After slowly releasing on pretty much every platform imaginable since 2015, Assault Android Cactus finally makes it to Nintendo Switch, which feels like the ideal platform for a game of this nature. Its short, frantic levels make it a great game on the go, and the developers have done a fantastic job at porting it to Nintendo's latest system. Rock solid, 60fps performance throughout and incredibly short load times; this is the best place to play Assault Android Cactus.
As you may or may not know, this is a top-down twin-stick shooter packed with intricate levels, tough bosses and plenty of firepower. You choose between a selection of playable characters, who each have a unique double weapon setup, and are presented with three modes: Campaign, Infinity Drive, and Daily Drive. The campaign is set across five zones and The Infinity and Daily Drive arenas are alternate versions of a wave-based mode, with changing levels in the form of "layers" going up to level 49 and 10, respectively.
Campaign is structured in a linear fashion, with four standard stages per zone culminating in a boss fight (which you can skip right to if you wish). These start out as bog standard arenas but as you progress moving platforms, rotating levels and changing perspectives all come into play along with boss fights throwing unique challenges at you. By the time you get to Zone 3, the game also introduces levels you must move through, rather than the previous stationary arenas. This provides a nice level of variety to the latter stages of the game, as manoeuvring becomes even more important when you need to progress and not just survive.
The weapons are satisfying to use and relatively effective if a little generic in design. The usual rifles, scatter-shots, homing bullets and shotguns are on offer and some levels and enemies are definitely suited more to a specific weapon. At the finale of the first zone it took us a good few tries to defeat the boss, but swapping to Coral, the shotgun-wielding android, made that first boss a lot easier. Some stages were also better suited to the laser weapon held by Starch, as the sustained fire made blasting through a constant wave of enemies a tad more manageable.
The game's health works in a slightly different way, as battery packs are dropped by certain, often larger enemies, and must be picked up before your battery bar drains. This is a fine system, but at times the sheer amount of things going on in Assault Android Cactus meant that we would lose track of a pack out on the field, and meet our early demise. Sometimes, it felt like we were overwhelmed rather than lacking in skill, and a mad chase through bombs and bullets to just miss out on a battery pack can be deflating. Happily, the game's load times are near-instant and dying in a level never feels too frustrating as you know you'll back in the fight soon enough.
The enemies you come up against are generally fair but certainly pose a challenge further into the game. You are seemingly a magnet as most enemies are attracted to you and you'll need to do some speedy manoeuvring to keep enemies at arm's length. The boss fights throw a typical slew of attacks your way, mixing it up in waves so you need to adjust on the fly in order to stay alive. While both types are competent, they are somewhat uninspired in visual and mechanical design, and we were hard pressed to find anything unique about them. The robot creatures are quite boring to look at and never change too much thematically, adding a sense of repetitiveness throughout the zones and stages.
World design suffers a similar fate. Sci-fi 101 seems to have been the mandate here, as you'll fight generic robots in familiar metallic arenas throughout the Campaign and Drive modes. The playable characters don't offer too much variety in visuals either but do have a bit of flair and personality which comes through via the quirky voice effects and quotes. There is nothing wrong with the way the game looks, especially on a technical level, but it does feel somewhat uninspired and we would have liked to see the game offer some more unique level, enemy and playable-character designs.
And yet, we can't fault Assault Android Cactus too much. It's a mechanically sound shooter and one that works fantastically well on Switch. It has a 'just one more go' effect on you, and it never feels unfair in its challenge. Although we would have liked to have seen a more inspired world for the game to take place in, its core mechanics, controls and performance more than made up for it. If you're looking for one of the best twin-stick shooters on the platform, either for the big screen or for handheld play, then look no further. Assault Android Cactus may not be new, but it is polished, well made, and incredibly fun.
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