Do you like Shoot Em Ups? Its got ‘em! Do you crave GIANT FREAKING ROBOTS!? Got ‘em! Do you crave GIANT FREAKING ROBOTS!? Got ‘em! Do Chibi esque automatons make you giggle in delight? Prepare to be tickled! Do obscene amounts of firepower make you drool? Get ready for a dry mouth! Do you enjoy Rage Quitting? Well buckle up buddy, you’re about to be doing a metric crap ton of it!
WARNING! Assault Cactus Android is not for wussies.
It’s for self-proclaimed bad asses who relish in the delectable misadventures of a cadre of curiously charming sugary sweet femme-bots who have a hankering to kick ass and chew bubble gum…
Only there’s no bubble gum to be found. If you’re a masochist and enjoy being tortured in an endless hell of bullets then you’re in the right place. Assault Cactus Android delivers that and SO much more.
This title, from down under developer WitchBeam games, located in the heart of Brisbane Australia, aims to mash together the graphical prowess of Ratchet and Clank with the sarcastic vibrato of the power puff girls, mixed brutally together with of Smash TV mayhem. And they didn’t stop there. Toss in a little classic 90’s era ReBoot and add a copious dollop of ecstasy induced rave, and you have a pretty close idea of what you’re getting into. Its a twin-stick arena based shooter with a >cough forgettable >cough story line where you take control of your choice of android and plow through wave after wave of baddies in an attempt to progress through the over-world to save your captive compatriots. Its cheeky, witty, and it keeps your ass wedged to the edge of your seat.
If you follow the creed of “Shoot em all and let God sort em out”, stop reading this article and go buy this game.
Much like the dynamic environments of the title, my attitude toward it evolved significantly during my play-through. At first there really didn’t seem to be anything special about Assault Android Cactus. The graphics are well done, the game play is smooth, and the action is frantic. However, initially, it's repetitive at best. It would be remiss to dismiss it at such an early stage, though. The game begins to impress after the first hour. Arenas modify and evolve through the course of the level, and while they are visually impressive, they drastically change your strategy as you continue to play. New Androids are unlocked after each boss fight, each with their own unique weapons, specials, and my favorite: personality (I’m looking at you Starch, my precious little fruit fancying narcoleptic nose picker).
Starting out I was greeted with a well-crafted menu system and our main protagonist, Cactus (apparently androids can have hippie parents as well). There were no time for pleasantries as a click later I was given a choice of assault unit, then thrust head on into battle. Adapting to the control scheme is a non-issue. If there were a manual for the game it would be a single page leaflet the size of a business card, printed on one side in black and white ink using the impact font. Left Stick Move, Right Stick Aim, Right Trigger to Shoot Things, and Left Trigger for when you’re pissed off (press it and see what happens… go on…. do it). The levels are initially small and static (much like my patience). Repeat waves of enemy robots and shoehorned regularly and rapidly into a box roughly the size of a New York City subway station bathroom and it’s your job to keep the fireworks a’blazin’ until their supply is exhausted.
To keep things interesting power-ups are dropped frequently throughout the skirmish allowing you perks such as a pair of robotic buddies to keep the bullets flowing, EMP bursts to freeze enemies in their tracks, “Tiny Wings” to boost your speed, and a plethora of white orbs (that when trailing across the screen look rather suspicious) which power up your primary weapon. You’re gonna need these. A lot of them. Most of the starting weapons are nothing more than glorified pea shooters. If you’re blessed with a ranged weapon, expect to dish out a lot of BBs before enemies take a dive. If you’ve decide cozy up with the close-range persuasion (I’m talking boom stick) you do a whole lot of damage, but rate of fire and range are horribly flawed. Either way, collecting power ups dish out the pain much quicker which is in your favor.
Now, on to the ugly. The battery system. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m the only person in the world who finds the energy meter annoying.
The battery serves as both your damage meter as well as your power meter. That means if you take a hit, your battery is depleted. If you move, your battery is depleted. If you stop to smell the roses (not recommended), your battery is depleted. If you fire your weapons, your battery is depleted. Sensing a pattern here? Battery recharges are rare, being that only one presents itself per wave (at least in the single player game), not to mention it only seems to present itself as your meter ticks towards its death knell. I grew to hate this feature immensely as my sole focus shifted from shooting and dodging to “S#IT S#IT S#IT, WHERE THE F$CK IS THE NEXT BATTERY!”
It lead to some interesting play sessions:
“Dude, I have a seeker shot? Freaking Awesome! Its like I Can’t Miss!”
5 min later
“I died because my battery played keep-away as I was trying to grab it. Stoopidfweekingnogoodlousygame.”
5 min later
“I unlocked a new character! Two words: Laser Beam. Two more: Love it.”
5 min later
“Are you SERIOUS! Another f$%king battery loss! F#$ck this game!”
5 min later
“Bad Ass! Convener Belts and Cover are like Chocolate and Peanut Butter! Gimme!”
5 min later
“$%$$#$%$ $%$%$$%BATTERY@%$$%$% I’M FU$%KING DONE! RAGE QUIT POWER COMMENCE!”
Needless to say this dynamic left much to be desired. I felt as though I was being punished even when I happened to be doing exceptionally well. Although it would likely be considered cheating, I would be seriously obliged if there was an option to turn off battery depletion outside of being struck by an enemy. I want to enjoy a game, not be plagued by the half life of brand X batteries. Perhaps the Devs could use Duracells instead. Problem solved.
Overall, Assault Cactus Android oozes the charisma of a 90's arcade cabinet. Its challenging enough that it begs for quarters to be shoved down its gullet for the opportunity to partake in “one more game”. Though a winner as is, in the future, I would love to see the ability to permanently upgrade androids, or even collect parts to build your own. It would give the title a solid reason for repeat play-through and give players pride in their creations. If you yearn for a challenge and hate thinking, grab this game today.