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Video Game / Assault Android Cactus

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"When you're running on battery, make every second count."
Tagline from game website

Assault Android Cactus is a "twin-stick" Shoot 'Em Up note  by the indie developer Witchbeam, based on characters created by Tim Dawson, the creator of the webcomic Dragon Tails.

The eponymous Cactus, a junior Interplanetary Police constable, has been dispatched to stop a robot uprising on board the enormous spaceship Genki Star. As soon as she crash lands aboard, she and the motley crew of other androids she's able to find are forced to battle hordes of killer robots.

Unusually, although each character has their own Life Meter, Death Is Cheap — players can recover in a few seconds of mashing the fire button. The important thing is the battery: once it runs out, it's Game Over — and the only way to recharge is with a power-up dropped after defeating enough enemies. This encourages aggressive play.

Combined with the wide variety of characters with different play styles, along with levels that dynamically transform and gameplay bordering on Bullet Hell, the game has been winning a following from both media and gamers ever since it was made available on Steam's Early Access program in 2013 after winning Intel's Level Up game demo contest.

The completed PC version is now available for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh OSX. The developers planned to release the finished game for Wii U, PlayStation 4, and the PlayStation Vita in 2016, but were only able to release the PS4 port. An Xbox One (X) version was released on November 2017, and a Nintendo Switch version was released on March 2019.

Assault Android Cactus contains examples of:

