If you’ve ever felt like there weren’t enough swarms of murderous killbots in your life then Assault Android Cactus is your kind of game. You also might need to seek professional help.
Developed and published by indie studio Witch Beam, Assault Android Cactus is a twin-stick shoot’em up in the vein of games like Contra, Metal Slug and Geometry Wars. Though familiar to other bullet hell titles before it, Cactus doesn’t feel quite like anything we’ve seen in recent years. It’s ever-changing yet segmented environments provide a manic energy that will have players both worried and excited at the prospect of challenges to come.
Android Assault Cactus can become uncomfortably hectic at times. And therein lies the secret to what makes the game so satisfying. Each level starts off with a few disgruntled robots out to take you down, and ends with a mind-blowing rampage of bullets, lasers, and explosions. There is always at least one moment of panic before one manages to break through the wall of enemies and snag that essential battery or power-up. It’s truly exhilarating in the best of ways.
Players can only truly fail a level when their android of choice runs out of battery power. This means that players must always be on the lookout for dropped power ups and batteries as they mutilate their metal opponents. While one’s character won’t outright die from too much damage, they will collapse in a heap when they’ve taken too many direct hits. Players can revive them by mashing the shoot button until they’re back on their feet, but it takes precious time and battery power to do so.
The game can certainly be difficult and takes a surprising amount of strategy if players want to see their android through to the end. While early levels won’t be much of a challenge for shmup regulars, the later levels and boss fights require plenty of forethought and precise movement if players plan on celebrating another victory.
The thrill of a bullet hell title is usually wrapped deep within a high score mentality. Cactus is no different. Players can rack up some serious numbers while they obliterate the various enemies and maneuver throughout the changing levels. At the end of each and every stage players will be scored based on their android prowess, meaning how quickly and expertly they managed to dispose of their opponents. Each score is based on a letter ranking and are displayed via online leaderboards for all to see. It’s always fun to try and top your previous score, and players will certainly want to replay through most of the main game a second time (or more) to put their enhanced skills the test.
In a medium that tends to put male characters in the spotlight it’s nice to see an entire crew of female combatants putting the screws to a wave after wave of killer robots. They may not be ladies in the traditional sense (as, you know, they’re androids), but they’re still a wonderful representation of kickass females. Each character has their own distinct personality, quarks and of course fire power. They’re each worth a try and players will find each of their playstyles better suited in different level scenarios.
The beginning cutscene in Cactus is a great introduction to the type of silly dialogue and physical humor that is sprinkled throughout the game’s main campaign. It’s certainly a title that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Interactions between the level bosses and the androids is always a highlight, especially once they’ve been defeated.
Aside from the obvious main campaign there are quite a few modes for players to play through on their own or with a friend. The two “drives” unlocked when you first boot up the game are Infinity Drive and Daily Drive, each with it’s own challenges. Infinity Drive, as you may have guessed, is an endless siege of robots that is only complete once players have been defeated. The longer you survive the higher the stakes and more crazy bots you’ll have to take down. Daily Drive is a community driven challenge that changes every day (go figure) and can also be a fun test of skill.
Aside from these two main modes there are also a few secrets to be unlocked as players proceed throughout the game. I won’t spoil anything, but there are other modes, artwork, EX options, Codex files and new characters waiting to be found around every corner.
A skirmish is always more fun with friends. Cactus’ local multiplayer offerings are easily comparable to Helldivers, last month’s free PlayStation Plus title, in the fact that players must work in tandem to do the most damage and reap the most rewards. Though unlike Helldivers you can’t shoot your own team member and far less planning has to go into your battle strategy. It’s more of a “you shoot those guy while I shoot these guys” mentality and it’s an absolute blast. It’s a title that’s sure to become a new multiplayer party classic alongside current PS4 favorites such as Towerfall, Rocket League and Broforce.
As couch co-op proves, Assualt Android Cactus is an even more enjoyable and hectic title when you’re sharing in the madness. Somehow the option to play with others online just wasn’t in the master plan. Which is a shame. It is possible that this oversight will be fixed in the future via a patch, but until then players will just have to keep finding real world friends to battle alongside.
Assault Android Cactus is a game that runs on pure fun. It’s wonderfully satisfying to blast your way through robo baddies and bosses with an arsenal of different androids and weaponry. Even after the main game has been conquered players will find plenty of reasons to dive back into the addicting gameplay and arcade-style antics.