Run-and-gun platform game “Cuphead” has had high expectations since it was revealed all the way back at E3 in 2014. The unique art style drew the attention from gamers around the world and put a lot of pressure on a small indie development team.
However, more than three years later, “Cuphead” is here and it is a masterpiece.
For those uninformed, “Cuphead” is developed by StudioMDHR with a 1920s cartoon art style, resembling classic Mickey Mouse animations. It’s out for Windows and Xbox One.
In the game, Cuphead and his brother Mugman lose their souls to the Devil in a game of craps. The Devil, however, says he may pardon the brothers if they can track down other lost souls. From there, Cuphead and Mugman must defeat various enemies across Inkwell Isle in order to regain their freedom.
“Cuphead” is the most gorgeous game I have ever played, period.
Visually, it is perfection. Each frame is as breathtaking as the last, all of them worthy of being hung on a wall.
The character design specifically is what stands out. Cuphead himself is a great mascot for the game, along with his brother. All the bosses are just as iconic. Each boss has multiple stages and all are pleasing to the eye. Bosses such as The Root Pack, Beppi the Clown, Cala Maria and the Devil himself are all unique and memorable.
The visuals are just so emblematic of the time they are trying to capture. The backgrounds, characters and bosses all feel authentic. Somehow I actually feel like “Cuphead” is a product of the time that was airing right next to shows like “Tom and Jerry” and “Popeye.”
However, this gorgeous visual design would have all been for naught if it weren’t paired with the accompanying score. Piano melodies are contrasted by classical jazz in order to create a distinctive and varied score. It represents the time so well and does a fantastic job of embedding you in this cartoon world.
Gameplay-wise, “Cuphead” is nothing revolutionary. It has traditional run-and-gun gameplay, most similar to classics like Mega Man, but its difficulty is its biggest asset.
The mechanics themselves are all smooth. Moves like the jump, the dash and the counter are all tools to master to be a “Cuphead” pro. Learning all the tricks, such as what guns to use, is a process, but will make you feel like you’re progressing.
The gameplay is fluid, but it wouldn’t be nearly as compelling if it weren’t for the difficulty. “Cuphead” can be very challenging at times and I can see people getting frustrated at it, but it makes the game much more interesting. All the bosses are difficult in their own ways and it takes persistence at times in order to progress, but the reward is worth it. Finishing the game, which took me about 11 hours, felt like a major accomplishment. Also, after you beat the game, Expert mode is unlocked and presents a whole new challenge.
Everything in this game is a test, yet a fair one, and pounding out boss after boss is as euphoric as it gets.
Plus the chaos is even more fun with a partner. When Mugman joins Cuphead on his adventure to take down the devil, it makes the battles even more difficult and rewarding.
Every intricate detail in “Cuphead” is given thought to create a truly one-of-a-kind package. You can see the love and passion bleeding in the screen.
StudioMDHR has made a punishing yet delightful experience in the form of “Cuphead.” The gorgeous aesthetic is paired with incredible music, character design and rigorous retro run-and-gun gameplay to create one of the most unusual gaming experiences of this decade.