Cuphead Review

Brutally difficult, beautifully drawn, satisfying upon completion. Those are the three traits that the 30’s inspired platformer Cuphead are compromised of. It’s unapologetically difficult, charming, yet addicting. There have been times where I literally had to be pulled away from my controller because the game was sucking me in even more. Without further ado,  let’s move into this brilliant action-platformer, AKA the only platformer to make me really angry. 

The Turbulent Thirties

The first thing you’ll notice about Cuphead is the very enticing art style. It harkens back to 30’s cartoons and characters. Cuphead himself slightly resembles Mickey Mouse with the attire and comically large boots. Everything in Cuphead is hand drawn, animated, and colored, adding to the authenticity of the game’s inspiration. Interestingly enough, the game is at 24 fps except for Cuphead himself, who is at a full 60 fps. This way, Cuphead can still be controlled fluidly, while the game still looks cinematic.

It’s Sure To Be A Wallop!

Cuphead is broken up into two main styles of gameplay. The first is boss rush, which is a bulk of the game. Throughout the four isles, you’ll encounter multiple bosses that block your path. You must defeat all the bosses, and their subsequent phases to proceed. From ravenous mermaids and robots to angry flowers and bees, the bosses are eclectic yet terrifying. Like I said before, each boss has three phases with unique patterns to them. A train could be attacking you with fireballs sporadically while tossing life vests, while another phase could be a skeleton slamming his hands down on you. The game varies a lot of it’s bosses up, and this can be attributed to the variety of creatures you encounter.

Cuphead-Bee-Boss-1 Cuphead-Bee-Boss-2 Cuphead-Bee-Boss-3 Cuphead-Bee-Boss-4

The other style of game play you’ll encounter is run and gun. In this mode, your goal is to get to the finish as quick as possible, while also not dying. This can be challenging with the amount of obstacles you’ll encounter and the variety of patterns they could theoretically move in. Gravity can also be altered in some stages, making traversing levels a true pain.

When you’re not getting your butt handed to you, you will journey to these bosses and run and gun missions via  top down world. The world is very vibrant and it even has the crackling of the screen that is evident with older 30’s films.

DIE YOU BUMBLING JERK!

The game’s shop features what appears to be porky the pig if he was a gangster and a chain smoker. He’ll sell you many powerups in exchange for coins that you’ll get in the run and gun missions. With a variety of secondary attacks, charms that can raise your health in exchange for weaker attacks, and improved supers, customizing Cuphead becomes very interesting.

Cuphead-Mermaid-Boss-High-Sea-Hi-Jinx

Cuphead’s primary attach is a finger gun, while secondary attacks can be a boomerang style attack, a lobber attack and a few others. He has a special bar that rises when you land hits on enemies, and it can definitely help speed up battles.

You can also parry certain objects! A successful parry will lead to an increase in your special meter, which will ultimately lead to maxing out the bar. At this point, you can launch your special which could be an offensive beam, or invincibility for a few seconds.

Wow, this is tough!

The difficulty of this game is no surprise. It has a difficulty that resembles Dark Souls. To combat this, the developers have a simple mode that lowers the difficulty. In doing so, certain enemies just may not appear, even some entire phases. I feel that the simple mode is a bit extreme in it’s approach. I’m personally okay with removing the sheer amount of enemies, but removing phases makes it too easy. I’ve only ever played on the ‘regular’ difficulty to experience the full game, but the simple mode leaves a bit to be desired.

Cuphead-simple-mode

As a result, this is not a game for everyone. I personally love the art, music, and difficulty, so I’m sticking around (I’m 77% done as of this point). Those who aren’t a fan of platformers, difficult games, rage inducing bosses or broken controllers, you’ve been warned.

Ragtime, big band, stride, oh my!

I’m a huge fan of video game music. It adds so much to a game and well composed music is an absolute treat. In keeping with the theme of the 30’s, Cuphead is literally all jazz music. The entire soundtrack can be found here, but the music was all composed for the game, as opposed to licensing classic big band tunes. I honestly think I enjoyed the music over the game, and that’s a tall order!

The music is so infectious and as a jazz fan, I loved hearing modern takes on ragtime and big band, two of the earliest genres of jazz. The music is true to the time of the games’ setting, and each level has it’s own memorable track. The most interesting was the main antagonist of the game, King Dice. His track was filled with him singing while absolutely trouncing your character. Sometimes I’d just start his cutscene just to listen to him sing.

Final Thoughts

This game is brilliant. I actually didn’t follow it’s entire production, I only caught the tail end of it all. As a result, I had years of information to read up on, and a fresh game to play. I love the difficulty of the game, despite what my grimace says, and the art style is gorgeous. From switching out abilities to fit my needs, to successfully defeating a boss I’d been working on all day, the game is very rewarding. I’d definitely recommend watching gameplay prior to jumping in to make sure that the game is for you! Overall, I love it, can’t recommend it enough!

 

 

 

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