You could be forgiven for thinking the twin-stick shooter was a genre that didn't allow for a lot of variety when it comes to gameplay and longevity. Of course, in some cases you’d be right – what seems like great fun at first can quickly become stale and repetitive, leaving you with the bitter taste of disappointment. Thankfully, Assault Android Cactus takes that assumption, turns it on its head and has you blasting wave upon wave of enemies quite happily – for a while at least.
Combat is very fast-paced, and the waves of enemies can quickly become quite overwhelming if you’re not paying enough attention, or making use of your weapons efficiently. So, pretty standard shooter fare in that respect. Another addition does make it a tad more interesting – rather than an actual health bar, you’re trying to preserve your battery power. As your power level drops, you need to find battery pick-ups to top up your charge level or face unconsciousness when it depletes. Whilst in reality it serves the same purpose and is just a slight variation on a standard health bar, it does help make things that bit more interesting.
Although there’s not much variation in the combat itself, Assault Android Cactus is regardless fun to play. There’s just something immensely satisfying about mowing down a swathe of rogue AI with a flamethrower. The levels are designed in such a way that they don’t get too stale or repetitive quickly, and in some cases they actually change as you progress through them, making it more difficult to progress.
They’re also not expansive spaces, which in this case works quite well – it makes you take full advantage of the different power-ups and your weapons, which in turn makes you work around the terrain, rather than just spinning round in a circle trying to shoot everything (which I can confirm results in premature death). At the end of each stage, you’re presented with a score and a ‘grade’ in typical arcade fashion, which adds a nostalgic element of fun and competition to the story, as well as replayability.
At various points you’ll be forced into boss battles which can unfortunately be quite frustrating to finish. They take a lot longer than normal stages and you’ll need to be a lot more careful when it comes to maintaining your charge, thanks to power drops being harder to come by. It breaks up the monotony of just shooting wave upon wave of enemies, though, which is much needed in games like this.
It won’t leave your mind blown, but it will give you an android with green hair and a flame thrower...
Generally, Assault Android Cactus is a decent twin-stick shooter by most standards. It jumps most of the hurdles presented by the type of game that it is, and it does have a progressive story alongside other play options including an endless mode. They all serve to add a little more replay value to the game, and it is the kind of game you can easily pick up on a whim and dive back into without much hassle.
The biggest downside is that because combat is such a massive part of the game (it revolving entirely around that one mechanic) it can become very samey and feel a bit stale a couple of hours in, which will likely have you frustrated in time. If you’re after an hour or so every now and then of mindless, fast-paced, frantic and explosive fun, though – especially if you’re playing alongside another person – Assault Android Cactus is a decent way to do that. It won’t leave your mind blown, but it will give you an android with green hair and a flame thrower, and really, can you say you don’t want that?