Genre: Shooter, Action, Platformer, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 18/04/19
Price: £16.99 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
Cuphead is a classic run and gun action game heavily focused on boss battles. Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, the visuals and audio are painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era: traditional hand drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds, and original jazz recordings.
Play as Cuphead or Mugman (in single player or local co-op) as you traverse strange worlds, acquire new weapons, learn powerful super moves, and discover hidden secrets while you try to pay your debt back to the devil!
Cuphead is not for the faint-hearted, and I will say from the outset don’t be lured in by its cutesy, charming hand-drawn visuals. It’s tough as nails. When the Nintendo Switch edition launched, it introduced a handful of updates to the game including the ability to play as either Cuphead or Mugman right from the start of your adventure. Set on Inkwell Isles Cuphead follows the story of two brothers; Cuphead and Mugman who make a very unfortunate deal with the Devil. One day while out exploring they decide to play a game of craps in the casino and while on a winning streak the Devil says if Cuphead can roll one more lucky roll, he will give them all the money from the casino. As you can probably guess, Cuphead gets a terrible roll, and to settle his debt to the Devil and not lose his soul he makes an agreement to retrieve all the souls from past customers who have fled the scene.
Once the brothers have retrieved the souls, their debt is repaid. But it’s not quite as straight forward as that with plenty of twists and turns along your journey.
Audio & Visual
You’re in for a treat with Cuphead in terms of the visuals and soundtrack, since the release of the game in 2017 there has been no end of praise and its won awards for its unique art style. Hand-drawn, old school Disney style and a strong influence from cartoons of the 1930’s era it’s a striking resemblance and one that pays off. It can be a tricky path to tread when developers opt for a quirky or offbeat visual style because it has to go hand in hand with the gameplay and suit the entire genre. There’s oodles of charm, and it’s bursting with character from every boss fight right up to the big finale. It’s one of the finest looking games out there. There’s also some great cinematics between visiting the different areas which play out much like a big storybook.
The musical score is full of blues, jazz and big trumpet and horn sounds throughout your time on Inkwell Isles. Then you’ve got what sounds like a barbershop quartet singing your ears off as you boot up the game. Stick some headphones in, and it all feels incredibly authentic.
Gameplay & Replayability
So you’ve heard about the visuals and the music but how does the gameplay hold up. Fortunately very well. But I cannot stress enough how much patience is needed. The various stages on offer here are all incredibly tough and require you to learn patterns and sequences when it comes to fighting the myriad of bosses on offer; this forms the majority of the gameplay. You’ve got your standard platforming abilities being able to jump and dodge but the Devil also granted Cuphead and Mugman the ability to shoot from their fingers. The main bulk of the gameplay is formed of boss battles, every one transforming at certain checkpoints to let you know you’re making progress. In between this, you’ve got your run ‘n’ gun levels. You’re constantly being tested with any number of objects being thrown at you. Ketchup. Hot dogs. Gust clouds. Bullets. You name it, and it’s in there.
Each stage will probably only take a couple of minutes to complete, but it’s learning attack patterns and sequences for each specific point that is important in progressing. If you’re someone who is easily put off by the difficulty of a game, then Cuphead probably isn’t for you. You will die a lot, and it can be frustrating replaying the same parts over and over, but it never feels unfair, which I think is the measure of the perfect balance.
The boss designs never feel stale and are beautifully crafted, and that applies to your standard platforming levels too. At the end of each stage, you’re graded based on things such as successful parries, how much health you have left and collectable coins obtained. Good luck going for the A mark! On top of all that you can also customise your weapon and add charms to help you along the way by purchasing upgrades from Porkrind’s Emporium; health increases, a supercharged special meter and an invisible dash are amongst some of the things on offer.
If you want to aim for all the achievements and the top marks on each stage, then there’s plenty of replayability here, but if you’re more about just finishing a game and reaching the end, then you may find a little less. It depends on how you feel after spending countless hours in constant frustration. I am only half joking on that point. There’s also the addition of playing in local co-op with a friend, but bear in mind you’ll have to pick your friends wisely. Even for the most hardcore of gamers, you’re going to struggle so playing with a complete novice may prove…interesting.
Cuphead is nothing less than a visual treat for your eyes and ears; it encapsulates that Betty Boop style cartoon aesthetic perfectly. With an awesome soundtrack and incredibly creative boss designs, you’ll be hard pushed to find another quite like it. Just be sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for, it’s one hell of a ride and features some of the most (at times) infuriating boss battles ever known to man, but determination and perseverance are key. Once you reach that final battle, you’ll feel all the better for it.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Cuphead for Nintendo Switch here:
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.