By Josh Speer / August 23rd, 2014
I don’t do many of these types of articles. Generally, I’m too busy managing, writing and salivating over new game information. So, when I do decide to do an impressions piece for a game, it’s because it impressed the hell out of me. Such is most definitely the case with Assault Android Cactus.
The first thing you need to know about Assault Android Cactus is that it is not about desert vegetation. Rather, the Cactus in question is the main character in the game. She is one of four initial playable characters (my favorite being Lemon), though this is yet an early build of the game. More characters are promised later on, and you can unlock some now by defeating bosses. The basic premise is that a space station has become overrun by its own robots, and Cactus and Co. need to fend them off and reach the brain of the ship! Each and every character has different primary and secondary weapons, which can be easily switched between using the Space Bar. For example, Cactus wields the Assault Gun and Flamethrower, while Lemon is equipped with the Spreadshot and Rockets. Movement is handled with WASD and aiming and firing with the mouse. The controls all handle wonderfully, which is good, since the enemies never let up.
Since the game is part SHMUP, it goes without saying that you will be confronted by hordes of monsters. What is unique about this game, besides the top-down view, is the health meter. Or, rather, the lack thereof. Instead, each playable Android is powered by a Battery. This is constantly powering down as you play, and taking damage makes it power down even faster. The resulting formula requires you to constantly be on your A game to survive, and, for an old hand like me, I really appreciated the challenge. Levels constantly change their layout, and you never know where an enemy is going to pop out from. These mechanical monstrosities are ruthless, too, and will do their best to corner and pummel you. Luckily, the game offers a couple of powerups to even the odds. Besides picking up spare Batteries, you can also pick up Wings which speed your character up temporarily, an EMP Device that temporarily freezes foes and orbiting powerup guns that increase your firepower. However, if you are overwhelmed at any time, you will de-power and lose your powerups, and have to fight foes off with your standard and secondary guns.
Besides the normal swarms of enemies, there are also massive boss foes that really challenge you. You will essentially be playing a waiting game as you chip off their health, since your Battery will power down to precarious levels as you survive. Knock a chip off their health, and get rewarded with a Battery and other powerups to carry you through the next phase of battle. Even the first boss, Embryo, was incredibly challenging and required careful use of both primary and secondary weapons, as well as nimble footwork, to prevail over.
As far as other modes, besides the main campaign there is also an Infinity Drive Mode where you fight off wave after wave of never-ending mechanical hordes. I managed to last a few waves until I was overwhelmed. Luckily, the game is more than fun enough to prompt you to keep trying, and there is no limit to the number of times you can try again.
It goes without saying that I loved the retro styled graphics of Assault Android Cactus. They reminded me heavily of some of the best offerings from the N64 or GameCube era, but with a fresh coat of paint. The animation of foes was also impressive, whether it be the creepy scuttling of the crab-like robots or the distant hovering of the drones, every enemy had a distinct look and vibe to it. The music was great, as it was low-key, yet pumping enough to keep me focused on the mayhem I was causing.
If any of what you have read appeals to your inner gamer, the best news is that you can get in on the action now and pre-purchase the game via Humble Bundle and download and play the early Steam version. You’ll get access to 25 different levels plus the Infinity Drive. Early Access is also available for Windows, OSX and Linux. The game may still be in development, but it’s already quite impressive and polished looking. It is slated to also release for Wii U, PS4 and Vita later this year. I can’t help but anticipate how it will play differently on my GamePad. Overall, I was well pleased by the work of Witch Beam, especially since it’s just a three-man team! Give the game a look, and help these talented folks get the game out even sooner! As for myself, I fervently hope I can find the time to meet them in person at this year’s PAX Prime!