Review: Assault Android Cactus (PS4)

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Title: Assault Android Cactus
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.31 GB)
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Witch Beam
Developer: Witch Beam
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Assault Android Cactus is also available on PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Assault Android Cactus wants me to know something. It would like to me to understand that I have a pulse. It also needs me to know that my pulse can rise under situations of high stress and intensity. So its purpose is to constantly remind me that, so long as I am playing it, there will be heightened heart rates and little to no time to blink.

Oh it starts off simple and familiar enough, but soon turns into a vicious hell-hole. Fortunately, the game also understands that traversing this science fiction adventure alone is a masochist endeavor. So Assault Android Cactus has allowed me to bring friends along.

Gameplay:
A twin-stick shooter at its very core, Assault Android Cactus tells the story of a group of cute android girls who are trapped on a ship. They fight countless enemies as they make their way across the behemoth-size vessel.

Cactus is actually the name of the main protagonist. She engages the giant ship by crashing into it with her tiny space fighter and ends up trapped inside with her new companions. The game is visually styled with the same tapestry as games like Ratchet and Clank. The characters are disproportionate and hyper cute with personalities to match.

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You start the game as Cactus herself and can switch to any of her companions, though only at the beginning of the stage. As you move through the campaign you’ll unlock other characters, each with their own weapon type and special ability, not to mention quirky personality.

Each character comes equipped with a primary and secondary weapon with the latter requiring a short refresh wait after use. Cactus comes equipped with a pulse rifle while Lemon (my personal favorite) uses heat-seeking bullets to plow through her enemies.

… your lifeline is also determined by a battery …
In addition to your core weapons, upgrades spill out of enemy corpses that are essential to survival. For example: blue orbs shut down enemies for a short time while yellow orbs give you upgraded speed. Trust me, after spending an hour or so with the game, my partner and I were racing for the orbs whenever they dropped. They can actually determine survival or utter destruction.

And speaking of “destruction” and the various methods this game provides for it, your lifeline is also determined by a battery, you are a robot after all. The battery depletes over time, and while enemies drop batteries at a relatively frequent pace, your ability to reach said battery is sometimes hindered by dozens of enemies, making the mad rush towards the battery a potentially suicidal risk.

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But this is fun, right? Actually, yeah, yeah it is. Death isn’t a brutal affair and you start from the last stage you played so you aren’t penalized quite as permanently as with other games. On the flip side, it does make for some frantic coordination between friends, and quite a few “Battery!!! Get the F@#king battery!!” moments.

Stages in the game are mainly arenas, which initially was a little disappointing, so there isn’t much room to explore. Later in the game you are presented with corridors to explore, though they never quite get to the level of Diablo-style dungeons romps. I’m almost certain that the confined spaces are part of some sadistic design to make your struggle even more arduous.

… your bullet hell assault …
Visuals:
The game is pretty from up above and a little dated when looked at up close, but that’s something that is to be expected from games like these. You are, after all, never really expected to look at these characters up close. Design wins here, because the little robot girls are so darned cute. One of the androids I unlocked picks her robotic nose after each battle. That’s an added review point right there.

Assault Android Cactus handles the chaos just fine, as dozens of enemies fill the screen in tandem with your bullet hell assault.

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Audio:
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I absolutely love, and love, when developers use the PlayStation 4 controller’s speaker for certain games. In GTA5, hearing the police radio and cell phone come through the speaker is an enhancing experience.

It’s so simple, but so effective. In Assault Android Cactus, your little androids speak through the controller whenever they pick up an item. And while it does get a little repetitive, it never gets too bad because, again, they are super cute and their lines are pretty witty. This also makes the entire frantic experience sound like an arcade machine.

… to make you work together …
Online/Multiplayer:
You’d better start making friends if you plan on playing this game. Ok, not really. This can absolutely be played alone. I played alone for the first hour or so. There will be brutality, and sharing the pain is better with a friend.

So this game is at its best when played with three other friends. It’s meant to frustrate you as a team, but it’s also made to make you work together and it does it so well.

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“Battery!! Battery in the top right corner!!
“I see it, but I am very busy in the other corner!”
“Guess we’re dead then.. Wait blue orb! Down there, grab it, freeze them!!”
“Got it, go, go, go, go!”

Can I give this game points for the audio that comes out of your own mouth?

… enjoy the hell out of this …
Conclusion:
How can I give a generous score to an experience that thrives on frustrating me? I suppose it comes down to the unity it brings during multiplayer and that fact that it is a pretty damned entertaining game.

I wish this exact concept came with more exploration or weapon discovery, but that’s simply not what they were going for. This is a twin-stick shooter with cute characters, absolute chaos, and a fun multiplayer component. Grab some friends, some pizza, a few beers (or sodas), as well as some Advil (or Tylenol) and enjoy the hell out of this.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • ultraviolet

    good review. i love the game, one of the highlights for me this year.

    you forgot to mention the multiplayer is local, not online.