Remember back in the day, before so many narrative based games and online play, when you would spend hours memorizing a level so you could finally beat it on your 50th try? Well Microsoft’s newest release might have you tearing out your hair in frustration just like the good old days.
Cuphead is a run and gun platform game by independent publisher StudioMDHR Entertainment. Utilizing game mechanics that harken back to Megaman and a visual style reminiscent of 1930’s Disney and an uptempo jazz score, this very delayed release seems to find a balance between surrealism and dark cartoon humor of the past.
Cuphead opens on a classic storybook with a great Acme company Easter egg, the tale explains how the two anthropomorphic cup heroes bet away their souls in a casino owned by the devil. Now to save themselves, they must do the devil’s bidding and track down other souls he is owed until payment is met. This is done by defeating wild and crazy bosses scattered across the world of Cuphead that range from a giant carrot to a duo of boxing frogs.
The tutorial shows just how inspired and simple Cuphead is. Here you will have free rein to practice the controls in an artist’s sketch book. The controls themselves are amazingly easy to learn with crouch, jump, dash, shoot, and aim being your only options, however I would highly recommend remapping the controls as there are actions you will need to do a lot at the same time that end up clunky being both on the AXYB buttons. Just personal preference but many players I spoke with are doing the same.
The countless times hitting the retry button will give you plenty of time to take in the unique colorful cast of characters and pastel scrolling landscapes as you memorize the pattern in which projectiles are fired at you. The variety of the levels and bosses is fantastic. Some require you to fly around like an old side scrolling shooter game, others will have you run and gun like Contra with directional firing. Players will be able to purchase new abilities and customize their play style, but some, like Smoke Bomb, are a must. No matter how you play it though, Cuphead is one of the most challenging games I have ever played.
Overall Cuphead is a wonderfully nostalgic and stylized game proving that classic concepts still work in the modern gaming atmosphere. With a soundtrack that you will wish you could buy on iTunes, alas for now we will just have to settle for “The Cuphead Rap” by Daddyphatsnaps, but they will get stuck in your head for hours after turning off the game. With its quirky design and challenging gameplay, players will be putting up new high scores in Cuphead for years to come.
Cuphead is available now and is a Microsoft exclusive and as such is only available on Xbox One and Windows for $19.99.