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Assault Android Cactus

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, WiiU
Genre: Action
Developer: Witch Beam
Release Date: March 8, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Assault Android Cactus'

by Brian Dumlao on April 11, 2016 @ 4:00 a.m. PDT

Set in a vivid sci-fi universe, Assault Android Cactus is an arcade style twin-stick shooter that requires players to be ready for anything, with dynamic levels that continuously introduce new elements.

Buy Assault Android Cactus

There have been many great games in the twin-stick shooter genre. Robotron 2084, Smash TV, Geometry Wars, and Super Stardust HD are just a few of the titles that can be considered classics in this space, with countless others that are just as good. Assault Android Cactus is the first game from the three-man team at Witch Beam, and after tearing it up on the PC, they've gone ahead and ported the game to the PS4, so PS4 fans of twin-stick shooters are in for a treat.

After hearing a distress call from a mining ship, the android officer Cactus flies by to investigate. She's attacked by the ship's asteroid defense system, so she crashes into the ship to make a grand entrance and take out a few rogue robots. She learns from the ship's other androids that all of the robots in the craft have malfunctioned while the ship's AI is unresponsive. With the help of the other specialty androids, Cactus tries to discover what happened with the ship AI.

Assault Android Cactus plays out as an arena twin-stick shooter, one of the more common variations of the genre. Either alone or with up to three other friends locally, you'll go through 25 different stages of near-relentless robot fighting and some boss battles. Aside from trying to overwhelm you with numbers, the game throws in some "bullet hell," with regular mobs occasionally shooting you with a decent bullet spread and volume while the bosses come close to screen-filling attacks. To combat this, your regular weapon can be powered up by collecting orbs from fallen enemies, three levels in total. You have a secondary gun and an evade move, both curiously linked to the same button. You also have a bevy of temporary power-ups, like increased speed, a duo of drones to dole out extra firepower, and the chance to freeze every on-screen enemy for a short period of time.

Your choice of android also affects a number of things in the game. On the offense side, your primary weapon differs depending on who you pick. Cactus has a more straightforward machine gun, but Starch has a laser while Aubergine has a robotic pal you control with the right analog stick to slice up enemies near him. The secondary weapons also differ depending on the playable character, with a few of them being more assist-style weapons than pure damage ones. When approaching bosses, you'll even get a dialogue change depending on who the player is. All of those things provide enough reasons to experiment with the characters, which you can easily do since you can change androids between levels.

One of the more interesting things about the game is your health system. You can take a few hits before you're downed, but your health is regenerative, so not taking a hit for some time means you can still come away with full health. If you're playing co-op, friends can revive you, but you can also revive yourself if you're playing alone, albeit without the power-ups you've gained before death. The most important meter is your battery. At all times, your battery is being drained, and it acts like the game's clock. Run out of battery, and you'll lose. To fight against this battery drain, you'll pick up batteries from fallen enemies, usually available after wiping out a wave in a stage. As a result, fights become a matter of thinning out the herd and rushing for the battery.

All of these elements combine to create an action-packed, tense shooter. The draining battery makes you want to work quickly, while the abundance of enemies means there isn't a moment when you aren't shooting. Even though you're basically fighting in arenas, the layouts are very different, with some being fluid enough to feature moving traps and whole stage chunks that rise and fall to spice up the action. Boss fights are rather inventive, and the game plays fair in terms of challenging you without feeling cheap about it. In short, the game feels fluid in co-op and solo.

The 25 levels may seem like a lot, but you can finish them in an afternoon. By the time you beat the campaign, you have three different modes to work through. Boss Rush lets you face the bosses one after the other. Infinity Drive puts you in an ever-changing circular arena as waves of enemies descend. Interestingly, if you want a truncated version of the campaign, this is it, as you'll actually face enemies and bosses in each wave exactly as they appear in the campaign. For those looking for a randomized version of this concept, Daily Drive lets you experience one permutation of enemy setups per day. Aside from those three modes, you can spend the credits earned from all the modes on things like artwork and glossary entries for the world.

However, EX Options are the best way to spend cash, as you're enabling a load of modifiers to spice up the game. Some are goofy, like having different head sizes or adding extreme lens filters or psychedelic colors. Others are meant to make the game tougher, like hiding the HUD, having you play a solo game with the enemy count of a multiplayer game, or giving you multiplayer allies that are terrible at their jobs. The Classic and First Person cameras make the game feel completely different.

There's not too much that Assault Android Cactus gets wrong. The campaign is a good length but rather easy most of the way. Only the last two stages give you pause, and with no variable difficulty level in place, you'll only replay the campaign to see the different dialogue choices or to farm coins so you can buy extra content. Those without too many friends locally will find the lack of an online mode rather disappointing, since online functionality is limited to leaderboards.

Graphically, the game looks very nice. The android and boss designs are excellent, while the designs for the regular foes are more industrial but still eye-catching. It helps that they employ some really bright colors and the characters are larger than in other twin-stick shooters. Backgrounds are diverse enough across all of the stages, and like the characters, they are also rather colorful. What will impress people here is the fact that the frame rate stays steady despite all of the enemies and effects on-screen. The place can be filled to the brim with bullets, explosions, foes and special gunfire with floor tiles shifting on every step, and there isn't one instance of slowdown. All in all, this is a beautiful-looking title.

The title also sounds as good as it looks. The music is the kind you've heard before on countless shooters, but it fits. At the same time, you'll only really hear it in the beginning of stages and in menus and level select screens, since the sound effects completely overwhelm the soundtrack. Gunfire and explosions aren't severely loud, but they are rampant, and there's rarely a second that goes by without something blowing up. Voices are well done and constant, as you'll hear about the appearance of every power-up and battery — probably the most important voice you want to hear in the game. Both androids and bosses have voices, and the performances are good, but it's disappointing that they aren't used for boss cut scenes. The game also takes advantage of the speakers on the controller, so even over the cacophony of sound effects that fill the home speakers, you'll be able to hear most of the callout voices loud and clear.

Android Assault Cactus is a brilliant addition to the PS4 library. Whether you're playing solo or with friends, the action is solid, and the different variations to the androids make experimentation fun. There are a good number of modes, and the various options can give the game some legs. The presentation of the visuals and audio is top-notch, and that's made more impressive since this title was developed by three people. Android Assault Cactus is something that should be experienced by anyone who loves action in an almost pure form.

Score: 9.0/10

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