Twin stick shooters are a dime a dozen yet they're rarely done this well. Invite your favourite android over, make sure her batteries are fully charged, and let the arcade shooting action begin!
When you see a game titled "Assault Android Cactus", it's hard to know what to think. Although it's seemingly three random words, the story actually revolves around an assault android named Cactus. Now that we have that cleared up, let me tell you what it's all about. Cactus is a junior police officer. After she crashes into a spacecraft taken over by its very own rogue robot workers, it's up to her to save the day. However, she won't go it alone because a large cast of fellow androids eventually joins forces with her. Each one of these androids is completely playable with their own weapon configurations and distinct personalities. By the end of the game, you'll unlock a total of nine of them so getting to learn their idiosyncrasies is great fun. The visuals will burn images of lasers into your retinas and the audio matches the onscreen chaos perfectly with satisfying gunfire, a pumping soundtrack, and obvious cues. Every character has a suitable voice, too, which makes them all the more lively thanks to the talented cast.
If you've played any twin stick shooter then you'll know how to play Assault Android Cactus right off the bat. Where it sets itself apart is seen in its battery system. Basically, you can run out of health all you want and you won't get a game over. The only way to do so is by running out of battery power which is constantly depleting. Therefore, you have to destroy enemies as quickly as possible in the hopes that a battery will come soon and you can recharge. Obviously, it isn't okay to run out of health because you then have to tap a button rapidly to revive and that wastes time thus some battery power is depleted in the process. This dynamic makes the core gameplay all the more exciting, but even without it; the shooting action is so intensely fun that it makes most similar games seem boring in comparison. One of the best features is that each android has her own secondary weapon that's super-powerful yet it requires some down time after firing it. Overall, with solid core gameplay and the supplementary battery mechanic, you're looking at one great shooter.
Assault Android Cactus' main campaign is broken up into five zones with four stages and a boss in each. The bosses require a decent amount of strategy to take down and it's gratifying as heck to watch them finally fall. As you play, you'll unlock additional modes and gain credits that can be used to unlock gallery items such as artwork, information, and "EX Options". These options offer different camera angles, visual filters, audio effects, additional firepower (which locks you out of the leaderboards), and of course "Normal Sized Head Mode". Extra modes include Infinity Drive that acts as the game's survival mode, Daily Drive where you can try to be the best player each day that you play, and a Boss Rush mode. Between challenging these extra modes, unlocking all of the gallery items, earning the best grade that you can on each campaign stage, and climbing the leaderboards; these androids will keep you busy for quite a while. Oh, and did I mention that you can play with up to four local players simultaneously?
My main complaint with Assault Android Cactus is that the campaign is incredibly short. I reached the final boss within one sitting, went to bed, and then completed the game first thing the next morning. I've played many twin stick shooters in my life and this is definitely one of the shortest. Of course, there's plenty of content here to keep you busy but if you're only interested in finishing the main story then you'll probably be disappointed. My next point is tied closely to this which is that the characters don't really have much time to shine. The campaign begins with an impressive cinematic that introduces us to Cactus and a few of her chums, and it concludes with another flashy cutscene. However, the only story moments in-between consist of conversations with the bosses that are merely composed of text at the bottom of the screen. If there were fully-voiced scenes between each zone then that would be enough. Instead, I can't help but feel like these androids could have been in the spotlight for longer than a couple of short bookend scenes.
Assault Android Cactus is one of the best twin stick shooters that I've ever had the privilege to play. Although the main mode is short-lived, you'll literally have a blast every second you spend with this awesome cast of sassy androids.
- + Incredible cast of characters with their own unique personalities and weapons
- + Awesomely intense shooting action
- + Tons of unlockable content to uncover
- - The short main campaign can mostly be completed within one play session
- - With only a couple of cinematics, you'd wish the characters had more time to shine