Cuphead is one of the best games to come out of 2017–a definite stunning, golden-age masterpiece. Though after immense anticipation, this collection of boss-fights is just not true to what it’s best known for: being so difficult that only a true gamer can survive the run and gun platformer.
This is a massive claim given the countless gameplay videos of the game that are on Youtube, including that one where the player in question could not even get past the game’s tutorial. I’m not saying this so you don’t buy it – I’m giving you all the more reason to because the marvelous Cuphead can be beaten by you, as long as you’re patient and observant enough to allow a learning curve. Fortunately, that’s not Cuphead’s only selling factor. This devil has many more tricks up his sleeve.
The story of the game is relatively simple, sufficient to keep your interest and give reason for leveling. On one of their dandy adventures, Cuphead and Mugman win on a streak at the Devil’s Casino, finally placing a bet with the Devil himself.
Nobody wins in a dance with the devil, and they now collect contracts of other souls so that the Devil doesn’t draw their own souls. You play as Cuphead, and in co-op mode, your pal can play as Mugman, at a slightly higher difficulty level.
Cuphead’s biggest, most superficial draw is in its graphics. It’s also the thing that’ll distract you most, and a good sign you’re getting a hang of the game is that you stop noticing how stunning they are. Phase-changes are especially riveting, made to lure you into freaking the hell out – they’re just phase-changes. The 1930s, all watercolour, hand-drawn characters are surreal and placed very well. They’re never cluttered through the most hectic of encounters and ultimately achieve what is very possibly, the unachievable as far as game design is concerned.
The game’s soundtrack could not be a better fit, a snazzy composition of swing, jazz, and high-tempos. It truly allows the game to transcend beyond its times, rising and falling vigorously as you get thwacked black-and-blue, from every corner around you.
Mechanics and game design in Cuphead are brilliant and hardcore, and also very unforgiving. There are no checkpoints, no regaining health, and no getting to the finale until you’ve played everything on regular difficulty modes.
Having a second player makes everything a little more confusing, but it does allow you the ability to prolong a budding player’s life by performing a parry on their soul as it floats away.
Some levels demand more of you, while others are relatively brainless platformers that are made for you to take breaks with. In many ways, this significantly prolongs the playability of Cuphead because it never gets excessively overwhelming or repetitive – a sense of achievement can come by at your lowest points. The platformers are also comical and hilarious boss moves turn the experience of hasty playing into delirious joy.
Despite all of that, your character’s design makes you a very reasonable opponent for ridiculous bosses, with endless shots, dashes, and upgrades that you can purchase as you earn coins in levels. The rest of your progress is reliant primarily on how well you’ve learned from previous losses- less on quick reflexes.
The fall of this devil lies in occasionally questionable design choices – sometimes excessive randomisation of boss abilities, impractical control designation (there are 10 frequently used keys), and an oddly precise parrying ability. Victory can sometimes feel inconsequential just because you got lucky and did not have to face that one really tough task by a boss this time around.
Cuphead is a game that gets easier and feels better with experience and repetition, a throwback to times when not all games had to be completed. For what it’s worth, it’s definitely going to keep taunting you back for more. Just make sure to change your controls first!
Cuphead is available on Windows 10 and the Xbox One.