Assault Android Cactus Review (PS4)
I zip through enemies, dodging a hail of bullets while never taking my finger off the trigger. Taking action, as the ground beneath my feet twists and contorts to impede my progress. Gaudy techno blares, as the action ramps up. Laying waste to the hordes of enemies barreling towards me, as the power up that I desperately need appears in the middle of a new wave of enemies. An errant bullet stops my rampage. I’m down, but definitely not out for the count…
The scenario above was a common one for me in Assault Android Cactus, a fast paced twin-stick shooter from developer Witch Beam about an Assault Android called Cactus. While the naming convention of the game comes across as simplistic. The genre of twin-stick shooters are known for their difficulty, which can go from fair to frustrating incredibly fast for most players. Thankfully Assault Android Cactus manages to evade this problem while simultaneously providing solid gameplay mechanics that are easy to pick up, but tough to master.
In the story mode of Assault Android Cactus, you learn that Cactus is a junior police officer. She intercepts a distress call from a nearby spacecraft and literally crashes in to save the day. Now, aboard a spacecraft in the midst of a mutiny led by its very own robot workers, it’s up to her to step up to the plate and take the fight to the robots with the help of other androids that she meets. You start off with four characters which increases to nine by the end of the campaign. The great thing is that have their own play style and unique personalities. So whether playing solo or with friends, it does not feel like you are playing with mere palette swaps. My personal favourite is Starch, who is insane and screams random outbursts such as “PINEAPPLES” when you select her.
The gameplay revolves around the fact that they are androids, therefore they run on a battery. A battery at the top of the screen that is constantly depleting. The only way to top it up, is to collect the battery power ups from the destroyed remains of the robots you are fighting in the current wave. So it’s survival of the fastest as you mow down any robot unlucky enough to get in the way of your next battery fix. Where you would usually lose a life in most twin stick shooters, here you end up in a downed status. Where you must mash the shoot button to get up as you quickly as you can. While you can generally take a few shots before you are downed, and can be downed multiple times while your battery dissipates. You will want to avoid it, as getting up wastes time and also breaks the combo that you have been building.
This combo is created upon killing an enemy and you have a few seconds to kill another enemy to keep it going. As you get more proficient with your chosen android and the way they play, you can seek out better end of level ratings by maintaining this combo throughout the whole level. The best way to obtain this is by learning enemy patterns and also when to dodge. Dodging will activate your secondary weapons and as you dart around you will start to recognise opportunities to dodge, fire off your secondary weapon and go back to your primary without breaking your combo. While Starch has a rocket launcher secondary, that spreads out hits multiple targets. Cactus has a flamethrower that does a lot of damage up close and personal. Achieving the games S+ ranking gets pretty difficult to do as the campaign goes on, and you will have to learn a character that matches your play style.
The story mode’s 25 levels are split into 5 zones each with a boss fight at the end. At first the stages are akin to small arenas where enemies will spawn in waves. As you go further into the campaign, the levels morph and contort in their best effort to stop your combo as the enemies attack patterns get more complex. The boss fights are also quite fun, but can be quite difficult. Liberally cribbing from bullet hell games as the screen fills with bullets and projectiles.
It can be difficult in places but the campaign, is very short. It could be easy played through in 2-3 hours if you wanted to steamroll through. Although the true replay value comes from attempting to get an S+ rank on every level as well as the other play modes such as Boss Rush, Infinity Drive which is a survival mode and Daily Drive. Daily Drive is a nice addition of a daily challenge where you compete for the top of the leader boards.
Visually, Assault Android Cactus is fine and the deformed big head look of the androids looks good. None of the graphics are particularly amazing, but the performance of the game in my experience was great with no slow down. So that is a great trade-off in my opinion. The only thing that caught my eye was that the start screen UI looks like really basic compared to the presentation of the rest of Assault Android Cactus. Which is a shame as the rest of the package feels pretty high quality.
I mistook Assault Android Cactus’ cutesy charm for weakness. As I progressed further through the story mode’s 25 increasingly crazy levels, my understanding of the game’s mechanics increased, but so did my distance from the games lofty ‘S+’ ranking. I was not frustrated, quite the opposite. In fact I was welcoming the challenge. Witch Beam have managed to craft a twin-stick shooter that is accessible, yet provides enough depth and challenge for more advanced players.
9 PINEAPPLES of out of 10