Witch Beam’s Assault Android Cactus is a 2-D twin-stick shooter with 3-D graphics that pits players against waves of swarms of robotic enemies. A quick glance at the trailer showed it had mayhem and fast-paced action, and appeared to be a simple enough game at first. At a closer glance, the characters themselves are all widely varied based not on any difference in attributes, but in their weapon combos, attack styles, and strategies. I had fun trying out different levels with each character, finding the attack styles easy to understand and mostly easy to master. The game itself has three modes: main, infinity, and daily. Main follows the main plot of the game, with a short initial cutscene for the four available androids. The game also includes great bonus features that can be purchased by earning more points, and continually playing the game.
The main game is divided into levels, with sections providing multiple waves of enemies in an arena-styled room, right up to the final boss battle at the end of each level. In either single-player or co-op multiplayer mode, the androids are quickly outnumbered with relatively weaker enemies, and a limited amount of battery before they all shut down and the level ends in a failure.
All enemies destroyed in Assault Android Cactus will drop white gems that slowly upgrade the android’s weapons to their maximum power and speed. This lasts until they take too much damage from several smaller hits or one big one, and they are knocked down. Some enemies and objects drop power-ups that provide either a speed boost, two extra drones with machine guns, or a security lockdown that freezes all enemies for a limited time. Batteries will drop at certain times as well, usually at the end of a large wave, in order to keep the player fighting until the last enemy is defeated, or for as long as they can in the infinity mode.
The boss battles can feel a little overwhelming at first, but didn’t really follow difficult-to-read attack patterns. I fought and defeated the second boss with a completely new character, and learned how to use her attacks during multiple attempts. The third boss battle showed an increase in difficulty with vastly different attack styles and a consistent hazard in the arena. I’m still having a hard time with that one.
Graphics are high quality and colorful, with the androids showing expressive emotions in closeups during the character select screen and cutscenes. Each level is also colorful and bright, making it easy to see the enemies in the beginning. The game starts to play with the lighting in order to add another variable to the fighting. There is no strobe effect, but there are levels that use a great deal of neon colors. The soundtrack includes fast-paced music that feels dynamic as the game changes in intensity, from getting knocked down to fighting with a fully upgraded weapon. It’s a soundtrack worth having for those who enjoy the genre of techno music.
The story follows an android, named Cactus, from the Interplanetary Police (IP) that warps next to a ship sitting dead in space. Something calls her to investigate and she rams into the ship, saving three other androids, Holly, Lemon, and Coral, in the process. The ship has suffered a mutiny at the hands of four section lords, and the Nexus core has shut down. The four must fight their way to the core, and restart it so as to restore order to the ship.
There are at least four more androids to unlock, each with a wide different in attack abilities. Cactus, the main character, uses a straight shooting machine gun, and can switch to her flamethrower as a secondary weapon with more power but less range. Holly uses small seeker missiles as her main weapon, with a single shot cannonball as her secondary. Each android has its own unique weapon, and requires a different strategy. Coral is more short-range and thus harder to master with her powerful shotgun blasts, but her secondary plasma orb can create a defensive area that helps hold off the enemy robots.
Assault Android Cactus also offers bonus features that can be purchased through points earned playing the game. Players can open entries in the auxiliary codex and learn more about the universe, unlock and view some of the rendered art, and open game-changing features that provide a unique experience and difficulty. The game is normally in top-down 3rd-person view, but a feature will allow gameplay in first person. Players can also deploy A.I. that controls companion androids in battle, or face off alone against a swarm of enemies meant for a team. The amount of modifications already present make it a worthwhile game that can last a while. Through Daily drives, players can play alongside other online gamers in battle quickly.
Assault Android Cactus is currently available on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux, with a release for Wii U, PS4, and PS Vita platforms to follow next year. The game is available for $14.99, or $24.99 with the soundtrack. Steam is running a 20% discount until September 30th. The price, to me, is well worth the amount of gameplay available for anyone. The A.I. companions make it possible to experience the team-based mayhem, but it’s likely more interesting and tactical with a group of friends online. To learn more about future Witch Beam, follow the team on Twitter or like their Facebook page.