Wandering around the show floor at this year’s Pax Prime yielded some interesting surprises. One of the true standouts was Witch Beam’s Assault Android Cactus. Currently in Early Access, this stylized twin-stick shooter provided addictive thrills and an incredible amount of bullet hell action.
Beginning with a brief tutorial, this game is upfront with what you will be doing: shooting and dodging. Lots of glorious shooting and dodging. I quickly found myself surrounded by a massive outpouring of oversized enemy robots. Falling into the groove of crowd management was quick, effortless, and so much fun. Explosions filled the screen, bullets were sidestepped, and my pick-up group of strangers cheered each other on as we worked through the levels.
In addition to picking up XP to upgrade the weapon power of your selectable character, the game also has an interesting life system. Instead of a discreet and dwindling pool of lives to work with, the group is given a shared battery. Whenever you or a comrade falls, quickly tapping the fire button will recharge the fighter and put them back into the action. This is at the cost of battery power. The battery can be recharged with items found in the wreckage of your foes. Of course, getting to them can a challenge itself.
This game is intended to be hard, but it’s the fun kind of hard. The cathartic feeling of avoiding seemingly insurmountable odds and filling the screen with wanton destruction is the reward given for a job well done. The smooth controls, sense of fun, and the difficulty scaling were spot on in my play through. It’s telling that the developers sold out of the printed Steam codes that they brought to sell and had to turn away disappointed new fans. This game is just that good.