Assault Android Cactus

Look, I’m not sure how I managed to make it through to 2020 and have nothing on here about Assault Android Cactus before now but it’s clearly incredibly slack of me because Assault Android Cactus is wonderful.

It’s been pretty wonderful for the near five years it’s been out there now too. I’ve been enjoying it on and off for most of those five years as well.

I’m not kidding when I say I’ve been slacking here. Five bloody years! Molyneux save me. It’d be excusable if it wasn’t one of my favourite things.

To be honest, I kind of know why I’ve been putting it off. It’s an easy game to do a mammoth injustice to because when you write it all down it’s easy to go “so, err, what?”. It’s an intimately familiar looking, familiar feeling videogame. It’s born of purest Dreamcast, not the Sega Blue Skies of a thousand UK Resistance dreams but the final gasp of the arcade at home before digital downloads changed so much. It *looks* like a Dreamcast game too, though obviously more as my memory would like to convince me of what the games looked like than what they really did. It’s got a vibe. It’s good. It’s committed. It deserves the right words.

There’s so much game there too. It’s positively abundant. Ridiculously so! Full on call the cops and arrest these people for making the rest of us look like we don’t put enough game in a videogame stuff. I’m not sure I’ve played a twin stick shooter that crams quite so much in and where so little of it feels superfluous.

Some of it is unsurprising – multiple characters with different weaponry, ridiculous cosmetic tweaks (normal head mode! JJ mode for when you need so much lens flare you can’t see the screen! More!) – it’s a lot but it’s kinda an expected lot.

What isn’t quite so expected is the amount of videogame scenes the game runs through. At times it feels like an A-Z of arcade videogame levels. Never pastiche, never a nod and a wink, videogame levels because there’s something the game can do with them. It reminds me of Mutant Storm Empire in that regard though much, much, much more focused.

Early on you find yourself riding a very videogame lift, you know the kind – it’s in a hundred or so FPS, a multitude of top down shooters, it’s in Valve’s Alien Swarm, even Destiny couldn’t resist the lure of riding a lift whilst aliens hem you in from all sides. Then before you know it, it’s a stage where robots are pouring out of the floor, there’s lasers everywhere, flames, bullets, pick ups and there’s a stage where the room is built around you and then and then and then.

It’s like the team responsible wanted to cram every idea they had for games into one game. It’s astounding. More so when you realise how normal this sort of thing used to be, how arcade games at home would let themselves spiral outwards rather than just retain a really narrow focus, done well. I didn’t even realise how much I missed that but I do. I really do. It makes me feel spoilt, ruined, like you can’t possibly be giving me all this? Seriously, you are? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Oh, there’s local co-op too because of course there is. Why leave any stone unturned?

It’d all be for nothing if it didn’t play so well, obviously. Which it does! It plays wonderfully, always pushing you into the swarms of killer drones rather than running backwards, rather than the circling of Geometry Wars. Wade in, knee deep in roboguts, needing to grab batteries to make it to the end of a stage alive. It takes no time to find the rhythm the game wants you to fall into, alternating between primary and secondary weapons, rushing for power ups, aiming for that ever enticing higher score.

Gosh. I love Assault Android Cactus so much, you know? There’s few games I’d use the term masterpiece for but in this case, Team Witch Beam have worked for it and earned it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s the right and proper good stuff. It’s an arcade game, a not Dreamcast really but totally Dreamcast videogame that the best part of five years on still excites me.

Which, let’s face it that’s what you want from an arcade game. Okay, okay, it’s what I want anyway. I genuinely couldn’t ask for more. Well, except maybe for some fish but that’s just me. Maybe the next one, eh?

Inferno 2

Please sir, I cannot tell a lie – I absolutely love Radian Games stuff. One of the select few developers that I’m fairly likely to grab pretty much anything and everything they put out, if at all possible.

Whilst their very first XBLIG release (the wonderfully titled “Joy Joy”) slightly missed the mark for me, I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve played of their twin stick and shootybang games since, XBLIG, phone and on. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite (seriously, I like them that much) but if you really made me choose, Inferno in all its incarnations would be pretty much near the top of my list.

It was the easiest sell for me. It’s essentially Berzerk meets Gauntlet with the faintest hint of ARPG to it. Pretty much the kind of game I’ve spent the best part of 40 years losing hours to and I don’t really see any reason to change in that regard. Especially not whilst I’m still enjoying myself so much with that kind of thing.

You no doubt know the drill already. You find yourself in a maze, you have to get to the exit. Between you and the exit lies an enormous amount of enemies and a number of locked doors. Collect keys to pass through the doors, use lasers to get rid of the enemies. Get to the exit, find yourself in a new maze with more enemies, more doors more keys and do it all again.

It’s a videogame in the absolute purest sense. A direct descendant of I don’t know how many arcade and home computer games, a game that does exactly what it needs to do with absolutely no bloat or complication. A game where you get from one end of a maze to another, with colourful lasers.

I love it.

I love that there’s very little in it that couldn’t have existed in the eighties but also, it absolutely could not have existed as the game it is then. The upgrade shop, the absurd amount of particles, the much more relaxed difficulty curve make it more a game of the now. Did I mention the absurd amount of particles? It has an absurd amount of particles. It’s great. I love particles, me.

Anyway, it’s been around a few years on the PC but with it recently (finally!) seeing a console release I’ve been playing through it all over again and yep, still works for me. Still works for me very well indeed.

Tachyon Project

If you ever needed (more) proof that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing at the best of times, I bought Tachyon Project at release in 2015, mentally filed it under “not very good” for some reason long lost to the mists of time and never returned to it.

This was quite clearly a mistake because Tachyon Project is pretty far from not very good and it’s been a game I keep coming back to these past few months and enjoying myself with it immensely.

I mean, I know I have a habit of being wrong sometimes but this seemed awfully self defeatingly wrong given how much enjoyment I’ve clearly been denying myself.

Oh well, it’s done now. No real harm done.

It’s probably obvious from the screenshots but Tachyon Project is a dual stick arena shooter in a similar vein to Geometry Wars. I doubt any genre fans will find anything especially surprising in here – it’s all rather familiar in its own little way but that’s fine, right? Perfectly fine. We don’t have to reinvent everything with every new game. Sometimes “more, a bit like that other thing” is *exactly* what I want from a game.

Not that Tachyon Project doesn’t do enough to stand alone, it certainly does – it plays around with its own selection of glowing enemies, modes and what have you. Just the smaller arena alone is enough to give the game a different enough vibe.

It’s unquestionably its own game, doing its own thing, just in an awfully familiar space.

Probably the biggest gulf between Tachyon Project and Geometry Wars comes courtesy of the difficulty. Whereas Geometry Wars can be remarkably punishing in all its incarnations, Tachyon Project is much, much, much, much more gentle. If I had to describe it in a word, that word would be “softer”. If I had to describe it in a sound, that sound would be “pew”. It’s a softer pew (try sneaking that one past autocorrect).

So yeah, it’s usually a little over a fiver and a really enjoyable blast. Still no idea why I put it down first time round though.