The Collector Store

“Cuphead” Review

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By Riley Kampff

The anticipation for the release of “Cuphead” has been drawn out since 2014’s E3, the premier trade event for games. Gamers instantly fell in love with the 1930s cartoon-style animation and bright aesthetics the game held. Nearly three years later, the run-and-gun platformer finally made its premiere on Xbox One and Microsoft Windows on Sept. 29. The wait has been well worth it. “Cuphead” has crossed a threshold for indie games in a magnificent way.

The premise of the game is to retrieve the souls of Cuphead and his brother Mugman. After making a literal deal with the devil from an intense night of gambling, the two porcelain beverage holders gamble away their souls. The Devil compromises by forcing the brothers to collect the souls of those who are still in debt to the Devil and his corrupted casino.

The game can either be played with one or two players, but with adding another player, the difficulty of the enemies slightly increases. There are also abilities called “charms” that players can either buy or earn. Charms can include deadly attacks or abilities to enhance someone’s health and special power moves. The only way to use special power moves is to increase its bar. This can be done by using the parry move, where players double jump on neon pink obstacles that power themselves up. As far as enemies, each character fight has a specific set of moves that become a pattern, and therefore, with each failure, the player has a better understanding of the way they attack.

Though the happy-go-lucky vibe is endearing, the interactive cartoon is extremely deceiving. Of course, the first few enemies are easy enough to beat either once or twice, but the difficulty skyrockets further in the journey. The player only has three hit points (unless they have an extra hit point charm), but each enemy has at least three evolutions it takes on throughout battle, so battles can be pretty long depending on the amount of phase changes. There are times when the battle is so toilsome that one can feel frustrated. Even with its level of tediousness, “Cuphead’s” purpose is to challenge the player. If it was an easy game, then it wouldn’t receive as much hype because it would look like any other simple side-scroller.

What makes the game stand out the most, though, is the crazy 1930s style that pops out of the screen. The art for the game came from the inspiration of Max Fleischer from Fleischer Studios, the creator of Betty Boop and Felix the Cat. Every part of the game’s animation was hand drawn frame-by-frame and backgrounds were painted in watercolor. While ‘30s cartoons were drawn in 24FPS (frames per second), the game was drawn for 60FPS to give game play a smoother feel and look. There were also jazz musicians hired for the game’s soundtrack, so each boss battle has its own individual theme.

“Cuphead” is a genuinely good-hearted game, even with the title “The ‘Dark Souls’ of run and guns” given by people on the Internet. The whole game is what keeps people playing, despite the frustration of the challenging battles. The authenticity and the work put into this project sets itself apart from most games, and it’s really a flood of genuine creativity and effort.