You might have heard one thing more than others about Cuphead, and that’s how relentlessly hard it is – and it’s true. Cuphead is a side-scrolling action shooter with extremely tough and challenging boss battles that will make you want to scream with anger and joy at the same time.
Learning some patterns and performing split-second actions that ultimately help you to defeat a boss is so rewarding it feels wrong, but boss battles are only half of Cuphead’s story. The other half is how beautiful it looks, and that’s where we will start.
The 1930s cartoonish look and sound are so amazing. The watercolor backgrounds and its quirky hand-drawn look have endless charm. This game pops with color and vibrancy in every part of it and goes a long way to keep you interested and engaged throughout.
The art style is so creative and the in-game animations are like nothing you’ve seen in a video game before. There is so much variety in its character and setting it’s hard to keep up sometimes. The look here is clearly inspired by popular characters like Betty Boop, but the somewhat hilarious and trippy transformations will surprise you at every step.
If the animations alone impress you as much as they have me, then the rest of the game does nothing but pull you in further. Technically, the game is solid and responsive, everything you’d expect from a game in 2017.
Besides the boss battles, Cuphead offers other downtime levels, like the Run N Gun levels where players earn coins and spend them on gaining buffs and abilities. These are side-scrolling platform levels akin to the Contra games. Think of them like breathers from the otherwise hectic boss fights. Unfortunately, they can feel a little lackluster at times, following the chaos you have previously endured.
There’s also a mix of different weapons variants to choose from. I say weapons loosely as bullets are shot from your fingers in Cuphead. There are six in all; Spread shots, Charge blasts and boomerang shots are just some of the different types on offer. You also have use of a secondary shot, kind of like a super move. This is tied to a meter that charges over time. You can spend charges to perform your secondary or wait till it’s full to unleash the real super move.
A slight inconvenience is that when your meter is full, your only option is to unleash your special and you’re unable to spend charges individually. This isn’t always desired and it would have been nice to have to option.
Figuring out which weapons are the best or suit your play style is part of the fun here The problem is there is no real way to tell which is more powerful and in all honesty, I don’t think there’s much difference besides how the bullets spread.
Boss fights are where Cuphead really shines and these stressful encounters happen in stages where the boss transitions as you cause more and more damage. Bosses will change shape and position and have multiple attacks and projectiles to throw at you.
Expected the unexpected seems to be the theme in Cuphead’s boss battles as you try and fight your way through a boss after multiple attempts, and believe me you will have multiple attempts.
Its uncompromising in its difficulty and with no checkpoints, no health regeneration it can leave you to feel a little cheated at times. The randomly generate projectiles can make you feel like you surpassed a level with relative ease or on the other hand makes progressing genuinely impossible. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often but it’s unfortunate that some levels can feel like luck of the draw plays as part. The good thing is that boss battles reload very quickly so trial and error are your own pace help to calm further frustration.
There are so much variety and ingenious use of in-game mechanics and controls that Cuphead genuinely has some of the best boss battles ever. Now there is some frustration with the difficulty at times, but I’m pleased to say that there is no real spike throughout the game. It’s a steady and challenging progression that makes your brace for the task ahead.
It would be nice to see your progress during a boss battle as the only way to see how close you were to defeating it is to die. Fatigue can be a real issue in some boss battles and knowing you’re just a stone’s throw away from finishing the level could give players that extra push they need to concentrate and progress.
Now you can fight bosses on an easier mode, but by doing this you lock the final boss battle until every level is completed on regular mode. My advice, just stick to regular are it’s hard no matter what.
Cuphead himself is a well-crafted character and is mechanically solid. He’s both responsive and feels genuinely powerful. The endless shots with no reloads are a godsend in defeating this game and any mistake make feels like your fault, not his.
Co-Op is where I had the most fun with Cuphead. At times it can make the game more difficult as there can be too much carnage on screen, but it’s nice to not be the only one struggling your way through.
This has been a game long in the making and for once, the initial hype it gained has paid off as it is truly a platforming masterpiece – something I bet most of us haven’t said in a very long time.
Not only is it beautiful to look at, but also the soundtrack compliments it perfectly. The love the developers clearly had for the era has been presented with such attention to detail it’s hard not to sit back and admire them for it. This is a game where every small victory feels like the end of a long war.
Cuphead is one of the most unique games I have played in a long time. It made me laugh at time and swear at others, but through all the frustration I kept going. At points, I felt like I hated the game because it hated me. Ultimately when all was said and done, I came away from this game loving it.