Many games gain attention during their development thanks to reputation of their franchise, or extensive marketing. Yet, Cuphead had none of the above, as it is a debut project of an indie studio, which could afford little to no marketing. It was the internet, specifically the hungry crowds who broke the news and boy, it made some waves on which the title rode all the way to E3 and grasped a huge audience. So, does the merit of the game hold up to the hype?
What is “a Cuphead?”
Cuphead is an amalgamation of a boss rush and the run and gun genre. The core of the game consists of 19 boss battles, which are laid throughout an overworld. In addition, a few run and gun levels can be found on the way. According to the studio, these stages have been added as an afterthought, since the internet crowd was displeased by the monotony of the game. The actual gameplay is very simple – you run, jump and shoot. Occasionally, you fly in a post WWI airplane. The game is quite tough, as there are no checkpoints and no way of replenishing your 3 lives per level, but it does a good job at avoiding the realm of unfairness. Remember when games used to be hard? Cuphead certainly does.
Good ol’ Times
The one thing that is ought to strike you upon entering the game is the art, which deserves its own paragraph. There are simply no games like it. The replication of 1930’s animation is spot on and perfectly synergized with the soundtrack and the gameplay. The attention to detail is consistent throughout the game. No shortcuts were made in the design process; no splash tools, no background assets and wow… The hard work did pay off. The level of creativity is above anything you have ever seen in any game – guaranteed, as every single stage has its (and now bear with me through the “uniques”) unique theme, unique enemies with unique attacks, a unique soundtrack and thus provides a unique experience. The result is intrigue, the motivation to proceed and explore what lies ahead. The game deserves an applause for the atmosphere alone, since I cannot recall a single game in the past decade that even comes close.
Addressing the experience of playing Cuphead is a tough task. The game frustrates you to the exact level needed to achieve maximal satisfaction upon finally succeeding. There is an element of randomization, which prevents the player from learning a sequence of moves – the gameplay is thus not reduced to a memory puzzle. Every stage is thus an exercise of adaptation of the player to the environment. Gameplay relies heavily on reaction times and some decent gaming literacy, which may limit the target audience only to the older, more seasoned gamers. Well, tough… The noobs can write their own reviews if they wish. This game is a masterpiece and I have enjoyed every single second of it, both visually and gameplay-wise.