Assault Android Cactus

Assault Android Cactus is an arcade style twin-stick shooter by indie developer Witch Beam, released for PC on the 23rd September.

I’m going to level with you, up until last night I had never heard of Assault Android Cactus, or its developer Witch Beam. I was simply browsing through steam when the unusual name caught my eye, and decided to take a look. I am after all a big fan of both adorable androids, and high calibre weapons.

Assault Android Cactus is Witch Beam’s first and currently only title, and is a twin stick shooter for PC, Linux and Mac. The game takes place on a civilian transport ship that recently went dark, and you (playing as Cactus) are sent to investigate. You arrive to find that the machines that make up most of the workforce have gone mad, and have been trying to kill anyone they cannot control. Namely the humans, and a handful of androids.

That’s about all there is to the story. There are small expositions and bits of banter between your character and the bosses (which varies depending on which character you are playing as) that provide a bit of extra information, but other than that the main objective is to systematically dismantle these rogue robots in the most literal of fashion, using bullets, lasers, explosives and all manner of weaponry.

The game has a rather charming art style, with the androids themselves designed in a chibi style, with much larger heads than the rest of their bodies. The tutorial messages are also handled with cute simplified cartoony images to quickly explain how to play.

How To Play

The bright colours also carry across nicely to the level design, with levels having a very crisp and clean appearance. It’s easy to separate your character from the background, as well as incoming enemy fire from your own outgoing fire, and from the ground. I’ve never been in a situation where I was unable to get a read on the environment and the current situation, regardless of how hectic the game was getting.

Screenshot 4

The gameplay itself is solid, the controls feel responsive and the levels are varied. In the campaign mode you work your way through the ship, clearing 4 areas of enemies before engaging a boss in the 5th zone.

As to be expected in a twin stick shooter, combat makes up the core of the gameplay, and thankfully Assault Android Cactus has the combat mechanics nailed down tightly. You move using the left stick and aim with the right, and hit the R trigger to fire. Tapping the L trigger allows you to swap to your heavy weapon, which provides some heavy ordinance for a limited period of time. After use you are swapped back to your primary weapon while the heavy weapon cools down.

Each character has their own unique primary and secondary weapon. Cactus, for example, has a machine gun as her primary and a flamethrower as her secondary, while Holly has a seeker type weapon as her primary and a massive cannonball shot for her secondary. No two characters have the same weapon types, and the extra characters you can unlock as you progress have some really interesting weapon types.
In combat, killing an enemy grants you points, while getting knocked out will lose points. You can increase the rate at which you earn points by chaining kills together; killing one enemy starts a timer that is reset for each additional enemy you kill, stacking up to provide you with a score multiplier (maxing out at x15).

Screenshot 5

The game also has an interesting health system. Your health also doubles as a timer, based on your androids battery power. The battery drains slowly over time, and in the event you take too many hits and get knocked down, you’ll also lose a small amount of battery power then, however you can recover from being knocked down and can restore battery power by killing enemies and grabbing the battery powerup that some of them drop (complete with a “battery here” shout from your android as you are fighting).

You only fail if your battery is depleted completely, which I never found to be a problem in earlier levels, however some of the later ones (and especially the boss fights) it took me a few attempts to beat them, sometimes getting through just by the skin of my teeth.

On level completion you receive a summary screen letting you know how well you did, as well as a rank and some credits to spend to unlock some Ex-Mode modifiers from the options menu, and then you can either replay the level to try and beat your score, continue onto the next level, or hop back to the stage select to change to another level, or change your android.

Screenshot 6

All in all I found this game extremely enjoyable, and I don’t see myself putting it down anytime soon, especially as alongside the drive to try and get the maximum rank in the campaign mode levels, there is also the Infinity Drive and Daily Drive modes.

Infinity Drive allows you to test your mettle against an endless amount of enemies, with the idea being you just survive as long as you can. Daily drive on the other hand gives you one chance to try and get the highest score possible across 10 layers of enemies, and then post your high score on a global leader board.

On top of that, all modes can be played with local co-op with up to three other friends, which increases the amount of enemies that are attacking you, and turning the game into an insane lightshow of explosions, laser shots and general mayhem.

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier there are Ex-Mode modifiers. These are unlockable bonuses purchased with credits that you earn in game (there is no real money involved, you earn credits by completing levels) which grant both cosmetic effects (such as a psychedelic camera mode or hiding the HUD) or unlocking the ability to play with 3 other AI partners, or (my personal favourite) enabling mega weapons, which basically takes your secondary (heavy) weapon and ramps it’s destructive power through the roof.

If you’re looking for a decent twin stick shooter with local co-op, I’d say stop looking and give Assault Android Cactus a go. There’s even a demo on the Steam Store page, so go! Give it a try!

5/5

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