Monday, July 2, 2018

Better late than never

Chance first mentioned Assault Android Cactus back in March of 2016. He assured me that it was excellent, and more than a little cute, and I proceeded to forget about it for over two years. It popped up on my radar again a few month ago when it finally got an Xbox release and then again slipped past. It a startling turn of events Games with Gold this month includes a good title that I didn't already own so I finally played it.

I don't care that it is cute, nor do I care that there are around eight different unlockable androids as I will never actually use them. What does matter is that this the best twin stick shooter that I have played in some time, easily better than Lovecraft vs Tesla, though the latter still has a better name.

At its core Assault Android Cactus is just a twin stick shooter with an excellent slow build of level design. The first several are simple circular arenas. From there it slowly goes crazy, jumping from areas that see the player falling through multiple areas to rooms where the floor rises to meet the player and the disappears. The arenas themselves makes up for below average enemy variety. Better yet, the arena is sometime the enemy, and it is never not fun to deal with.

What sets it apart is how Assault Android Cactus deals with death: there are no lives. Dying removes a level or two from the main weapon which is bad but can be recovered from. Success depends on managing a continually draining battery that can be refilled by battery powered dropped by enemies. Not dying is not the point, killing enemies quickly to force them to drop a battery is. On more than once occasion I have killed the last mob or murdered a boss with mere seconds of battery time left. It's a simple hook but it works.

I am hoping to finish up the game tonight. The last time I played it was on Friday and my thumbs have just about recovered.

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