Twin stick shooters have been around for years, and during that time we have seen many come and and go. Not many reach the heights of addictive gameplay such as Smash TV, although Full Mojo Rampage is one such game that deserves a special mention for its exceptionally high quality in all departments. Not it's the turn of Witch Beam and their title; Assault Android Cactus.
The start sees Cactus, with her space ship crash landing on a much bigger ship and being introduced to new found friends. Each one offering a different set of weapons at your disposal. These are the only differences that each one provides aside from their distinctive appearances. Early levels ease you in gently, well, gentler than later levels at least. As enemies will relentlessly swarm you from the word go in a bid to stop you dead in your tracks. It's fast, frantic and very fun action that awaits you in Assault Android Catctus and one that doesn't take its foot off the pedal until the level is finally completed.
Every level is a different adventure, with layouts providing cover in some instances, or none at all in others. Some even change as the level goes by forcing you to constantly rethink a strategy and plan of attack on the fly. That's with enemies constantly spawning and needing you to deal with them quick before they unleash a barrage of bullets in your general direction. Upgrades drop regularly which can speed you up, add drones and even shut down all bots currently in play which offers some breathing space briefly.
There is one power up that you absolutely must keep an eye out for, and that's the green battery that will recharge your own personal battery. Run out and it's game over. For that level at least. This just adds to the fast-paced action as you aim to stay in the game long enough to destroy all the enemy bots looking to thwart you. For the most part, you won't struggle with this mechanic as most bots will only take a few hits before going to the big scrap heap in the sky. But what will take more than one attempt for all but the most talented gamers, is boss fights.
A boss fight in Assault Android Cactus is something to behold, as they provide a challenge that will force you to be on top form the entire battle. Each stage of the boss fight is indicated by their health bar being split into sections, and once each chunk of health bar has been depleted, you're awarded with a battery pick up. Take too long and it's game over. One boss fight in particular was deemed near impossible at first by this gamer, and took many attempts before deciding on a character change. The reason being that seeking rockets made attacking the nemesis I had just met far easier that standard bullets. Secondary attacks which do have a short cooldown period made it much less stressful too. Don't forget about them, as I can't stress that enough.
One feature that I enjoyed seeing once a level was completed; was the leaderboard feature. How do I stack up against other gamers? Can I beat them and improve my overall rank? It was a tough call, but keeping that kill streak active the entire level was insanely hard but felt rewarding upon achieving an S+ rank. Also, dying will not help matters, as points will be deducted if you do.
Co-op play is available should the game provide to difficult, and if you don't have any friends around or spare controllers, then you need AI team mates. An unlockable feature within the options that offers much needed assistance against the bosses that dwell in the final level of each zone. You won't be awarded a place on the leaderboards, so a small sacrifice. But they perform well for the most part and are a welcome addition should you need them. Other unlockables add changes to the game itself, and are costly, so save up them points. There's also an art gallery of art from the developer to cast your eyes upon should this tempt you.
Gameplay is spot on with responsive controls and given how easy it is to play, you will be smashing and destroying your way through the game in no time. And if you're done with the campaign, then you can even play some infinity drive. Which sees an endless list of levels ahead of you, as you strive to delve deeper, level by level into the game mode. There is a duo of achievements tied to this, and bragging rights with friends, so grab your guns and venture forth.
It could easily be described as a bullet hell game when you allow the enemies to build up, or during boss fights. But it's not a constant feature throughout, although it can feel hectic at times. Not a bad thing by any means. But you best be ready for it.
Frame rate doesn't let up, and runs smoothly even with a plethora of enemy bots hounding you each and every level with a good variety of secenery for the zones available. Not that taking in the views is much of an option given how fast on your feet you need to be.
Audio is noteworthy due to the voice acting which is performed well, and doesn't feel as though it's someone just reading of a piece of paper. The music suits the feel of the game, and doesn't irritate the senses.
Visually, it shows off bright and vibrant colours, that could do with a bit of extra polish, but that's not to say I would consider them bad. Maybe a last gen look with its cartoon like character models. But the level designs are were it matters the most, and they look sharp and crisp enough to function as the should.
Assault Android Cactus is one of them games in the genre that people will talk about. It's addictive nature and frantic gameplay that keeps you on your toes go to great lengths to make it a game that you can just pick up and play. Either for long sessions or a quick run through the daily challenges.
Overall Score: 9/10
Developer: Witch Beam
Release Date: 7th November 2017
File Size: 1.5GB