No matter what genres you prefer, almost every person gets into video games for one reason: they can be extremely fun. That fun factor is what made arcades such a success in the 80s and 90s, and why those games were largely fast-paced experiences that got straight to the action. While console gaming has opened up the medium to longer experiences, there is still a lot of enjoyment to be had from the arcade titles of yesteryear.
Few games out there are just as straight up fun as Assault Android Cactus is. Witch Beam’s twin stick shooter takes the basis of Robotron 2084 and expands it into a wild joy ride filled with intense, colorful action. Not only has the Australian developer provided the next great arcade game, but they’ve made one that is largely replayable and one that rewards experimentation.
While the campaign’s 25 levels almost always have the same goal of destroying all of the enemies on-screen, this isn’t your typical shooter where you’ll die from taking damage. Instead, the android protagonists are fighting against the clock as their battery is constantly draining every second that they’re in combat. Thankfully, some enemies will drop batteries after being defeated, so the rush is always to find more energy before you become useless in battle.
It’s a fun twist and one that makes the game feel action packed at every single moment. Assault Android Cactus makes sure that the player never feels super confident about your energy level, so every time a battery drops it’s the ultimate relief. The way that Witch Beam has been able to constantly toy with player’s emotions, even when they’re doing well, is an incredible feat. Even though you probably won’t feel that way when you die on the final boss with two enemies remaining.
The campaign is split into 5 different worlds, and each one is capped off with a boss fight against a giant robotic baddie that doesn’t want to be friends. These encounters are easily the high point of the game, as they force the player to use their mechanics in new ways, and figure out the depth of the mechanics. For example, while you may have ignored the dodge ability that occurs while switching weapons early in the game, it becomes a necessary part of your arsenal later on.
What really makes Assault Android Cactus special, though, is the amount of experimentation players can do thanks to a large cast of playable characters. There are 9 different androids for you to use, and each of them has different primary and secondary weapons. These range from stuff you’d expect like a flamethrower to crazy futuristic tech. Figuring out how to use each character effectively is part of the fun, and it’s the only way you’ll get good ranks on the game’s 25 levels.
Thankfully, you can see 4 of the androids all in action at once as the game supports local co-operative multiplayer. The amount of on-screen enemies is increased depending on how many players there are, so the challenge is always there. If you don’t have friends available, you can play with computer controlled teammates, although this is a pretty mixed experience. Your A.I. buddies have a bad tendency to get stuck on the level’s geometry, but they generally work well. Assault Android Cactus is fun solo or with friends, so you’re not missing out by playing by yourself.
Due to the amount of characters and the allure of earning credits that go to a cool in-game store where you can buy artwork and other goodies, there’s a good amount of replayability here. This is necessary, too, as 25 levels really isn’t all that much content. You’ll play through the campaign in a few hours, and that’s it unless you want to better your scores or participate in the game’s endless mode or daily challenges. Both of those mode are great bullet points for a feature list, but they aren’t the main allure like the campaign.
Assault Android Cactus is some of the most fun you can have right now. Sure, sometimes you’ll want to break your controller because it can be so difficult at times, but that’s a credit to how invested players get into wanting to succeed. Witch Beam has done an incredible job of working within the confines of an established genre and taking it to the next level. More levels would have made it even more compelling, but for now, gamers can enjoy what’s already a great package.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
Android Assault Cactus is a complete blast. While a lengthier campaign would've made it even better, there's still a ton of fun to be had in this quirky shooter.