The twin stick shooter genre, generally speaking, is one tough cookie to crack for some gamers. With limited lives, dozens of enemies, and hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of bullets flying past at any given time, it’s completely understandable why.
But then there’s Assault Android Cactus. It preserves that hectic, fast paced nature of a twin stick shooter, yet somehow remains accessible to just about everybody, and not just those with godlike reflexes.
Batteries not included
Assault Android Cactus manages to do this with a very simple, albeit clever system. There are no lives In the game whatsoever. Instead, there is battery power.
How the system works is that you can die as many times as you like, but only as long as that bar on the top of the screen does not run down to an absolute zero. I don’t know what sort of technology these androids run on exactly, but their energy sources literally suck. That bar is forever draining, and fast.
Keeping it nice and healthy is pretty straight forward at least. Kill enough enemies, and you’ll eventually be rewarded with an extra bit of juice for your life bar.
Now, you may be thinking that this battery system is basically equivalent to that of traditional lives. You’d only be partially right though.
Going down costs the player precious seconds (reviving isn’t instant). It also removes all firepower they may have accumulated. Remember, that battery is forever draining, so dying repeatedly will result in the stage having to be repeated for sure. The fact that players can revive however, makes a world of difference. There was some comfort in knowing that a stage could still be clocked, despite me dying repeatedly. All I had to do was make sure that if I went down, I put extra effort into mowing down enemies faster when I got back up.
This is not to say that Assault Android Cactus is too easy. Believe me, I had to repeat some stages a good few times. Those boss battles in particular, were an absolute bitch. Still, they were manageable, and I think it’s in large part thanks to the battery system.
Terms and conditions apply
Purists need not fret at least. The challenge and addiction of a twin stick shooter is still definitely there, and emphasised greatly thanks to a ranking system.
Mere mortals like myself will only manage a C or B, and maybe even an A ranking if lucky. Getting an S on the other hand, requires a perfect, no-death run. Then there’s S+, which is a positively herculean task to achieve. Grabbing it requires zero deaths, and a constant chain of enemy-murdering from the very beginning to the end of a stage.
The actual campaign of the game may be short-lived (it only took me a couple of hours to clock), but longevity awaits those looking to perfect this ranking system. Getting that legendary S+ score on each and every single level will require a lot of hard work and patience. As a side note, there’s also an infinite and boss mode outside of the campaign, which can be enjoyed by both amateur and elite.
Choose your favourite colour
As far as twinstick shooters go, Assault Android Cactus plays like pretty much any other game in the genre. There are some nice twists and such in place though, other than the battery system I discussed above, that make it stand out somewhat.
For starters, it’s got a nice varied cast. There are 9 androids to choose from, and they all come equipped with their own unique weapons and playstyles. Holly for example, has a weapon that fires off homing bullets. They don’t do a bunch of damage, but each projectile is essentially guaranteed to hit. Coral, on the other hand, wields a powerful shotgun. Its rate of fire may be dreadful, but each shot packs one heck of a punch, and will make short work of any nearby enemies.
Between those two alone, you can already see how they’ll need to be used differently to ensure maximum carnage and battery upkeep. Holly works well from anywhere on the level. Though this means she’s out of harms way (to an extent), she does take longer to mow through hordes of enemies. Coral conversely, needs to be up close and personal, and thus, right in the face of danger. The pay off of course, is that she destroys enemies, even the more powerful ones, in almost no time at all.
Each character also has access to a secondary weapon which provides some additional damage or an important utility for survival. Holly’s is a large cannon ball that deals a bunch of damage in a straight line, whereas Coral’s is an energy field that stops projectiles and pushes enemies away.
They can’t be used willy-nilly unfortunately. Secondary fire has limited uses before a cooldown kicks in. This makes for a cool mechanic though, as knowing when exactly to make use of it is important to one’s wellbeing.
Another cool mechanic is that switching to a different weapon gives the player a second or so respite from incoming damage. I found Assault Android Cactus to be immensely satisfying because of this alone. Juggling between a main and secondary weapons few second cooldown, all the while dodging dozens of incoming projectiles and attacks, proved to be ridiculously fun.
So what’s wrong with it then?
Overall the only thing I can criticise about Assault Android Cactus really, are the lacklustre graphics, and the even more forgetful story. They don’t detract from the overall experience too much, but I do feel that they need to be pointed out.
Visually, the game looks like something straight out of yesteryear. It’s not too bad if I’m perfectly honest, but more polish in this department would’ve gone a long way. There is a lot of juicy action happening on screen all the time. It’s such a pity that it doesn’t really pop out.
And then there’s the story, which is really lacklustre. It seriously feels like it was bolted onto the package just to tick a box. It’s a shame really – with such colourful and varied characters, it would’ve been nice to have some proper exposition to flesh them out.
Other than those niggles, I really enjoyed my time with Assault Android Cactus. I look forward to pouring a whole lot of time into it, though just for fun – I’m not mad enough to pursue the mythical S+ rank across each level. Regardless, it’s going to suck up a lot more hours of my life!
Last Updated: March 23, 2016