. The graphics work well with the art style which is distinct with a hand-drawn quality to it. The game never had any issues in my playthrough. The art style carries it through. There is a sense of childlike imagination to it. This is in service of the story of the game and it absolutely works. There is not much to say in terms of graphics options but I do not think this kinda game needs much.
The sound design and the monster sounds I feel were responsive to the impact. It is pretty well done across the game. The themes of the level change to give way to t the Music in the game. For me, the music was nothing special but it does help in the immersion of each new world/destination and its themes. So it works are intended pretty well.
The Key for NeverAwake was provided by Stride PR and played on Steam.