REVIEW / Assault Android Cactus (PC)

 

Shooters seem to blanket the console and PC video game landscape these days but when one so special comes along with a fresh idea and tons of fun gameplay, you may as well jump on the bandwagon because you might be missing out on a truly amazing experience.  From the Australian developer Witch Beam comes the comical and very addicting Assault Android Cactus, a manic twin-stick shooter that will keep you on the edge of your seat with heart-pounding shooter action.

 

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This is your starting lineup and their load-outs.

 

The decision to become a Constable in the Interplanetary Police force was Cactus’ way of proving that androids could be just as helpful as humans but she may have bitten off more than she could chew when she crash lands on a crippled space freighter under attack by its own robot workers.  Gathering her courage, Cactus will do whatever it takes, including conscripting any fellow androids she finds along the way, to save the ship, her new friends and prove that androids should have a place in society.  Grab your controller (or mouse and keyboard) and choose from 9 playable androids, each with their own distinct play style over 25 stages spread across five areas of the ship while you face down giant bosses, find new friends and uncover the secrets of the space freighter, the Genki Star.

 

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As you fight, the battery at the top of the screen will drain so you need to grab the green battery power orbs to replenish your lost energy.

 

Assault Android Cactus can be played with a mouse and keyboard or a controller.  I chose to use a controller for this review because I wanted that authentic twin-stick experience.  In typical twin-stick fashion, you maneuver Cactus with the left joystick while you aim with the right joystick.  You fire your primary weapon with the right trigger and you can switch between your primary and secondary weapon with a press of the left shoulder button.  Pressing the left shoulder button will cause your character to draw the secondary weapon but you only get a few shots with it and then your character will automatically draw the primary weapon.  It has a cool-down of a few seconds and then the secondary weapon is ready to be used again.  Gameplay is intuitive and in no time at all was I facing down hordes of mechanical beasties like a champ.

 

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The game supports keyboard or controller and 1 to 4 players with online and local co-op.

 

The cool thing about the game is that each of the characters that you can choose to play with has a different primary and secondary weapon which instantly changes up the feel of the game simply by choosing a different character.  For example, Cactus has an assault rifle as her primary and a flamethrower as her secondary and her friend Lemon has a spread-shot as her primary and a rocket launcher as her secondary.  With nine different characters to choose from, picking your favorites will not be a problem.  You can swap characters at any time but if you do it in the middle of a level, you will have to start that level over from the beginning.  You start the game with Cactus, Lemon, Holly and Coral and find five more characters, who I wont divulge so you can have the pleasure of discovering yourself, as you play through the game.

 

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In the Stage Select screen you can go to the next level or replay levels you have already completed.

 

Instead of having to rely on a set amount of “lives” or finding extras as you play the game, Assault Android Cactus has implemented a battery system.  Being that all of the characters are androids, it makes sense that they would be powered by batteries, so as you make your way through the ship and firing your weapons, you are draining your battery.   In order to stay alive, you must collect green battery orbs that enemies will cough up when you destroy them.  Utilizing this draining battery mechanic in place of lives, Assault Android Cactus challenges the player to think fast and to continually focus on handing out mega-sized cans of whoop-@$$.  This game does an awesome job of blending the gameplay of western-style arena shooters with aspects of Japanese-style bullet hell shooters as you charge head first through massive boss battles, transforming stages, and a very cool cast of characters on your mission to save the Genki Star.

 

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The arenas will change at a moments notice so being aware of the environment at all times is crucial.

 

Not content to just having static arenas that don’t necessarily add anything to gameplay, the arenas in Assault Android Cactus are all very dynamic and rearrange themselves during gameplay.  When you first enter an arena, it will stay how you found it for the first minute or two, then depending on how it is laid out and the number of enemies you have destroyed, it will change into something totally different.  Right away, this forces you to rethink your position of the board, how enemies will now be able to get a bead on you and the places where you can find cover as well as the type of cover.  Having the arenas dynamically change forces you to remain alert to your surroundings at all times because you never know when it will happen and to change up your method of attack depending on the layout of the arena.

 

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You need to use each specific character to their strengths in order to be successful.

 

The visuals in Assault Android Cactus are very cartoonish and fun and adds a certain amount of character to a type of game that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find humor in.  The characters and arenas are brightly colored and take on an animated mechanical look reminiscent of a certain Dr. in the game about a certain speedy hedgehog.  The music and sound effects are very well done and definitely help to immerse your in your quest to save the ailing space freighter.  The glimmering gem of this game, aside from the polished gameplay, is the humorous character dialogue and Witch Beam’s ability to create interesting androids that all feel sentient and are at times somewhat more than a little sarcastic.  All of this combines to create a fresh experience while offering an impressive presentation of a game genre that has been around for decades.

 

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Bosses are huge and tough and need to be dismantled with precision as they will not be defeated easily.

 

Assault Android Cactus was definitely one of the highlights of all the games reviews that I have done this year.  While the name of the game admittedly doesn’t begin to describe the type of experience that you are going to have playing this game, I’m glad that there was something about it that grabbed my attention and allowed me to dig a little deeper into what this game would be about.  Don’t be fooled by the cutesy graphics because this game requires patience and skill in order to beat the levels.  The intensity ramps up fairly quickly, so if you are not into challenging shooters then this game isn’t for you.  You can get a copy now on Steam for $14.99 which will only take you a few minutes to download but it may take you more than a few months to master.

 

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