Having first appeared at the inaugural PAX Australia, Assault Android Cactus is a twin-stick shooter from Brisbane studio Witch Beam. It’s just been brought over to its much more natural home this week: the Switch.
The most important thing to note is the performance. Cactus runs at a solid 60fps throughout, which is exactly the kind of smoothness a top-down, twin-stick shooter needs. The Aussie indie doesn’t run at the kind of frenetic pace of some Japanese bullet hell games, but when you’re sitting on the train with the console between your hands, it’s satisfying enough.
The level select transition is still really well done.
As was the case with the original launch, the main campaign is five “zones” with four levels and a boss fight at the end of each. You’ll unlock a new android at the end of each boss fight, some of which are simpler to play than others.
Whatever android you choose, however, the base mechanics are fairly simple: left stick to dance around, right stick to aim, R/ZR to shoot, and L/ZL to switch to your more powerful secondary weapon. Mobs will drop little white orbs that power up your basic attack over the course of the level, and every time you clear out a mini-wave of sorts, you’ll get an extra power-up and a battery, the latter of which gives you charge to proceed through the level.
It’s still a game about managing priorities as much as it is dodging fire. Keeping a close eye on your aim is often harder than it seems, especially once the screen begins filling with enemies, your own fire and the various effects that each of the levels throw up. Occasional shifts in perspective can still throw you for a loop, but the game’s performance remains solid throughout.
If you haven’t checked Cactus out for years, some things have changed slightly. You’ll earn credits over the course of each level, which can be spent in the game’s “EX Options” menu. Options there include a first-person mode, various visual filters, oversized Android models for more difficulty, hilariously overpowered secondary weapons, and a “Rubber Music” option that speeds or slows down the music based on the flow of battle. It’s a little Crypt of the Necrodancer, and you can more or less unlock it within the first 10 minutes of gameplay.
Playing on the couch, or in handheld mode on the train, Cactus is a perfect fit on the Switch. The game scales well enough visually and runs just as well in handheld mode, although the smaller screen is really only ideal for solo play.
That aside, everything you’d expect from PC and consoles has been ported over. There’s support for up to 4 players local co-op, if you want to grind through the campaign, daily or infinite challenges with a friend. There’s no online play, and the leaderboards only track other Switch players, but Cactus also isn’t the kind of game where that sort of functionality makes a difference.
Assault Android Cactus, which is already out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, hits the Switch on March 8 for just over $22.