Indie developers have taken over arcade style gaming with gusto and Assault Android Cactus is a prime example. The game’s bullet hell twin stick controls works out surprisingly well. There’s also a lot of little touches like extended lore and level modifiers that add to the replay value of an already fun game.
Assault Android Cactus starts with a good old fashioned robot uprising on a spaceship fleet. Fortunately the assault android known as Cactus busts in to save the day. As you battle through the ship this peculiarly named automaton will fight amazing boss battles that unlock other playable characters that each feel new and different. One of the unique aspects of AAC is that health is regulated to a battery that slowly depletes rather than waiting for enemies to do the damage. This could be implemented poorly but usually whenever you’re running too low an enemy you kill will drop some more energy, truly making you feel like an invincible fighting robot. Now getting to said recharge is another story but the other power-ups that drop are just as devastatingly useful.
Everything makes you feel stronger and cooler while the levels simultaneously throw more and more your way. Soon the game has you dodging bullets while destroying enemies like a well choreographed play.The android from the game’s namesake is by far the most standard fare, totting a machine gun and flame thrower. Every other android has completely different weapons and campaign dialogue. making each of them feel like they could be the star of the show just as much. Bosses are just as varied since they hail from different quadrants of the ship. These guys don’t go down without a fight, changing tactics with each health bar segment until their grand finale that’s awe inspiring to say the least.
While most of this game runs like a well-oiled machine some of it kind of grinds my gears. Some robots feel blatantly superior to others and while normally you could chalk that up to different play-styles, some of them just aren’t as versatile. This leads to difficulty fluctuations that range from manageable to nerve-racking. Add to that a battery consistently wailing at you for it’s juice fix whenever levels go on for too long and you have the perfect mix for discouraging experimentation. That’s not the only problem for people new to genre, as the tutorial could explain some of the nuance of the game in better detail. Finally while the battery life bar is an amazing idea, some bosses seem to stall specifically to drain it leaving some triumphant battles feeling more like waiting at the DMV.
These tough little robots channel some of the best old school gaming, harking back to the likes of Gunstar Heroes and Serious Sam. The sense of dread from just barely losing a level is only matched by the feeling of accomplishment when you beat it. Each character has their own dialogue with the bosses which made replaying it even more tantalizing. Assault Android Cactus will beat the snot out of you and you’ll love every minute of it.