Disclosure ‐ We would like to thank the wonderful people at Witch Beam for providing us with this review copy!
Titan to my left. Reaper to my right. Fido right behind me. But we’re gonna be alright.
Assault Android Cactus (AAC) is an arcade style twin-stick shooter by Brisbane team, Witch Beam. It throws you into a futuristic sci-fi world where you must navigate around closed environments and defeat waves of spawning enemies before you battery depletes. It is fun, fast paced and beautifully optimised with a killer soundtrack, stunning visual design and diverse overall character design.
Within minutes of launching the game, you’ll find yourself thinking “you serious, bro?” as bullets fly at you in literally every direction and you find that the ability to stand still and shoot at the same time is a privilege that is reserved for much slower games. After a few more attempts you’ll be zipping through enemies, collecting their dropped power ups (TINY ROBOTS) and batteries to refill your energy bar with ease. Well, at least for a few levels until they step it up again. Its difficulty is high; this is something that I will not deny. However, along with a high difficulty, comes an intense fire and lights show that you may not be great at straight away, but even if you’re terrible you will enjoy playing. Each level is lovingly crafted, finely tuned and optimised to perfection; I never once questioned the level design of any given level simply because it all worked.
“Each level is lovingly crafted, finely tuned and optimised to perfection; I never once questioned the level design of any given level simply because it all worked.”
The actual gameplay itself is done brilliantly for true believers and newcomers alike. Newer players, such as myself, learn very quickly that few things matter more than getting those battery refills as a depleted battery is the only way to get game over. It forces you to think about the approach you’re going to take. You are physically unable to sit in a corner and funnel the enemies into a short corridor due to the fact that after a while, you’re battery is gone, and that one enemy that dropped one a few moments ago has floated to the other side of the map and you are not getting there in time. It forces you to play the game the way it was intended to be played. Veterans of the genre will find solace in the fact that it is not easy to pull a high rank in each level, whether you are aiming for an S or S+ rank, you will find yourself trying to implement strategies that will either stop you from getting knocked down (to attain the S rank) or stop you getting knocked down WHILE managing to kill every single enemy in one continuous chain (to attain an S+ rank). While it was not a game that I am intending to climb to the top of the leader boards in, that says more about me as a player, than what they game had to offer me if I was that sort of player. To reiterate, everyone can get something from this game.
That is to say, everyone except anyone who is looking for some kind of gripping narrative. There’s a story there, but it is bare-bones to say the least. It’s more of a catalyst to explain why and how you came to be in the situation you find yourself in, as opposed to actually driving the story forward. For that, they rely on your unrelenting desire to kill more robots
The characters you have to choose from inside the game are pretty widely varied. Whether they’re ones that love to get up close and personal like my own favourites Starch or Peanut, or want to take things a bit safer and put some distance between you and the baddies with Aubergine and her little companion drone that can be a little hard to control at first, but pulls some amazing damage once you’ve gotten the hang of her! Each character will excel in different situations and allow players to really mold the game to their own style. The personality of each character is great, but it is where my first gripe for the game arises. For such a fun and energetic game, half of the characters just seem boring. Not their play style, not their design, but the way they speak. I get that not everyone can be as “kooky” as Starch, but I found myself favouring her regardless of how much better the other characters would have been in a situation simply because she was the only one that made me laugh throughout. Mechanically, the characters are great. But on a personal level there are improvements that could be made almost unilaterally across the board. Starch though? Spot on. Don’t change a thing.
” …everyone can get something from this game. “
The sound design and animations of AAC are wonderfully done. Everything from the sounds of the guns, through to the clang of metal on metal as the world rearranged itself under my feet sounded exactly like I imagined an overthrown spaceship would sound. This, coupled with the brilliant animations of the characters, as they switched from primary to secondary weapons and scooted around the map with “pretty wings” as well the enemies powering up their devastating “one-hit” attacks made the game more immersive than a top down twin-stick shooter has ever been (for me, at the very least).