Cuphead made me shout obscenities at a flower. Its cheerful dragon tempted me to head-butt my tv. And the sweet princess? Oh, you don’t even wish to know. I didn’t admire it till a lot later, however these early maddening hours with Studio MDHR’s run-and-gun platformer had been like a kiln, hardening my abilities and turning me into the most effective damned Cuphead participant that I could possibly be. That trial by hearth is finally probably the most satisfying components of the general expertise, however gamers who simply wish to take pleasure in its distinctive aesthetic are going to get burned.
The hand-drawn animation is mesmerizing, and makes for probably the most visually interesting video games I’ve performed in years. Studio MDHR faithfully recreated almost each side of traditional animation from the ‘20s and ‘30s, from the title playing cards that introduce every stage to the jazzy rating that accompanies the motion. When you’ve got any fondness for that period, you’re in good arms. Going into the sport, I puzzled if there would be sure homages to long-lost strategies, and, with out spoiling among the most satisfying little moments of the sport, the reply is “Yep!” The eye to element is great, and I used to be instantly pulled into its scratchy Technicolor world. However as soon as I obtained there, I used to be in for a shock.
Cuphead might lure you shut just like the seen aroma from a cartoon pie, however its issue is the windowsill slamming shut in your arms. Studio MDHR was impressed not solely by traditional animation, however by robust arcade video games that fed off a gentle food regimen of quarters. The majority of Cuphead is constructed round boss battles, every of which has a number of completely different phases. They are often knocked out in a few minutes, however that assumes you’ve mastered the varied methods every one requires. You’ve got limitless continues, however no checkpoints or shortcuts by means of the encounters. Whenever you fail – and you’ll fail – it’s a must to combat that boss from its opening moments once more. This method walks the razor-thin stability beam between being irritating and rewarding, and it principally succeeds. About half the time I lastly landed the ultimate blow on a boss, I’d cheer. The opposite instances, I’d flip it the fowl with each arms. You’ll be able to play simplified variations of the boss fights, however you received’t get to see most of the recreation’s greatest moments. You additionally have to beat them on the common issue if you wish to combat the final pair of bosses. Belief me, it’s value it.
In comparison with the extraordinary boss encounters, the run-and-gun motion ranges really feel uninspired, stuffed with straightfoward enemy gauntlets and platforming challenges. These sections aren’t almost as fascinating as the remainder of the sport, and embrace a few of Cuphead’s worst moments, reminiscent of a poorly applied gravity-swapping part and some deadly end-of-stage surprises that really feel extra like lively trolling. Sadly, they’re the primary supply of gold cash, which it’s essential to purchase extra weapons and particular skills. Thankfully, these ranges aren’t quite a few, and also you by no means must revisit them when you get all of the cash.
These weapons and talents add a welcome wrinkle to Cuphead. You’ll be able to equip two weapon sorts, one among three final assaults, and a particular allure. At first, I gravitated towards skills that gave me extra well being. Then I obtained higher on the recreation and located that I wasn’t getting hit almost as usually. At that time, I switched to an influence that allow me keep away from harm by dashing, and that modified every little thing. The arsenal is small however numerous, and a part of the enjoyable is discovering a loadout that works greatest for you. On a number of events, once I thought a boss was not possible, I breezed by means of it after choosing the right instruments. Getting good on the parry capacity, which lets you slap away pink projectiles, can also be key.
Once I obtained caught, I enlisted assist by means of native co-op. By bringing alongside a buddy (who performs as Cuphead’s pal, Mugman), you’ll be able to revive your comrade when you handle to parry their ghost earlier than it floats to the highest of the display screen. I assumed this might be overpowered, but it surely comes with a tradeoff: Sharing house with one other character might be distracting, particularly when it’s essential to be careful for delicate tells that the bosses have earlier than attacking. I obtained by means of some difficult levels because of co-op, however I managed to beat the remainder of it solo, so help is not a requirement.
Cuphead is a singular expertise. Studio MDHR knew what it wished to make, then went forward and made it. A troublesome boss-rush recreation primarily based on traditional animation archetypes? It shouldn’t work, however right here we’re. It’s enjoyable to play, and probably whilst satisfying to look at, since you’ll be able to absolutely take up what’s happening display screen. It will have been simple to dial down the general issue (and I wouldn’t have complained), however that wouldn’t have been Cuphead, both. Keep it up, is all I can say. We do not usually get one thing that may make you snicker and grind your enamel in such shut proximity.