Twin stick shooters have been around for a while, but it's a very expansive genre and there are always opportunities for developers to offer their own interpretation. With Assault Android Cactus, Witch Beam has tried exactly that. There are numerous characters to choose from, there's high octane level design that will challenge gamers and a quirky art style that blends it all together. Assault Android Cactus ticks many of the right boxes.
Although you will only start off with a small selection of heroines in Assault Android Cactus, the roster will expand as you venture forth into the campaign. Each of the eight characters has distinctly different play styles and you may find that certain characters are more useful in different situations. For example, Starch can be good due to her long-range and concentrated fire, while Holly can be rather useful because her main weapon has a focussed spray that can thin out crowds of enemies with relative ease.
Each character has two weapons that they can use, with the secondary weapon accessible on a timer due to its ability to deal more damage to surrounding enemies. However, you will need to switch over which can leave you vulnerable for a split second, but can also lead to your chain being broken if you're too slow. It adds a nice risk/reward element to weapon switching, as quite often you will need to in order to stave off the waves of enemies that are diving straight at you.
There is a decent selection of zones and levels available for launch and it's pleasing to see how the team at Witch Beam have used the levels to keep the experience fresh throughout. They start off quite basic, but as you get further into the campaign they will start mutating, adding obstacles in your way and even producing hazardous parts that must be navigated around, all while trying to stay alive thanks to the onslaught of enemies.
The enemies themselves also have a good degree of variety. Some of them will attempt to attack you with melee, others will fire bullets and at later points you might enter in what can only be described as a bit of bullet hell. When you add in enemies that fire homing mines and shoot massive lasers, the challenge becomes clear. Although, it's so fast paced at times, with so much happening on screen, that you might not even be aware of the enemies you're killing.
On top of the expanding level and the copious amount of enemies attempting to kill you, you will also have to fight against your power reserves. As all of the heroines are reliant on some form of synthetics, they will need to top-up the battery to carry on functioning. Despite there being a life bar, this is essentially your life, as if your battery runs out of juice its game over. Picking up batteries that drop during levels isn't always that straight forward either, even when you're using numerous power-ups to speed around the level and boost up the strength of your weaponry.
It's these changes that helps to separate Assault Android Cactus from its contemporaries and elevate it to beyond simply being average. Twin-stick shooters can suffer from monotony, but the level design and general variety featured throughout prevent this from happening. To be a stickler though, once you take one of these dimensions away, cracks do start to show a little.
Upon completing the story, which shouldn't take all that long, you are given the choice of Infinity Drive and Daily Drive. Both of these are challenge-based modes where the difficulty increases the longer you stay alive, but they don't have the same level of variety shown with the levels you will face throughout the story. It's a shame, but it's an area that can look to be improved upon in future updates of the game.
If done right, a twin-stick styled shooter can be one of the most enjoyable games out there, and it's pleasing to say that Assault Android Cactus hits all the right buttons. It has plenty of characters, able to cater for differing play-styles, it has just the right amount of chaos and the bosses add a whole new dimension to the challenge. Throw in a booming soundtrack and you have a recipe for success. It just needs a bit more tender love and care on the side of longevity.
|Strong cast of characters.|
|Good amount of variety when it comes to accommodated play-styles.|
|Dynamic level design.|
|Drive modes could offer more variety.|
|Irrespective of play styles, some characters feel much weaker than others.|
|Needs more end game content.|