Cuphead transports you into the world of 1930s cartoons and provides an incredible aesthetic experience unlike any other. Cuphead and Mugman, make a sinister bet with the devil and are now forced to capture the souls of villains that plague three separate worlds. You need a plethora of upgrades, platforming skills, and patience if you hope to complete their task on winning their souls back from the clutches of Satan himself.
The gameplay is pretty self explanatory for a platforming shooter; get from point A to point B without dying. You have a dash and a jump that help you traverse the bizarre world while using your fingertip as a weapon. When firing at the enemy you build a card meter at the bottom left hand corner of the screen which can be used for more powerful attacks. When the meter is filled you’ll be able to launch a devastating blow towards the enemy. The thing I found to be interesting mechanically wise was the use of parry. You can use the parry skill to bounce off certain attacks (pink colored) and that builds the card meter quicker but can also put you into dangerous situations.
Certain levels provide you with coins that you can collect to help you upgrade Cuphead’s moves. For instance, the chaser has great range and veers off to the nearest enemy, but deals less than average damage. The nice thing about buying different shots is that you can equip two during a battle and switch between them as you like, the ability to do that becomes quite handy due to the constant boss transformations that can sometimes require different shots in order to deal the most damage. You can also purchase items that upgrade your dash, or even an item that gives you a fourth life at the cost of less damage dealt to the enemy.
Cuphead separates itself by focusing more on boss battles than the regular run of the mill platforming shooters. The game takes the excitement of reaching a boss and makes it an immediate experience without having to go through a landscape of enemies to get there. The boss battles range from fighting a giant potato that spews dirt and worms from it’s mouth, to two boxing frogs that form into a slot machine and huck money at you. Every boss battle had me giggling at least once due to the ridiculous animations and silly antics; but that’s what made me fall in love with the game in the first place.
Developer and publisher Studio MDHR have done a phenomenal job with creating the 1930s aesthetic. Apart from the repugnant racism that infected 1930s cartoons, they absolutely nailed the style and make the player feel enveloped throughout the entire experience. Everything from the crackling of the screen when starting the game, the wiggling and loopy enemies you encounter, and the original jazz soundtrack that had me snapping my fingers; this game does it right.
This game isn’t for the weak of heart either. It’s incredibly difficult. With only three lives (four if you include a certain item) you’re going to be dying quite a bit. I found myself taking deep breaths like I was in a Lamaze class, before hitting retry and repeating the process. Once you complete the fight a sense of overwhelming excitement overpowers you though, and I found myself discharging a victory screech from time to time.
Cuphead also includes a two player experience that seemed to facilitate my frustration more than sooth it. I adore the look of this game, but I also found it to hinder the gameplay while playing with another person. We would constantly be trying to figure out if that shot being fired was from us, or from the enemy.
After its initial reveal in 2014, Cuphead is finally here and I couldn’t be happier. The game ranges from a length of 12-14 hours to complete and is beautifully frustrating. The animations are alluring and provide the player with an interesting and addicting experience.
Cuphead is out now on Xbox One and PC.