Some people like to be challenged by the games they play, some people would rather have a relaxed evening walking around in a walking simulator and opening drawers, others like these two things to be balanced, others don’t like video games at all.
Cuphead has been a game that has divided the community ever since it’s release, it is a challenging game that demands gamers to be quick on their fingers and to remain focused on the game at all times, it is never unfair but it won’t forgive you for your mistakes either. You either are good at it and can play it or you can’t and your ass will be served to you.
One of the most striking aspects of Cuphead are it’s visuals. Everything in the game was hand-drawn with the same art-style as animated cartoons from the thirties. The animations are fluid and the levels full of vibrant colors, the game is designed to look like it is being projected by an old movie projector. It works great and it’s incredibly charming, you will feel like you are watching a Betty Boop or Felix the Cat movie on your TV.
Sound and Music:
The background music of the game is pleasant, music and sound effects emulate old cartoons and you can always hear the sound of the movie projector in the background, to give you that extra authenticity feeling. Levels and boss fights begin with a commentator letting you know that “a brawl is surely brewing” to let you know that things just got real and you either smash those buttons or your ass will be on a plate.
The plot behind Cuphead is simple but amusing. Cuphead and Mugman are brothers who live in Inkwell island. They both go to the Devil’s Casino and start a win streak the Devil intervenes and challenges them for one more game in which they will have to give up their souls if they lose. They end up losing but instead of demanding their souls the Devil makes a deal with them, if they manage to collect all the contracts that the Devil has with the other inhabitants they can have their souls back. Each of this contracts represents a boss fight. The rest of the plot is for you to find out while playing the game.
Cuphead is a traditional Run and Gun game, this means you run through the levels shooting at enemies and doing some platforming while the level throws hordes of enemies at you. There is a catch though, in Cuphead you will be doing mostly boss fight, exactly 75% of the game consists of boss fights. You travel between levels through a overworld and you have some freedom in choosing in which order you want to play the various segments. The game also allows you to buy different sorts of weapons and special attacks offering a pretty good description of each of them at the shop. This increases the depth of the game and adds a bit of strategy on how to approach each boss fight.
There are 17 contracts that you have to go through and six Run and Gun levels. Boss fights are usually long because each boss has several different phases, if you die in one of them you are required to start over from the beginning. There are no checkpoints so if you die you have to start the level all over again. The game taunts you with a screen showing you how close you were to beating the level every time you die.
To fight your enemies you can either use regular shots, that the characters shoot from their fingers or special attacks that induce more damage but require you to kill a few enemies or catch items in order to use.
Now, one of the most important aspects of Cuphead is it’s difficulty. The game really requires fast reflexes and a lot of focus to not lose track of everything that is happening on the screen. You will have to be quick to dodge and to attack at the right moment and given how fast everything goes in this game it is a difficult task.
It is never unfair though, from the moment you learn the bosses routines and weak points you are good to go, you just need to keep up with the rhythm of the game which takes a little bit of practice but it’s perfectly doable. The game’s charming looks and animations help to ease some of the frustration you might feel sometimes and to keep you going, since there is always something beautifully drawn to look at and the fun doubles if you play it in co-op with a friend, granted that the chaos on the screen will double and sometimes make everything harder.
Controls are tight and very responsive. The characters can perform a few moves like jumping, double jumping (to revive your partner or catch items that allow you to use your special attack) and dash jumping to reach further.
I tested the game on both PC and Xbox one and found no performance issues on any of them, the game runs at steady 60 fps even though the animation on top of it runs at only 24 fps. This means that when you move on the screen your character is moving at 60 fps but it’s animation is running at 24 fps, this helps to create the feeling of a 1930s cartoon.
I had the game crash on me twice while playing co-op on Xbox One, but I was not able to reproduce it so I cannot say what caused this, other than that I noticed no issues on the game.
The loading times are short and don’t represent a nuisance
Cuphead is a great game, it’s visuals are charming, it feels great to play, and you really get this feeling of achievement every time you beat another boss. Even though it’s difficult and will make you replay the same segments over and over again it is never unfair or becomes frustrating – if you are failing it is your fault and only your fault.