One of the joys of reviewing games is playing something you would normally pass on that genuinely surprises you. I have to say, I’m not a big fan of twin-stick shooters. I put some time into Geometry Wars on Xbox, but that’s about it. When our reviews editor, Andrew Rockett, asked if I could review Assault Android Cactus +, I didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity. Knowing it needed to be done, though, I took the code, downloaded it onto my Switch, and started it up. Now I have to say I’m very glad that I did. There is something about a simple idea, done well, in a charming way, that just feels suited to a Nintendo console. Assault Android Cactus + ticks all of these boxes.
You play as one of nine androids whose ship has crashed on a space freighter called the “Genki Star.” You must battle through 25 levels to take control of the freighter. Each of these levels is packed to the brim with rogue robots who are determined to make your life difficult. You play from a top-down/isometric view. As with all twin-stick shooters, your left stick controls your movement while the right aims your weapon. R/ZR shoots your weapon while L/ZL switches between your primary and secondary weapon. Each android has a different set of weapons. All of them are viable options; it’s purely down to preference.
Visually, the game is quite appealing. The character models remind me of something that Rare would have created when they were in their heyday. They’re bright, playful, and packed with charm. Levels have some nice movement with areas appearing and disappearing. The camera also moves in a really intuitive way as this happens. Enemies are well designed and easily distinguishable. This is particularly important so that you know which tactics to use. The screen can get very hectic with numerous enemies and loads of bullets all on display at once. I never noticed any frame rate dips, though. Performance-wise, my Switch never missed a beat throughout my time with the game whether in docked or handheld mode.
It won’t take you long to get through the 25 levels of Assault Android Cactus +, but this is a game that is perfect for high score runs. At the end of each level, you are not only given a score but also a grade. You could spend hours just trying to get an S+ rating on each level, and that’s before you consider the online leaderboards. There are also a few different modes as well. Alongside the campaign, there are also Infinity Drive, Daily Drive, and Boss Rush. Infinity Drive is like playing all 25 campaign levels on a loop. Daily Drive offers a different challenge each day. Boss Rush, unsurprisingly, will have you facing off against the different bosses in the campaign.
The Switch isn’t exactly light on twin-stick shooters. Assault Android Cactus + is easily in the upper echelon, though. Like I said earlier, I’m not really into this genre but I had a good time with this one. It’s a good-looking game with real charm. The leaderboards and grading system provide quite a bit of replayability. Combine that with the different modes on offer and this easily justifies its $20 price tag. My only real complaint is that I found my hand cramping up while playing for an extended period in handheld mode. This is an issue with the console itself, though, not the game. If you are a fan of the genre, this is very easy to recommend. However, I would go further and say that, if you have a passing interest in shooters or are just after something new to play on your Switch, then give this a go.
A review code was provided by the publisher.