  • Adjective Noun Fred: Assault Android Cactus.
  • Animesque: The androids are all Super-Deformed (unless you have Normal Sized Head Mode on), and there are also other references to things Japanese - the "Genki Star", for instance.
  • Barrier Warrior: Coral's secondary weapon is a force field that pushes enemies away, buying time for her shotgun to reload.
  • The Beastmaster: Aubergine has a smaller robot, Helo, as a partner and primary weapon; firing causes Helo to spin rapidly, using his ears to slice anything near where Aubergine sends him.
  • Big Head Mode: Inverted. Since all the characters have big heads by default, there's instead an EX mode to give them normal human proportions.
  • Blackout Basement: The Filament stage in the first zone, where the lights go on and off during alternating waves. Each player has a headlight, and enemies are highlighted, but it can be disorienting.
  • Boss Rush: An optional game mode. The Infinity Rush and Daily Rush modes also have the bosses appear every few waves. The final boss, Medulla, uses modified versions of the other bosses as phases.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: If you play as Liquorice, her conversations with the Section Lords revolve around her deciding that They Have Outlived Their Usefulness, mostly as an Excuse Plot. When the player enters Collider, the level where you fight Liquorice, you will still fight Liquorice, who will ask you to explain your way out of this development. You (the playable Liquorice) then replies that you don't need to explain anything, and what matters is that this is a video game and that you're playable.
  • Bullet Hell: All of the bosses, and more and more of the Mooks, will fire in intricate patterns that have to be dodged.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: All enemies have lights on their chassis denoting their health level, going from blue to red as you shoot them. Weak enemies are lighter, cooler colors, while the heavier and more dangerous ones are usually darker and frequently painted red.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Starch, the first of the unlockable characters.
    Starch:(waking up when being chosen in character select screen) Pineapple!
  • Colourful Theme Naming: The androids are all named after foods and plants that match their specific colors - Cactus (green), Holly (red), Coral (blue), Lemon (yellow), Startch (white), Aubergine (purple), Shiitake (brown), Peanut (orange) and Liquorice (black).
  • Cowardly Lion: Holly, formerly the stuttering and browbeaten subordinate of Embryo, steps up to face both her tormentor and everything else the Genki Star can throw at her as the player character.
  • Energy Weapon: Starch's primary weapon is a laser weapon that can reach halfway across an arena, and behaves more like a real laser that the other weapons in the game. Several enemy types, such as the Reapers, can also fire huge laser beams.
  • Everything Dances: The walls of every stage in Zone 3 (except Transit) are music graphic equalizers that respond to the stage's music. In earlier builds, these "music walls" did not show anything if the Music Volume in Settings was turned down to zero.
  • Faking the Dead: Medulla does this after her seventh phase...but gets back up and promptly unleashes hell upon the player with a huge rush of Mooks that has to be beaten within an extremely low time limit, represented by the golden battery used only for this fight. Fail and your player character is assimilated into Medulla's core.
  • Fem Bot: Vespula, the boss of the Hydroponics section.
  • Flunky Boss: Vespula is able to summon swarms of the Wasp enemies during phases of her battle; the only way to damage her and end the phase is to destroy enough of them.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: Cactus' secondary weapon is a flamethrower. Peanut's primary weapon is a magma spewer.
  • First-Person Shooter: The game has an unlockable "FPS mode" option that lets players go through levels using FPS controls. Mostly a novelty, as you can't see enemies behind you and don't even have a crosshair to aim properly.
  • Foreshadowing: All four Section Lords openly fear or hate Starch, as shown in their pre-fight banter with her. Starch's replies, in turn, are all seemingly Word Salad-esque ramblings about playing or toying with them. Note that last part, because The Stinger reveals that she is the only android privy to, and capable of understanding, Liquorice's plans of corrupting Medulla (and by extension the Section Lords) into seeking Terra Nova, the original supercomputer AI that may or may not have independently gone rogue some time after her creation. And during the confessional dialogue between them, Starch also reveals that she does treat the entire plot like a game, one that simply ended in Liquorice's loss.
  • Friendly Sniper: Shiitake is soft-spoken and polite, and wields a powerful and accurate railgun.
  • Gameplay Grading: A letter rank (D, C, B, A, S, S+) is awarded after every level, depending on score, number of knockdowns and kill chain length. There is no F, since failing a level ends it prematurely with a "BATTERY DEPLETED" screen.
  • Good Old Robot: Peanut enforces this trope for herself. Despite being a skilled Wrench Wench, she deliberately does the bare minimum to keep her body functional, resulting in her visibly decrepit appearance. This does not harm her combat skill in the least.
  • Homing Projectile: Holly's primary weapon, and Starch's secondary.
  • Isometric Projection: One of the EX options, which makes it feel like you're playing Diablo II or one of the 2d Fallout games.
  • Kill Streak: A major element of the scoring system is making kills within a 2.5 second window in order to keep up a combo. The longer your combo is, the higher your score multiplier (capped at 10x for chain lengths above 10). There are also "surge kills" which involves performing kills within a much smaller interval (0.25 seconds) for an additional 1.5x multiplier.
  • Magnetic Weapons: Shiitake's railgun.
  • Mercy Invincibility: If you take damage and are knocked down, you are invincible for a few seconds after you get back up. There is also a shockwave that knocks enemies back to give room to maneuver.
  • Mirror Boss: The miniboss Liquorice. She is an android, and plays by the exact same rules as you. Shooting her will knock her down for a bit, but she'll promptly get back up with Mercy Invincibility. She can defeat enemies and upgrade her weapon, steal Power-Ups from the field, and steal battery pickups. To defeat her, you must run out her battery before she runs out yours.
  • Monster Compendium: The Alpha release added a Bestiary of the enemy types players have encountered.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Shiitake's railgun can penetrate and damage an unlimited number of enemies in a row.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Starch had been locked up because of a suspiciously vague rampage during her activation; several of the bosses are visibly afraid of her. She also expresses herself with a childlike joy, especially when killing Mecha-Mooks.
    Starch: (victory quote; sulking)... Everything's dead...
  • Rank Inflation: The S+ completion rank can only be earned by comboing every single enemy in the level in a single, unbroken chain, without getting knocked down once. If there are multiple players, all players must achieve this, or your rank will be demoted to S or A.
  • Robot Dog: The FIDOs (more informally known as "toaster dogs"), which act like friendly puppies; the Monster Compendium entries for each type specifically explain how they're unaware they're actually ''attacking'' anything.
  • Robot Girl: All of the assault androids.
  • Secret Character: Starch, Aubergine, Shiitake, and Peanut are each unlocked the first time a player defeats one of the first four bosses. Liquorice is playable in the release version after beating Medulla.
  • Self-Deprecation: One of the unlockable art pieces in the gallery is a Crossover with the artist's webcomic Dragon Tails, which ran from 1999 to 2010. The description: "hypothetical crossover with some webcomic nobody remembers"
  • Sequel Hook: After the credits, a recording from the escape pod bay plays, with Starch telling Liquorice to be wary of Cactus.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Coral's shotgun is one of the more powerful primary weapons, but has one of the slowest rates of fire. Firing just two shots without killing anything will negate your combo.
  • Spider Tank: Venom, the fourth-stage boss. Unusually, players don't fight him directly; the first few phases are weapons deployed from his legs, destroyed when the phase ends. Once all the legs are gone, Venom swings his abdomen over the arena edge, before finally bringing his limbless torso into battle.
  • Spread Shot: Lemon's primary weapon is a straight example.
  • Superboss: Dark Embryo, an ultra-hard version of the boss Embryo, can be fought in a deep layer of the Infinity Drive game-mode under certain conditions. He also occasionally appears in the Daily Drive game-mode, much to the dismay of inexperienced players.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Medulla, the Genki Star's AI core, is this to the rogue Section Lords. In turn, Liquorice is this to Medulla, as she was the one who drove it mad and pushed it into going rogue in the first place.
  • This Is a Drill: Peanut's secondary weapon, the Giga Drill Lance, a rocket-propelled drill that can send larger enemies flying across arenas before destroying them.
  • World of Action Girls: All eight player characters are Robot Girls. And so is Liquorice, the mini-boss before the final boss. As noted above, you unlock her as a selectable character after beating Medulla.
  • Wrench Wench: Peanut's specialty was repairs, which frequently led to Jurisdiction Friction with the Section Lord Venom.