PAX Prime 2015

Assault Android Cactus Preview: Polished Insanity


Assault Android Cactus is an adrenaline-pumping twin stick shooter from the three-man-team at Witch Beam Studios, but the colorful character design, intuitive game mechanics, and ability to smoothly spawn hundreds of enemies will make you think it’s a AAA title.

Assault Android Cactus was featured among the prestigious PAX 10 this year, and with good reason! Just about everyone who left the demo did so reluctantly, itching for more play time. I was no exception.

When Witch Beam Studios first assembled in 2013, the goal was to make a game reminiscent of the classic arcade style, a manic twin stick shooter with bright colors that you can play with friends. Assault Android Cactus is certainly that game, but unlike some of its predecessors that are so difficult they seem broken, here we find a well-balanced adventure, with more strategy to the gameplay besides spray-and-pray.

Cactus is a headstrong Junior Constable in the Interplanetary Police. Together with her android comrades, she must find out what or who is behind the hordes of friendly-turned-violent robots. You play as one of 8 android heroines in this world where robots have gone rogue! The characters all have their own individual weapons and skills and there is definitely strategy to picking a good combo of characters when playing co-op. But the different characters offer more than just variety of gameplay. They are very likeable and have a Pixar-esque charm in that regard. I spoke with Tim Dawson, self-proclaimed “Art and Code Guy” who said that he’s an animator first and, therefore, animation and design are closely linked. I attribute the heroine’s likeability to not only the art style, which is very-well done, but also the way they are written. Each character has its own personality, so they would be easily distinguishable even if not named after their respective colors.

When playing co-op, which is designed to accommodate up to four players locally, the players must work together to defeat swarms of enemy robots. The enemies are scaled in difficulty based on number of players to make for a fair fight. The co-op experience is even more enhanced by a shared health system. The players all run off the same battery – each time a character falls, they must use energy to get back up. This allows weaker players to be in the game longer, and stronger players cannot carry on as if the weaker players didn’t exist. That need to work together makes for very intense high-fives after a successful boss battle.

The tutorial introduces you to the mechanics very well. The controls are surprisingly intuitive and simple to learn, which is for the best, given the sheer number of robots you need to defeat just in the tutorial. But don’t get comfortable there! Immediately, the game gets exponentially more difficult with more enemies, shifting terrain, and wall hazards. There is so much happening on screen, you’d think it impossible to keep track of it all. Surprisingly, it’s relatively easy to follow everything on screen and the look of the game stays smooth despite the armies of spawning enemies.

Assault Android Cactus is currently available on Steam Early Access for $14.99 and will fully release September 23rd for Mac, PC, and Linux. Witch Beam Studios plans on releasing for PS4, Playstation Vita, and WiiU in early 2016.

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