Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Assault Android Cactus Review (PS4, XONE)

Assault Android Cactus is a PS4 twin-stick shooter (now also on Xbox One!) with great gameplay, awesome presentation, and a fantastic sense of humor. It isn’t just another twin-stick shooter, of course, and actually introduces some neat ideas to spice up the gameplay that really make it stand out in the crowded genre. Whether playing solo or co-op with friends (or CPU buddies!), Assault Android Cactus is outstanding. See our full review for more.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Witch Beam
  • Developer: Witch Beam
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Twin Stick Shooter
  • Pros: Great gameplay; nice presentation; Starch; CPU partners; challenging
  • Cons: A.I. kinda sucks; batteries!
  • MSRP: $15
Cactus is an assault android sent in to investigate a civilian spaceship that was taken over by some of the androids onboard. Cactus meets up with some other friendly assault bots, and together they move throughout the ship, taking it back section by section, and fighting any enemy androids they come across. There are multiple playable characters that you unlock over the course of the game and each one has different weapons and abilities. I didn’t find all of them to be super fun to play with, because I didn’t like their weapons, but it is nice having such a wide range of options to choose from. My favorite was definitely Starch, a defective android with a laser beam rifle who says random crazy stuff all the time. She’s awesome. I also like how the dialogue before boss fights changes depending on which character you’re playing as.

The gameplay is fairly standard twin-stick shooting – move with the left stick, aim with the right stick, and shoot with the right trigger – but Assault Android Cactus throws a couple of new mechanics into the mix. The left trigger allows you to use a super move such as launching a volley of missiles or using a flamethrower, among other things, that has a cooldown timer so you can’t abuse it. The left trigger also lets you dodge attacks and bullets as well, which is a vital tactic in the later stages of the game as the number of bullets flooding the screen can look like a Cave bullet hell shooter at times.

The most important gameplay change is the addition of a battery system. Your team of androids is powered by a battery that constantly drains, and drains faster when they take damage, so you have to pick up new batteries dropped by enemies to keep playing. Batteries are dropped at regular intervals when you do enough damage to enemies, but it can be frustrating in especially difficult rooms or against bosses where you take too much damage (usually your teammates rather than you …) and your battery drains faster than the refills appear. The battery system adds an artificial layer of difficulty to the experience that can be frustrating and annoying, but I have to admit that without it the game would be pretty mindless and easy.

You can play the game with human co-op partners as well as CPU controlled A.I. (if you unlock that option with points you earned via gameplay). Having CPU partners is interesting because they can be tremendous help during certain levels and boss fights, but they can also be a massive hindrance because their A.I. isn’t particularly good. They’ll take tons of damage and drain your battery faster than you can keep it filled so in some boss fights I found it easier to just go solo. As you add more players the enemy count rises as well, and if you want a real challenge you can unlock the option to fight co-op enemy counts as a solo player, which is totally nuts and a ton of fun.

There’s a decent amount of content overall in Assault Android Cactus. The story campaign is spread across 25 levels and takes about 4 hours to beat. You earn credits as you play that let you unlock new stuff, too, such as A.I. partners, new visual filters, music options, art, and more. Toss in chasing high score leaderboards and just goofing off and playing with your friends and there’s plenty of content to justify the $15 asking price.

The presentation in Assault Android Cactus is quite nice overall. The character and enemy robot designs look great and the environments, even if each level is usually just a small closed platform, look nice as well. What is most impressive is the sheer volume of enemies and bullets that can flood the screen in the later stages. Things get absolutely crazy and hectic onscreen and the PS4 never skips a beat. The sound is also very good with a great soundtrack and some decent voice clips that play through the PS4 controller.

Xbox One Version Update - November 2017

After launching on PS4 in 2016, awesome twin-stick shooter Assault Android Cactus finally comes to Xbox One - see Microsoft Store Assault Android Cactus Page - in 2017. The good news is that the game is every bit as addictive and fun on Xbox as it was on PlayStation. It plays fantastically well on the Xbox One controller and the performance is – as far as we can tell, anyway – very smooth. We played with four players, which means dozens of enemies onscreen and hundreds of bullets flying everywhere with special effects filling the screen, and didn’t have any noticeable framerate hitches. The only real difference between the PS4 and XONE versions is that the Xbox controller doesn’t have a speaker in it so you don’t hear the androids constantly making quips through it like on PS4 (though you still hear it through the TV). For that to be the only real difference between the two versions is pretty impressive.

If you already played Assault Android Cactus on PS4 you probably don’t necessarily need to buy it again on Xbox One, but if this will be your first time playing it is easy to recommend the Xbox One version. This is one of the best twin-stick shooters around and it’s great to have it on Xbox. 

Bottom Line

In the end, Assault Android Cactus is a highly polished twin-stick shooter that does a good job trying new things to move the genre forward. The characters are great and likable, the gameplay is fast and frantic, but also surprisingly strategic, and the presentation is fantastic. You get a ton of content for the asking price, too, which is always a good thing. If you love twin-stick shooters, and especially if you like playing co-op, Assault Android Cactus is easy to recommend. Buy it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.