Assault Android Cactus - An Interview With Sanatana Mishra
If you like twin stick shooters, you’ve heard of Assault Android Cactus. Developed by Witch Beam Studio’s the game is making quite the stir in the indie scene, and for good reason. At Eurogamer, I had the pleasure of meeting the charming Sanatana Mishra, one of the developers working on the game. His enthusiasm really stuck out, and that same drive shows in the polished piece of entertainment he and his team have produced.
I had another opportunity to speak to Sanatana recently, albeit a brief encounter I wanted to touch on just what Assault Android Cactus.
Sanatana, what is your role in the development of Assault Android Cactus?
Sanatana Mishra: I handle a lot of the games design elements like weapon properties, game flow, level layouts, and enemy actions. Basically if there's something you hate about the game it's likely to be my fault!
Who else is involved with the development?
Sanatana: Witch Beam is a three person team with the other two members being Tim Dawson and Jeff Van Dyck. Assault Android Cactus and all the characters in it are actually Tim's concepts, and he’s also our sole programmer & artist! Jeff is a very talented composer & audio engineer with a deep history in video games such as working on the first Need for Speed and winning a BAFTA for one of his numerous Total War soundtracks.
What is Assault Android Cactus?
Sanatana: It's a manic arcade style twin stick shoot 'em up that focuses on high pressure and stylish action, we've tried to blend traditional twin stick gameplay with elements from Japanese bullet hell titles and I think that really shines through in our boss battles with their multi stage attack patterns that require a lot of player precision, while utilizing the twin sticks to dodge, aim, and shoot. Oh and it has local co-op for up to four players!
You’ll be taking on the role of Cactus who is responding to a stranded space freighter, only to discover it is under siege by its malfunctioning robot workers. Cut off from the outside and in over her head, Cactus and the androids she recruits along the way battle through the crippled Genki Star to reach the brain of the ship and put things right, before it’s too late.
Could you dive into the mechanics a little more?
Sanatana: Each character has a unique set of weapons, the primary weapon has infinite ammo while the secondary weapon has a limited use before you need to swap out and let it recharge, in the case of Cactus she uses a machine gun primary that's great at most ranges but does limited damage and a flamethrower secondary that deals enormous damage but has a very limited range. The androids are also battery powered, and while you're playing that battery is constantly draining so the only way to stay alive is to defeat enemies quickly and collect their energy recharges, you can actually be knocked down or 'killed' an infinite number of times since the game only ends when you run out of battery energy.
Did you choose to have all the androids be female, or did it just happen?
Sanatana: Well it wasn't like we sat down and decided to be controversial and feature an all-female cast, but every design decision is on purpose to some degree. Initially we were just talking about a few other personalities that might exist in the world either as people Cactus interacted with or for the (at the time) hypothetical multiplayer mode, the Androids all being similar to Cactus but with very different personalities & themes is just something that started happening and so we went with it.
What were your main inspirations for the game?
Sanatana: So many inspirations but if I had to distil it down I'd say Robotron 2084, Geometry Wars, Super Stardust HD, Radiant Silvergun, and any late 90's arcade/dreamcast game featuring Sega blue skies!
Was there ever a day when you thought “I can’t do this”?
Sanatana: We've had a lot of hurdles to get here (and a lot more to come!) but it's not something I like to focus on. If I were to mention one thing it would be the soul crushing feeling you get from sending out 30 personalized e-mails containing information and free copies of your game only to get ~3 responses over the next week, not even a 'no thank you' from the remaining 27 so you're left forever wondering if you should contact them again or if your game is just terrible.
What platforms is Assault Android Cactus being released on?
Sanatana: We're releasing first on PC through Steam & Humble store with a demo & early access version available now, and then early next year we'll be bringing Cactus to Wii U, PS4, and PS Vita.
When is the release date, if there is one?
Sanatana: We're working as hard as we can on finishing the game but there's no set in stone date for the full release yet.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Sanatana: The beauty of indie games is that not every game needs to appeal to every person, so I encourage people to try out our demo and see what they think!
Currently, the indie game industry is experiencing a rogue-like boom; Assault Android Cactus is the sort of game that could spark a twin stick shooter boom, and you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t pick it up. If you want to purchase Assault Android Cactus you can head over to the Steam store and grab the early access version, or you can download the demo for free!
It was a pleasure speaking to Sanatana, and I look forward to our next encounter. I wish him and Witch Beam all the luck in the world.