I have been a huge gamer for a large amount of my 38 years on this planet, and as I pass through generation and generation of consoles I have been finding myself more and more jaded. I saw that companies were just reskinning older games and selling them yearly just to make a buck. The industry actually had me worried that it was losing its creativity and soon the creative and financial bubble would burst again for the genre. Then I heard about Cuphead, a hand drawn masterpiece that mimics cartoons of old to near perfection. I simply could not believe that such an original and well made game was coming to the Xbox One and it was coming with a lot of fanfare. Seems like I wasn’t the only one who felt that mainstream games were getting stale and redundant. It is nice to see that Studio MDHR had some gumption to create and release an amazing title such as this.
What sets Cuphead, and if you have a friend Mugman, on this epic adventure is told in the form of an old pulp comic book. You flip through pages to find out that while living with Elder Kettle, they decided to wander far from home and ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. They end up at The Devil’s Casino where they find themselves on a hot streak, winning roll after roll. Soon the owner makes and appearance and offers them a very special wager. The Devil offers Cuphead the casino if he wins another roll; if he loses both Cuphead and Mugman’s souls are forfeit. Without thinking and only seeing dollar signs Cuphead rolls a snake eyes and seals he and his pal’s fate. They beg the Devil for another option and he gives them one, should they get the souls to all the people who have hidden and run from the Devil, they may be spared. They rush back home and Elder Kettle tells them find all the souls for the Devil in Inkwell Isle so that they have a chance to be free and to save their souls.
The game is boss battle to boss battle with occasional “run and gun” sections that allow you to gather coins. These coins grant you access to better and more powerful shots that Cuphead shoots. You can also buy powerful secondary weapons and health upgrades, which you will need. I upgraded that as soon as I could and some of these bosses wiped the floor with me until I memorized their moves and got into a rhythm. Inkwell Isle has many hidden areas that can also benefit Cuphead on his journey. Scour the world map as much as you can for areas that allow you to interact with and you may find yourself something special or find a secret boss fight. I meandered into a haunted mausoleum by accident and after figuring out how to win, I received an insanely powerful secondary weapon power up. This power up saved me some frustration at the very tail end of a boss fight and helped me claim my second soul in the first world in the game. There are three worlds and the finale for you to jump, shoot and dodge your way through.
For how tough the game is though, the controls do not hamper you at all; they are smooth when placed on the correct buttons and if timed correctly can save your butt many times over. A is jump and when you jump and press Y you can leap over longer jumps. Y also is a quick dodge which you will need to master for certain bosses, especially when they are jumping all over the screen. X is shoot and if you’re like me, you’ll just hold that button down for rapid fire to cause maximum damage as fast as you can. When you are in a bind press B. If you have your playing cards filled up next to your life meter, you will shoot a devastating barrage of ammo at your foe. If you’re bad at this game, you can always try “Simple” mode, but even that puts up a challenge. Play it like it should be played and even though you may die a lot, it is so much more rewarding.
What made me instantly interested in this game was the look of the game. I grew up watching the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons; I’m actually pretty sure I still have the VHS tapes lying around my house somewhere. These visuals really are not seen anymore, now that the majority of cartoons are made on a computer and the hand drawn beauty is lost to us. Studio MDHR decided to bring it back and bring it back in a big way. Everything is painstakingly hand drawn; the details are gorgeous and I never saw a repeated NPC or boss as I played. That is dedication and a love for the art style of the 30’s and 40’s. The music and score is also amazing and feels like it was pulled right off the radio during the middle of The Great Depression. I actually did not start the game right away; I sat and listened to the wonderful Cuphead theme that draws you right into this game before you’ve even had a chance to play it. I read somewhere that there is a soundtrack that I can purchase, I’m going to seek this out because they did a wonderful job with the score as well. For some reason, the music and art style gives me nostalgic feels even though I was born almost 40 years after we celebrated 1940.
This is a title that everyone needs to own! I don’t think I can be any more clear, this game gave us high expectations and knocked them out of the park. If you’re a fan of the old NES Mega Man games, then you will love this shooter. If the classic art style and music is your bag then get the game and enjoy it on “Simple” mode; you won’t experience everything it has to offer, but you can enjoy the atmosphere and tunes. The only couple negatives that I saw were the annoying long load times at points and the crushing difficulty. I don’t think a casual gamer would be able to enjoy this title too much, which is sad. I think this needs to be played by every core/hardcore gamer so that they can learn or appreciate how to make an amazing game with care, determination and love and give the gaming community something they’ve never seen. Cuphead is a masterpiece and I look forward to what Studio MDHR has up their sleeves for us in the future.
- Visuals are simply gorgeous, there is no other way to say it
- The music is a joy to listen to, it feels like it is pulled right out of the 30's
- Controls are very tight and easy to learn
- The weapons upgrade system is a welcome sight when you get to farther bosses
- Game is VERY hard, even while trying to play on "Simple" you can get destroyed
- Unusually long load times