Witch Beam has been working on Assault Android Cactus for some time, with the initial version released back in 2013 on Steam Early Access. That game has come a long way since then, as one would expect. The result of being inside the Steam Early Access oven for so long was, that it was allowed the time to properly rise and become one of the better dual-stick shooters I’ve played. Assault Android Cactus has an interesting story, unique characters, and balanced gameplay to have you coming back after completing the game’s initial levels.
Upon starting the game, whether it be Campaign, Infinity Run, or the Daily Challenge, you’re presented with four characters to play as. There’s the titular “Cactus”, but at the last zone her skills weren’t adequate to play with, and I had to rely most on Starch, who wields a laser and homing rockets barrages. The other characters have unique traits and weapons that are worth mixing and matching in co-op, or trying out when playing solo.
Playing Assault Android Cactus is done from an overhead view. Moving the character is typical of dual-joystick shooters, where you move with the left stick, and aim with the right. You fire by holding RT. Some weapons can overheat, so being able to point in a direction but not shoot makes sense here. There’s a secondary fire initated by the left bumper or trigger that does some serious damage on opponents. It refills rather quickly and is great during boss fights. This fast and frenetic action intensifies when you get a massive combo of over 300 kills.
Being able to complete Assault Android Cactus in 2-3 hours might be misunderstood when describing the length of the game. The end result of AAC is not to “beat it”, in the traditional sense. When each level ends, you’re shown your leaderboard ranking based on your score. It is here where you should focus to best your friends and strangers on this leaderboard. This is the competition of Assault Android Cactus. There are a total of five zones with a boss to end-cap each zone in a tiered battle that’s sure to be exhaustive by the game’s end, due to the ramp in difficulty of the bosses you face.
With each boss defeated, you’ll unlock an additional character, for up to nine characters to play as in total. It’s nice to see that all of them are female, and each are strong and independent when given the opportunity to speak throughout the campaign. Each character has unique dialogue at key points, making them important. This allows for a lot of variety for a cooperative game that supports only four players at a time. The multiplayer is local only and does not extend to online, sadly.
I was surprised that the DualShock 4 was support “out of the box”, so to speak. Normally I have to fire up a secondary piece of software to emulate an Xbox 360 controller. Since the plans for Assault Android Cactus are for it to come to the PlayStation 4 at some point, it only makes sense that support and on-screen prompts would allow for such a thing. The game can be equally played with mouse and keyboard, and if not a bit more finite control as such.
The look of Assault Android Cactus is especially interesting, offering a soft lighting across each of the characters and maps being played. There are some tweaks that can be made. By earning a currency through playing and scoring well, you can purchase EX options, some that are only visual, and others that are gameplay changing but disable a score from being recorded. And for the most part, the EX options are novelty, and nothing that I found I wanted to stick with. For instance there’s a gritty filter that tones down the colors and takes a jab at “next-gen” gaming, a J.J. Abrams JJ Abrhams filter which accents the lighting but often got too distracting. And one of my favorites, but highly-disorienting was the first-person mode. It cost the most to unlock, but was an absolute thrill ride to be closer to the action than the default overhead view.
Assault Android Cactus is a beautifully crafted game that was worth the wait in Steam Early Access. While there are some faults to the gameplay, it still comes highly recommended. The lack of online co-op is a bummer, but plugging until multiple controllers and huddling around a PC is a great way to spend some time with friends. Even solo, this is a great game to work to best your friends’ scores or by launching the game for a daily run. Assault Android Cactus is one of the better dual-joystick shooters around.
A pre-release Steam code was provided by the developer for review purposes