How's it going, everybody? One of my highly anticipated games of the year, Cuphead, came out last week. I can honestly say I'm utterly infatuated with this game. The biggest question is, does the game love me back? Check out my review of Studio MDHR's Cuphead.
I'll be quick to answer the question I proposed earlier: Yes. Heck yes, this game loves me back. It's so obvious this game gives back to the player. Cuphead's astonishing art style makes my heart beat with undying love and joy. It's 1930s animation is the biggest sign of giving back. As far as I can remember, I haven't seen a game with this type of art direction in my lifetime. Cuphead beautifully pays homage to the cartoons Max Fleischer (Betty Boop, Popeye) made famous. Every part about the game from its background art to the boss fights looks flawless. We may never see a game that looks like this ever again. Though the beauty of the art doesn't stop at a visual concept. The audio adds more depth to the game’s enjoyment. It matches up perfectly with game's theme. During each loading screen or as I walk through the world, I can imagine a scene of Popeye crushing a can of spinach or old-timey Micky Mouse steering a tugboat. If you're looking for a game to stare at for hours, Cuphead has you covered.
Cuphead is everything I wished it would be, especially after the past couple E3s. The news about the game after each E3 was a bit unpleasant. When the game made the switch over to a platform it seemed to scare some folks off. The word was the game was failing as a platformer. I will admit it scared me, but I never lost faith. I never seemed to lose faith for some reason. Believe me ask my wife or Adam. It was a game I couldn’t stop talking about. Luckily, all the negativity has now been debunked. The game not only works well as a platformer but as primarily a boss fighter as well. Studio MDHR seemed to find the secret sauce to making the game a success.
Instead of making the game with long, exhausting platforming levels ending in curse word filled boss fights, Studio MDHR decided to break those two components up. Doing this makes the game a heck of a lot more fluid. Each level is small and short in length. The developers made sure you weren't going to spend too much time on one level tearing your hair out. Don't get me wrong. You will die…a lot. Though unlike other games of our child past i.e. Contra, you don't have to restart the whole level over again after being killed off by said level's boss. When you die, you do restart the level or boss fight over, but again because it's segmented you won't be throwing the controller against any walls (I hope).
Each boss or level has their own little quirky, yet funny designs to them. One moment you're fighting frog brothers on a river casino boat as they shape-shift into destructive weapons. Then the next you're running 'n’ gunning through a level where deadly acorns are bombing you. The creativity of the levels or bosses doesn't stop there. As the player, you get to come up with fun and creative ways to accomplish your goal. Equipped with different specials or types of "ammo" making sure the bosses or levels don't feel like a chore to conquer. Each time you perish, you learn. You learn how to overcome the different obstacles the level presents. You learn how to eliminate the boss with each dying moment. I love the fact I get to use the knowledge of my demise to turn it around to my advantage.
If I were to have one negative remark about Cuphead, it would certainly have to be the cumbersome control system. The fire and jump button are somewhat close to one another, but it’s the dash button which makes you feel like your fingers are developing early arthritis. It's based on the "Y" button at the top of the controller. I find myself having to use either my middle or ring finger when I need to dash. It's not a comfortable movement to make when holding a controller. Especially, in a game which requires quick decision making and button pressing. On top of the odd button layout, the game's shooting angles aren't up to par. The game only allows you to shoot in eight directions, instead of a 360 angle. As most shooters go this is a different feeling, and unfortunately can lead to your death. The game could use a bit of a modern-day shooting mechanic to it. Other than that, it's hard to find negatives about Cuphead.
All in all, this game is exactly what gamers needed in a year of huge, open world games. Studio MDHR's decision to scale down their game to segmented portions is the key to its success. Each level has its own fun and creative way to beat it. Every time I defeat a boss, I find myself busting out the ole "Tiger Woods Fist Pump" in joy. Yes, each platform level or boss is trying, but the fun never stops.
I'm a little more than halfway through World 2 and I can't stop thinking about the game. There's tons of content in it to make me keep coming back. It's hard to find this much pleasure in a $20 game. Yet, the game keeps giving and giving. So, I'll keep coming back to Cuphead and his wonderful world.