If there’s one thing about consoles that I love, it’s finding arcade games both new and old. Brisbane based developers Witchbeam have unloaded their modern version of the twin stick arcade shooter titled Assault Android Cactus, featuring a motley crew of android workers and space cop Cactus to liberate their work ship from mutinous robots. Complete with local co-op multiplayer, various game modes and a global leader board, Assault Android Cactus is a glorious festival of explosions and laser beams. Throwbacks are always good, especially with a modern coat of paint and fully fleshed out features.
Title: Assault Android Cactus (Review Copy Received)
Publisher: Witch Beam
Developer: Witch Beam
Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, PS4, PSVita, WiiU
Release Date: March 8, 2016 (PS4) Sep 23, 2015 (PC)
Taking cues from traditional arcade shooters, Assault Android Cactus features twin stick controls and has up to 8 playable characters, 4 of whom are unlocked as you progress through the story. Each character has a unique personality and set of weapons for the player to use, dictating a different play style based on the character. That feeling you get when you drop 10 enemies in a single railgun shot is immensely gratifying.
Image courtesy of Witchbeam.
In contrast to other arcade shooters, the player character doesn’t die when their health bar is depleted, instead players have a battery bar which can be recharged after each enemy wave by collecting the power up. Failing to recharge the battery results in defeat, requiring a retry. Power ups come in 3 flavors, blue EMP, yellow acceleration and red firepower. Collecting extra power ups while that same effect is active extends the duration and strengthens the effect. These power ups will change color after a few seconds to the next power up, so playing around waiting for the color to change is one way of securing victory.
Players will find themselves passing through 5 separate acts, each with a different boss and set of level tile sets. Each level has it’s own form of progressive environment transformation, whether it be the camera changing angles to the floors falling out from under the player. With a constantly evolving landscape, you’re never left playing the same boring level over and over again. The player must adapt to their new surroundings, otherwise you risk the chance of getting stuck on a newly formed obstacle leading to your android eating a grenade.
Justice courtesy of Witchbeam
Enemies are plentiful, ranging from standard four legged fair to hulking gorillas who lob cluster bombs at the player. Players will be tested on later levels as enemies begin having abilities other than attacks, like being lassoed into place while copping a robot fist to the face. Avoid those if you can, they really pack a punch. Bosses are especially challenging, and as players familiarize themselves with all the available androids, it pays to pick the most suitable character for the job.
Once players have passed the first few missions, new game modes will become available, Infinity Drive and Daily Drive. Both are “horde mode” style game modes, with the landscape constantly changing each wave. More difficult and powerful enemies attack the player relentlessly, testing one’s ability to navigate the evolving maze that is the level environment and not get ambushed. Infinity mode allows the players to continue endlessly, ending when the player runs out of battery meter. The Daily Drive mode however, gives players a daily challenge to complete, allowing them to compete on the Daily Drive leader board.
Image courtesy of Witchbeam.
Game controls are fairly good but I have some issues. When you attempt to use the right stick to aim quickly you end up snapping in a slightly vague direction to where you intended it. Sometimes aiming can be a little frustrating, forcing you to keep the direction function active for a smoother aiming experience. In some instances where the camera swaps camera direction, movement feels disorientating as the game adjusts to its new angle. This can sometime cause players it walk into walls or outright slow down as the game catches up to the change in direction. It’s not game breaking but it can be annoying at times, especially when you’re already being swarmed by enemies.
Assault Android Cactus’ vibrant color palette helps add character and stunning visual appeal. Android animations are quite fluid and have personality, with character traits shining through. Each act has a differing environment accompanied by it’s own theme song. I have to say that I really enjoy the sound design in this game. The music is varied and suits the theme of each act. Voice acting is well done and doesn’t really feel out of place. Top effort overall from the trio at Witchbeam.
Lasers courtesy of Witchbeam
Players can access additional content such as filters and game altering effects through the collectables menu. Paying credits earned throughout the game allows you to purchase these effects and other content such as promo art and concept designs. A jukebox has been added so you can listen to your favorite stage tune after unlocking it. Find one you like and enjoy. A nice touch indeed.
When all’s said and done, Assault Android Cactus is a great arcade shooter and has enough content for subsequent playthroughs. The variety of characters to choose from and the daily challenges lend themselves nicely to extending the life of the game. Visuals are quite polished and music is catchy. I can definitely see myself returning for a few more playthroughs as I further explore the available androids. Top showing from the Brisbane trio.