Cuphead – Review
Follow Genre: Run and gun
Developer: StudioMDHR Entertainment
Publisher: StudioMDHR Entertainment
Platform: PC, Xbox One
Tested on: Xbox One

Cuphead – Review

Site Score
9.2
Good: Animations, Atmosphere, Boss battles, Pretty much everything
Bad: Forcing players to play on the normal difficulty
User Score
8.7
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.7/10 (3 votes cast)

Cuphead might not immediately sound like the most attractive name, and perhaps even a bit odd to name the protagonist of a game. But what if his head was simply a cup and this would be the easiest name to call him by? Well, we had Cuphead on our radar for quite some time, and not because of the somewhat lackluster name, but mainly because of the art style the game was aiming for. This homage to cartoons of the fifties, albeit in color, simply stole our hearts the moment we laid eyes upon the initial gameplay footage clips, and we were happy to have the chance to dive into this psychedelic adventure. We don’t know what the developers were taking when they designed this game, but we’ll have some too if we can come up with a masterpiece such as this.

Cuphead

Story

Cuphead, and his buddy Mugman, love to place a good bet now and then, thus they can often be found in the casino throwing the dice. While on a winning streak, Cupman attracts the attention of the owner of the casino, which is none other than the devil himself. Sneaky Lucifer makes the boys a deal, that if they win the next throw, they’ll be rich beyond their wildest dreams, if not, their souls will be the devil’s new plaything. Of course, Cuphead, blinded by greed, throws without thinking things through and his luck falters, making both Cuphead and Mugman the devil’s little bitches. Pleading for their souls, the devil comes up with a new deal, namely they have to collect all the money that is owed to the devil, which will surely put them at risk. Nonetheless, the boys take the offer and they start their incredible journey.

Overall the story is simple, yet likeable, which works perfectly for a short and sweet game such as this. The story develops a little over time, whilst you go from one boss battle to another, but never into something truly groundbreaking.

Cuphead 1

Graphics

If you were looking for something old school that pays a proper homage to cartoons of the fifties, albeit in color, then you’ll have to look no further. In Cuphead it’s quite hard to see where the game starts and the beautiful animations end, as they are one perfect whole, that, with each new level amazes you once again. The animations look a bit dated, in the sense that they are just as wacky as these aforementioned ancient cartoons, and they also share the same psychedelic ideas and executions as the cartoons did back in those days. No idea seems to be too farfetched, and everything goes, and still it sticks together like glue forming something truly admirable.

The characters are well designed and they, as mentioned above, look like the characters from older cartoons, where every topic was still accessible, where demons were still properly depicted and where cartoons weren’t always completely child friendly. The latter is clear with all that is going on, as the creatures and main characters look fairly cute but the things the bosses do are quite messed up. Don’t sell this game short because of its graphical prowess, as it’s tough as nails.

Cuphead 2

Sound

Just like Cuphead’s graphical style, the soundtrack has an old school vibe to it, that makes the pieces all fall into place. The music is catchy, you’ll know some tunes by heart after a while, due to your many retry attempts, but it will never get bothersome, even more; you’ll still like and love the tunes when they are blasting through your next ‘defeat’ screen.

There is no real voice acting present, safe for a small announcement at the beginning and the end of a battle, and a very clear ‘thank you’, when you revive a fallen comrade when playing in the co-op mode. Although it would have been nice to have some old school voice acting, the game is pretty much perfect as it is now.

Gameplay

Cuphead classifies itself as a ‘Run and Gun’ game, which pretty much translates into an old school arcade feeling, as the game is all about boss fights ,with the occasional ‘normal’ platforming level thrown in-between. The latter only serves as a means to earn some cash, thus making it all about the boss battles. As you were forced to collect the outstanding amounts of cash from the Devil’s debtors, you’ll have to beat all of these shady figures, which tend to transform into monsters the moment you ask them to hand in the moolah.

Cuphead 3

The game is pretty straightforward. You can dash, parry pink/purple objects by tapping the right button at the right time, shoot, and use some special moves. Everything works as a normal arcade platformer, which means you’ll get the controls down after a few moments. Mastering them however, to properly time dodges, parries, and aiming proves to be a different task altogether. Nonetheless, as  you progress through the game, you’ll come across ‘normal’ levels, which don’t solely revolve around a boss battle, in which you can collect five golden coins, which you can then use to unlock new weapons, new specials, new passive upgrades and so on. At each time you’ll be able to equip a passive, two weapons and of course a super move of your choice. You can switch these items every battle if you like, allowing you to tackle each boss differently. The levels in which you play as a small airplane however have predetermined skills and presets.

There’s only one mishap in the otherwise perfect picture Cuphead leaves us with. You can only get to the true ending of the game, if you complete all the contracts on the normal difficulty. Those seeking a slightly more relaxed, but still tough as hell, experience will be forced to complete the game on this standard difficulty if they want to see the end of the game. While this isn’t a very big issue, it makes it hard for those with a low amount of time or those who simply aren’t all that good in games such as this.

Cuphead 4

Conclusion

Cuphead is nothing shy of a masterpiece, where everything falls into place as it should. While the cute appearance of the game, and its high difficulty level might be something that lures in the wrong crowd, it’s easily forgiven when you get enamored by the art style, the catchy music and the small victories you achieve after a bit of practice. This game is one of those gems we’ve been looking for for quite some time, where an old school genre gets accompanied by all the right elements in order to create something new, unforgiving, but extremely likeable.

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Rating: 8.7/10 (3 votes cast)
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Cuphead - Review, 8.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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