Friday, March 8

Review: Assault Android Cactus+ [Nintendo Switch eShop]


As has been well established by this point for regular readers I am a massive twin-stick shooter fan, and I absolutely love that the Switch has become a home to so many of them, most with a wonderfully high level of quality. While there have been many impressive titles already released I knew from my days of playing indies on the PC that the Switch was still short on two in particular. One, which still hasn’t had any mention of making progress to the console, is Nuclear Throne, a roguelike that goes toe to toe with Enter the Gungeon (I actually prefer it, though Gungeon is still excellent). As for the other, I’m very happy to say as a die hard arcade-style shooting fan that not only has Assault Android Cactus now come to Switch, it’s been upgraded a bit to absolutely help make it the arcade shooter to beat on the system, even moreso if you’re able to enjoy it with up to 3 friends.


Starting with the basics the game gives you a starting roster of 4 androids to choose from, with another 5 that you’ll unlock as you make progress in the campaign. Each android has their own distinct primary and secondary weapon attacks and absolutely play differently. Not only does this give you an opportunity to experiment and find the ones that suit you best (I prefer Starch as my main, with Peanut as a close second) but they also give the game substantial replayability as you can force yourself to understand how to get through the game’s 25 levels and 5 tough as nails bosses with each as well. As you progress you’ll unlock Infinite and Daily Run modes, and once you beat the game the Boss Rush and Campaign+ modes will unlock as well. If you’re a twin-stick shooting veteran and think the game is too easy just wait, Campaign+ will blow you out of the water and it is simply glorious. Throw in a variety of additional unlockables, including an ability to play the game in first-person mode (cool, but not very practical), and the effort behind this title is very much felt.


If you watch video of the game in motion it has a tendency to look like absolute madness, and to a degree it is, but once you get into the zone this doesn’t typically have the feel of an aggravating bullet hell ordeal. Instead, you’ll pretty quickly find yourself able to maneuver through attacks and lasers with some confidence and improve your survivability little by little. While getting hit enough times will knock you down, you’ll be able to quickly get back up and even rally if you’re aggressive and make effective use batteries (which give you back power) or the various power-ups that will drop. Whether speeding you up, giving you added firepower, or temporarily shutting enemy bots down, these are critical to your success and if you’re able to stay alive for a bit and build up your combo your firepower will also increase pretty substantially until you fall. Once you get your groove on it really then becomes all about the score and getting your A, S, or even S+ ranks by avoiding getting hit and keeping your multiplier up at all times.


Aside from the game likely being a bit tough for people who don’t eat, drink, and breathe shooters there can be some minor complaints. While I’d consider all androids to be viable I wouldn’t say that’s the same as them being balanced fully. Some are just easier to work with and get high scores with than others, even if you could probably find overall success with any of them with the proper strategy. Whether it comes down to taste or issues with this balancing some characters just feel more effective than others. Being so accustomed to roguelike shooters at this point a return to something more straightforward and locked in may be a bit passe, but given how differently each character plays I’ll definitely forgive that as anything more than a minor complaint. The last thing I’d note is that because of all of the game’s different stage layouts, many of which have cover of some kind, if you’re trying to get that S+ rank lone wandering enemies who’ll move away from the pack and kill your multiplier are maddening, though it’s just the way things are and will keep you mindful of keeping strays from getting too far away.


As you may have guessed at this point I’m a big fan of Cactus and the rest of her crazy android friends. I absolutely live for intense and exciting twin-stick arcade-style play and this is a title that delivers that thoroughly. Generalizing all twin-stick shooters on Switch then I’d say that it’s a neck-and-neck contest between this and Tesla Vs. Lovecraft for the title, and on the merits of the new super-tough Campaign+ and things like the Daily Run that give you reasons to keep coming back this wins that close battle. Having noted that, I’m confident in saying if you’re a twin-stick shooting fan there is no better example of the genre on Switch than Assault Android Cactus+.


Score: 9.5

Pros:
  • Top-shelf arcade-style twin-stick shooting, and can be played co-op with up to 3 friends
  • 9 characters who each have their own style of play
  • Global and friend leaderboards are baked in, quick, and keep you aware of where you stand
  • The new Campaign+ is difficult and a dream for hardcore fans of the genre
  • Infinite Run, Daily Run, and Boss Rush modes, each with their own leaderboards, provide plenty of reasons to come back to it

Cons:
  • If you’re purely about getting high scores not all androids are created equally
  • Stragglers that break away from the pack to then kill your high scoring runs is always aggravating