Well, Cuphead and his pal Mugman, They like to roll the dice. By chance they came upon Devil’s game, and gosh they paid the price.
And now they are fighting for their lives, on a mission fraught with dread,
And if they proceed, but don’t succeed, Well…The Devil will take their heads…
Cuphead is a run-and-gun indie game developed and published by StudioMDHR Entertainment from brothers Jared and Chad Moldenhauer (designer and artist respectively), with the superb soundtrack composed by Kristofer Maddigan.
The game features the adventures of the main character, Cuphead, as he dashes through vivid worlds defeating bosses in order to repay a debt to the devil. As this is a two player game, it also brings forth the second hero, Mugman, into the scene, to assist and revive when needed.
The first thing that caught my attention was the beautiful, stunning visual art and music that made the child inside of me to recall to the old cartoon series of the late 80s early 90s (like Popeye of Elzie Crisler Segar, or Betty Boop of Max Fleischer), even the jazz styling of the soundtrack and the choir that accompanies this classic design is reminiscent of these same cartoons. The design even goes so far as to include stuttering and jumping scanlines, further reinforcing the look and feel by playing off of the nostalgia of using a VHS player back in the day, cementing the design to be truly like those cartoons from yesteryear. The silly, small comments from NPCs and their relation to their presentation (for example, a fish lady doing some fishing) or to the ridiculous forms that the bosses can morph into (airplane boss changing into a moon steampunk machine and dancing twin clouds that sing together) it’s hard not to feel like you were being sucked into an old-cartoon-movie and that you are now taking an active part in it.
Inversely, while the images are cute and often silly, the gameplay is actually very rough and often brutal. Even though you have unlimited lives and can just start or stop whenever the game itself is not a simple walk in the park. Much like Dark Souls, enemies present clear patterns of movement and attacks from the monsters and bosses, but dodging and dealing damage to these enemies will require skill using your limited moveset. In short, you need to know what you are doing and you need to be fast about it. As you progress, you can unlock additional skills and attacks, which can be more useful against particular levels and enemies, adding a layer of customization to tackle the severely difficult task ahead of you. Failing to master these new abilities and enemy movesets will result in many deaths, especially halfway through a boss…which can be a real bummer considering how long bosses fights can be with their multiple forms.
Unfortunately, while co-op is an integral part of Cuphead, attempting to play two player on a PC could be quite frustrating. When I tried to adjust the setting on my PC, some buttons were missing from the setting (like the escape button), and bringing another player into the game slowed my game down a fair amount. Perhaps for consoles on local multiplayer, this might be a bit better of an approach to go when trying to do two players. It’s a real shame because playing co-op is a lot of fun and still manages to not take away from the challenge of playing as one player.
All in all, being an indie title, its clear this title was made with care. I didn’t run into any technical issues aside when trying to play co-op. I was amazed with how quick and fun the game was even though it can be frustrating to players that have trouble with run-and-gun games (like yours truly). I can only hope that in the future there will be some kind of difficulty system in the future to allow greater accessibility simply because the number of deaths you will experience in this game, can be quite frustrating for some players.
Difficulty and technical issues on PC can be a turn off for many, but for those who like to tackle a good challenge will enjoy what this game has to offer. The music, the art, the atmosphere, and the singer are more than enough to make it a worthy addition to your gaming collection.