PAX East – Assault Android Cactus Hands-On Impressions

One of the most surprising titles of PAX East for me so far has been Assault Android Cactus by developer Witch Beam.  Talking to the designer Sanatana Mishra, he dropped the names of many great shmups in describing their own twin-stick bullet hell shooter, invoking the name and thoughts of the legendary Treasure.  Not because Assault Android Cactus is a carbon copy clone of these or any other shooters, but because of the simple design spirit they embodied.

And man, was he pretty spot on with that allusion.  Assault Android Cactus is a western style twin-stick shooter with many inspired elements from Japanese shmups and indie doujin games– a variety of characters, classic bullet hell patterns, and branching storylines help to give the game flavor.  One player can go it alone or up to four can take on waves of relentless enemies and huge bosses in high octane shooting gameplay.

With four people on screen, the game was intense and awe-inspiring due to the game’s scaling difficulty.  Mishra assured me that it’s a practially different game with one or two players as opposed to a full suite of four, calling it a tighter experience alone, and a crazier party game with friends.

While beating off hordes of enemies, players have to also collect batteries before an energy guage runs out.  This basically acts a timer, challenging players to clear stages as fast as possible in addition to racking up strings of combos.  Each character comes with a different main and alternate weapon, ranging from a far-reaching spreadshot to the strong short blasts of a shotgun.  It takes a mixture of skill and preference to find a character and play style that’s right for you, and I’m eager to go home and give each character type a try.

Why is that?  Well, because the game is available now on Steam as Early Access, so it’s definitely worth giving a try, even in its early state.  The game will also eventually be making its way to the PS4, Vita, and the Wii U.

Few games of this type get as much love as Witch Beam is giving Assault Android Cactus.  Even if it does have a name that makes no sense.

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