You can tell a lot about a game by the stuff it asks you to pick up. Take Uncharted, for example, which squirrels away unique archaeological treasures off the beaten track, a conceit entirely in keeping with the series' fiction. Super Mario 3D Land's medals tease you into tricky tests of platforming skill or inquisitive probing. Batman: Arkham City, meanwhile, has the Riddler trophies, each an entertaining environmental puzzle to solve. In NeverDead, collectibles hide in plain sight, happily giving off a bright yellow glow. In NeverDead, collectibles are called 'collectibles'.
Collectable 'collectibles' just about sums up the lack of inspiration in NeverDead, and that's doubly disappointing given a genuinely decent idea at its core. 500-year-old demon hunter Bryce Boltzman is immortal, you see, which means he responds rather differently to serious injury than you or I.
Throughout eight hours of shooting and slicing, Bryce will frequently be dismembered, and can recover by hopping, rolling or crawling into the limbs he's lost. It's a fun novelty at first, though the concept of a human katamari never really goes any further than that. You'll flap about on the floor as a head with a single arm attached, dragging yourself awkwardly back to your torso, but beyond fleeting amusement there's nothing particularly interesting about it as a mechanic.
After the first level, Bryce gains the ability to remove his own head. In another game - in a better game - this self-mutilation might be used for some clever puzzles. Here you'll throw Bryce's head to pass through vents (complete with a ridiculous sound effect that suggests somebody enthusiastically rolling marbles down a metal pipe) or reach higher platforms, and that's pretty much your lot. There's one puzzle involving a plank of wood you need to accelerate up to jump off that is both remarkably fiddly yet, astonishingly, one of the most inventive conundrums in the entire game. The very best puzzle involves pulling levers to rotate sections of pipe into position, only - you'll never guess - one of the levers simultaneously moves several pieces. Ah, Rebellion, with these brainteasers you are really spoiling us.
Shortly afterwards, Bryce suddenly remembers he's capable of tearing his own arms off, too. This is only used during combat, and you're encouraged to do so because puppies - the game's basic enemies - apparently "love to play fetch". The advantages to this are no-fold. Rip one arm off and you're instantly one gun down. You can still fire from your now-missing limb, but at this point it's probably flailing around on the floor, haphazardly scattering bullets when you could be putting it to better use by, say, shooting an enemy directly in the face. Besides, combat is so frenetic that you'll perhaps only distract one or two puppies (if you're lucky) while the rest leap at you to rip your other arm off because you've inexplicably reduced your firepower by half. Sure, you can purchase an ability that turns your limbs into grenades, which makes this ability marginally less pointless, but why bother when firing both guns is the easiest way to send these demons to their maker?
Enemies take quite a bit of punishment before disintegrating, and there's little sense of weight or force to almost every weapon. Often, the only evidence you're doing damage to your intended target is the gradually depleting life bar above its head. The puppies, waddling, leaping, eating machines that they are, come in a few varieties (armoured, fiery, explosive) but their M.O. is identical: hurl self at demon hunter. The same goes for their bizarre triped colleagues, with some sporting giant razors on their uppermost tendril and others packing attached machine guns. Curiously, these are immune to gunfire, forcing you to pull out Bryce's butterfly blade, which uses the right stick for multi-directional attacks. You're told that precise swipes are the most efficient tactic, presumably because Rebellion doesn't want to admit that frantically waggling the stick back and forth is actually the best strategy.