Review | NeverAwake

She's not awake. Yet.

Dank yellow walls, empty furniture, and a beeping electrocardiogram—some of the many indicators of one of our least pleasant places to be: the hospital. That’s what players will first bear witness to when they start NeverAwake, a twin-stick shooter developed by Neotro Inc. and published by Phoenixx Inc. A young girl by the name of Rem is intubated and deep asleep and some of her worst nightmares are out to get her at her lowest point in her life.

That’s where you come in, taking control of a little spirit as you shred up enemies that are all too familiar to Rem in this beautifully rendered twin-stick shooter with so many ways to take on the game’s many well-crafted levels.

Don’t run into the light! (Neotro Inc./Phoenixx)

The twin-stick shooting genre is self-explanatory, and it’s likely you’ve already played quite a few of them by now. Popular titles like The Binding of Isaac or Geometry Wars come to mind. In NeverAwake, players guide themselves through the game’s on-rails camera, blasting away whatever foes dare to cross you. You can dash, use your subweapon, and equip many accessories to aid you through Rem’s nightmares.

Now the twist here is in NeverAwake’s level design and progression. Each level is comprised of a short ‘loop’ where players must collect souls to fill up their soul meter to complete the challenge. Blasting away baddies is one thing, but you’ll need to keep an eye out on the ones that actually drop souls if you want to complete the level in the least amount of time possible.

Otherwise, the level will loop and with it comes extra difficulty in the form of different enemy attack patterns and positioning. Boss levels operate on the same idea, but the difference here is that you can choose to ignore filling your soul meter in exchange for outright destroying the boss, which would let you see phases you’d normally be able to skip out on.

Now this is the wheel of fortune. (Neotro Inc./Phoenixx)

These levels may be short, but they are well-designed, offering unique challenges across the games 70 plus levels. Whether that’s putting up new enemy types, presenting physics-based challenges, or other attack patterns—NeverAwake will keep you on your toes as you weave through the hundreds of projectiles that are tossed your way.

But don’t let the blinding lights and shiny dots covering the screen daunt you from trying the game because NeverAwake is very forgiving for a twin-stick shooter. The player’s hitbox is tiny and it’s easy to dodge projectiles once you get the hang of it. Failing or simply restarting a level will always present the player with a hint box giving advice on what to do about particular attack patterns or level quirks. Best of all, losing still progresses you by allowing you to gain access to new subweapons and accessories that assist you in battle as well as adding to your overall soul count which you can use to purchase these abilities.

The interesting levels combined with the loop system and the game’s fast-paced shoot ’em up-like gameplay had me hooked for hours. The boss fights especially are a treat to challenge, especially when you take the time to battle them outright and seeing their many attack patterns you wouldn’t get to see otherwise. If you’re up for the challenge, you can keep pushing through a level’s loops to see how long you last. Your score can only go higher, and there’s a leaderboard to tackle if you’re into that.

I wonder what she’ll see when she wakes up… (Neotro Inc./Phoenixx)

NeverAwake presents all its flair through its hand-drawn visuals, complete with the creepy atmosphere of all things that can give a little girl nightmares. Vegetables vomiting things at you, dentists poking nice and hard at your gums, your classmates talking behind your back—you name it. Enemies are easy to see and the game uses a number of visual and audio cues to help you keep tabs on your progress. The music that accompanies your nightmare-shredding work is fantastic, too, the synths doing a great deal of work to convincingly place you in the world of Rem’s unpleasant dreams. The game runs like a dream on Xbox Series X, too.

Now, Rem’s story is told as you complete levels (or not!) through diary entries and short cutscenes. As you’d expect from a game with a Tim Burton-esque visual and world, Rem has her good days and bad days (besides being hospitalised) and you’ll see the events that led up to the unfortunate tragedy unfold as you continue playing.

With beautiful visuals and expertly crafted levels alongside a dash of simple but intuitive gameplay, NeverAwake is a fantastic twin-stick shooter and one I can recommend to just about anyone. And lemme tell you, I haven’t quite liked an on-rails shooter in quite a while. This one is the real deal.


Played on
Xbox Series X


  • Gorgeous graphics and visual style that doesn't get in the way of gameplay.
  • Strong level design, each world offering its own challenge. Loop system keeps the short levels interesting and fun.
  • Character controller is good and the variety of weapons at the player's disposal
  • Enemy design is great, and the bosses are varied as they are unique to Rem and her hated stuffs.
9.2 out of 10
XboxEra Scoring Policy

Genghis "Solidus Kraken" Husameddin

I like video games, both old and new. Nice 'ta meetcha!

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