The adorable twin stick shooter Assault Android Cactus is an intense experience. Hidden behind the cute character designs lies a challenging bullet-hell shooter. The objectives and controls are simple, all that remains between you and victory is hundreds upon hundreds of nasty robots. While it can be frustrating at times, it’s also rather forgiving and motivates you to keep going even if you fall several times in a stage. Assault Android Cactus is an incredibly enjoyable game that encourages you to get better at it as you play.
You play as one of several android girls, each with a different primary and secondary weapon. The titular Cactus uses a rather simple assault rifle/flamethrower,while some of the unlockable characters have unique loadouts. Aubergine for example, uses a helicopter that moves independently of her and makes for a different play style than just being able to shoot. You play from a top-down perspective, using the left stick to move your character, and the right stick to aim (WASD and mouse on PC.) Your secondary weapon is powerful, but will overheat and can’t be used for long periods of time. That said, you’re encouraged to switch to your secondary often as it recharges rather quickly and can be very useful for clearing out large swaths of enemies. As you defeat enemies they will drop one of 3 different power ups, a speed boost that makes you move drastically faster, a firepower boost of 2 small robots at your sides that fire when you do, and a “shutdown” that makes anything on-screen shop moving and attacking for a time. Enemy robots will also drop batteries, which is vital to surviving, as you lose battery each time you fall as well as slowly over time. You only fail when you run out of battery, and you can fall several times before that happens, which makes the game feel more forgiving than other twin-stick shooters.
The campaign mode follows a comfortable pattern of 4 stages culminating in a boss battle. Most stages put you in an enclosed room and charge you with defeating all enemies to proceed. Robots come out of doorways, holes in the floor and even sometimes just straight up dropped into that room with you. Dodging while shooting is imperative as the robots spawn in at a sometimes overwhelming pace. Boss battles are all broken into different phases, the first few phases introduce each attack pattern one at a time, with the final phase culminating in every attack and mechanic being used at once, escalating the difficulty and making victory feel very satisfying. Winning feels great partly due to how frustrating a few of the battles can be. Bosses only drop batteries when you clear a phase, and missing one spells certain death is most cases. This can lead to some frustrating situations where that battery you need to pick up to continue fighting is sitting right under the boss and it can feel unfair. It may be counter-productive to your score but i found it was worth going down to pick up a battery, just to survive. Going down from taking damage doesn’t drain a huge amount of your battery, but can be irritating as you drop your score multiplier as well as any power-ups you had.
Each stage gives you a letter grade based on your score/time/performance. You get more points for maintaining a kill streak, and lose points as well as your steak when you fall. The stages are short, ranging from 3-5 minutes which is nice for shorter play sessions, and encourages you to chase a higher score and grade.However, it also features modes if you wanted to sit down for a longer session. Such as a Boss rush mode,an “Infinity Drive” mode, which pits you against endless waves of fight through, as well as a daily challenge that can only be attempted once. The entirety of the game can be played with up to 4 players, which makes for some very chaotic fighting.
Overall, Assault Android Cactus is a very well put together shooter. From the cute characters to the clever enemy formations, everything comes together to form an intense, but welcoming challenge. A surprisingly large amount of content across different modes, with multiplayer support, make this well worth your time and money. It may not re-invent the genre, but it remains fun and memorable because of how good it feels to play. If you enjoy twin stick shooters/bullet hell games at all, Assault Android Cactus can be easily recommended.
Steam review code for Assault Android Cactus was provided by the developer Witch Beam