Cuphead: a review
author: ethan butterfield | staff writer
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Have you been craving adventure? Are you looking for a more difficult gaming experience? Do you perhaps miss the golden age of 2D platformers where bosses were more challenging and the levels were built in unique and interesting ways? If this all sounds like it rings true to you, well then I’ve got a product that you’re bound to love!
Tortured salesman pitch aside, The Studio MDHR title has been making some fairly substantial waves in the gaming community. The look, the feel, and the all-around effort put into a project like Cuphead has shown that there’s a bigger market out there than just first-person shooters (I’m looking at you Destiny 2). This may be true even more so nowadays, since there’s been quite a resurgence in the platformer genre, with such games as Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Sonic Mania, and Mario Odyssey doing well both in both financial and reception based demographics.
What about Cuphead, though? How does it measure up on its own? Well the numbers are certainly there. The 1930’s animated title has been doing very well, especially considering that the game just recently hit platinum mark after selling one million units. It seems that Canadian designers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, both of whom are based out of Regina and Oakville respectively, put together a winning formula for this one. But, what exactly is that formula?
Well as mentioned above, Cuphead is quite difficult. Much of what players will probably end up doing in regards to play style is dying several times during any given boss fight. Attempting to learn what each stage has to offer so that, eventually, they’ll win that particular section and move on to the next challenge. Now, there are different types of challenges littered throughout that change up the pacing of the game so things don’t get too hollow. There are coin trials that test to see if the player can grab all five coins in a level, as well as flying based boss battles that put you against aerial combatants instead of ground-based ones.
On a scale of one to ten, I’d rate the gameplay and competitive aspects as a solid 8.5/10, but does the gameplay complement the story? Now don’t get me wrong, a game can certainly have decent gameplay and a less than desirable story. But, a game that goes above and beyond has gameplay that is immersive for the player, so that their connection with the plot grows that much more. Cuphead’s story, which follows our two main protagonists Cuphead and Mugman, is based around gambling. Cuphead is blinded by easy riches and soon is conned by the Devil himself who, after the two plead for their souls, gives them a second chance by sending them off to collect the souls of those who have tried to run from him. All in all, there’s a nice complement between how hard the devil’s runners are in game versus what Cuphead and Mugman are trying to take from them. Honestly, you switch around the perspectives and put some new things into light, the characters you portray could easily be the villains. That’s an article for another day, however.
When talking about the gameplay, there isn’t a whole lot to dive into. Cuphead your basic platformer affair with most of the changes being art based. I do want to give special props to the music though, as I feel this really helps the game shine throughout. Seriously! Listen to Die House (King Dice’s Theme) on Youtube, that’s the type of stuff you’re going to be getting in full. I’m not sure there’s ever going to be another game where I let the opening play out in full every time I start it up. It’s kind of scary how addicting the songs are, but that may just be me.
Now, the last thing I’ll mention in this review is probably going to be the most difficult thing that players will deal with in the game’s entirety. I speak of none other than the dreaded tutorial. Earlier in the week, I posted video on Facebook about my experiences with it and I couldn’t believe my good fortune in making it past it in the timely manner in which I did. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
So, with all that in mind, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this piece as much as I had fun writing it. For those curious, I would definitely recommend Cuphead with two big thumbs up. It’s a well-developed title that has a lot of love put into it and should be remembered as an instant classic. Until next time!