Assault Android Cactus is an arcade twin-stick shooter set aboard a civilian spacecraft that is experiencing some difficulties with its labour bots as they've rebelled against the captain and taken control of the vessel. You play as an assault android pilot named Cactus who has both the guns and the courage to take back the ship and save the passengers on board.
The controls are those of a standard twin-stick shooter, where you use the left analogue stick to move and the right analogue stick to shoot, however to switch to your secondary weapon you're required to hit the same button as the dodge. This evasion mechanic has a cooldown timer on it, so it can be frustrating when all hell breaks loose and the screen is full of bullets which you're unable to dodge.
The main difference between this game and its contemporaries is the inclusion of a battery indicator for your android. This is indicated using a constantly depleting bar across the top of the screen, which operates similarly to a timer that once fully depleted will result in your doom. Fortunately, you can replenish the battery level by picking up other cells dropped by enemies. Of course, you can still die if you lose all of your health as well, so the battery adds another layer of complexity to the gameplay.
The title's laid out across five worlds with a total of 25 levels, each lasting about 10 minutes apiece. It's quite a short game, then, but it can be enjoyed co-operatively with up to four people – and is definitely a blast with buddies. There's a variety of stage types, too, though the ones with conveyor belts can frustrate as they may move a battery out of your reach when you really need to one to stay alive – it's just a bit cheap.
The boss battles are by far the highlight, with each possessing a different range of attacks for you to best. One of the particularly well designed final foes spawns in pillars that link up with lasers to trap you in a tight space so that he can get in close and dole out some damage. We really enjoyed battling with these baddies.
As you progress, you'll unlock different characters to play with as well. Each of these comes with their own unique primary and secondary weapons; our favourite, Starch, comes equipped with a laser gun and a rocket launcher that blows up everything in its path. No matter what android you choose, there are a wide variety of weapons on show, each feeling very different to play.
Enemies come in a variety of types that switch up the gameplay ever so slightly; the basic foes crawl along the floor and use melee attacks, while other types include giants that shoot explosive balls and drones that fly around the perimeter of the map and shoot you from a distance. Unfortunately, some classes repeat a little too frequently and become tiresome. Still, with the different types of enemies, dodging becomes a key survival element, and, with the move being linked to your secondary weapon and attached to a cooldown timer, it requires a lot of skill to stay alive. It's fair to say that the game could do with some tweaking in the difficulty balancing.
While playing each level and getting kills, your gun will level up becoming more powerful until you max it out; if you die your weapon will be reset to its standard form. Also, power-ups are dropped throughout levels that increase your speed, give you turrets, or shutdown all of the robots on screen; all of these power-ups are designed to make it easier for you to get through the level without any total catastrophes.
While killing robots, you will also earn credits that are very useful and well integrated into the game. They can be used to unlock additional options, such as AI partners, a first person mode, or even concept art. These extras, along with the leaderboards, are great reasons to keep playing the game after you've finished the campaign.
Assault Android Cactus is a very well-polished, entertaining arcade twin-stick shooter. Its only prickles come in the form of some poor level design, occasional difficulty spikes, and a little too much repetition. If you cast these issues aside, what you're left with is a short but sweet experience that's perfect for some competitive couch co-op with your friends.