Assault Android Cactus Preview

These food-themed assault androids are making me hungry.

Dual-stick shooters are well represented at PAX Prime, but Assault Android Cactus clearly separates itself from the crowd. The game features multiple characters with distinct weapons and play-styles, and my time with the PAX demo was pure fun on every level. Assault Android Cactus understands that people love to shoot things and watch them blow up, but it also features rankings and leadboards for folks who prefer to prove their hardcore abilities. It's a best of both worlds approach that works well, and makes it one of the standout indie titles of PAX Prime.

Assault Android Cactus operates similar to other dual-stick shooters–move and aim with the analog sticks and shoot with one of the trigger buttons. The controls don't go beyond those few functions, but there are power-ups scattered throughout each level. They either make the player go faster, disable all enemies for a limited time, or increase firepower. It benefits players to constantly pick up power-ups, but there's also a layer of strategy involved in the process. Power-ups cycle through the different abilities, so if you don't want the increased speed, wait for it to change to increased firepower. It all depends on the particular situation.

Power-ups are important, but the weapons themselves do most of the work. Assault Android Cactus features eight different characters–all female androids–and they each carry a different weapon that changes up the gameplay quite a bit. Holly has a seeker gun that targets enemies without the need for perfect aim, while Starch carries a laser gun that fires a straight beam ahead.

The androids also carry secondary weapons for special circumstances, such as a missile launcher for crowd control. There's a back-and-forth element to the primary/secondary weapon selection, as secondary weapons are often more powerful than primary ones. Change to the secondary weapon, fire off some rounds, switch back to the primary weapon, and wait for it to recharge, then repeat the process all over again. Switching to the secondary weapon also allows players to dodge, so there's good reason to use both weapons over the course of a level.

The strength of the weapons results in a forgiving experience. In fact, players can respawn an infinite number of times. The game doesn't features lives or time limits. Instead, a battery meter at the top of the screen constantly drains, and the only way to recharge it is to pick up battery items that randomly drop from enemies. Essentially, the game rewards players for constantly killing enemies, so the “always be shooting” philosophy works well.

Each level ends with a letter rank, though, and the game also includes leaderboards. Assault Android Cactus tries to cater to multiple audiences in that sense, and it works. The game even scales with the number of players, so there's an extra challenge to the cooperative experience. Even more important than the challenge is the fun factor, and that's an area in which Assault Android Cactus succeeds. It put a smile on my face, and that makes a big impact.

Assault Android Cactus is currently in Steam Early Access, and the developer plans to release the game on PC and PlayStation 4 in the near future.