‘Cuphead’ will dazzle your eyes and melt your brain


Cuphead fights a monstrous roller-coaster that has come to life. Image from steam.com

“Cuphead” looks like a Disney cartoon from the ’30s and plays like a game from the ’80s, but in a good way. Games with this level of polish in gameplay and visuals rarely come out these days, and “Cuphead” blends all of its elements in an almost perfect way.

The story of “Cuphead” begins with Cuphead making a deal with the devil. Cuphead loses the bet and his soul and must go on a journey to collect contracts from others who have made similar deals with the devil in order to get his soul back. The story is more of a vehicle to get Cuphead from place to place, but it fits the style and tone of the game very well.

“Cuphead” is one of best-looking games that I’ve ever played. The art style is modeled after cartoons from the early 19th Century and creates an aesthetic that is vibrant and charming. The character designs and animations are executed perfectly. The way the bosses move and morph, the expressions on the faces of the characters and the visual effects give this game an unparalleled level of personality.

All that charm and style is contrasted by the unforgiving difficulty. The main draw of “Cuphead’s” gameplay is the boss battles. These bosses, while pretty to look at, are tough as nails and almost always took me multiple attempts to beat. The key is to learn their attack patterns and find a way to counter them. It’s all about trial and error, as well as having fast reflexes.

There were plenty of times when the difficulty of this game became discouraging. Even though it seemed like some bosses were just too hard at times, it never felt like the fights were unfair. I constantly felt the urge to go back over and over again to finally defeat a boss that was giving me trouble. The challenge is huge, but not insurmountable, and beating a boss that took me dozens of tries to figure out was always satisfying.

The closest thing I can think of to compare “Cuphead’s” gameplay to would be a mix of “Mega Man” and “Metal Slug” — challenging gameplay with some platforming added in. Unlike those games, however, “Cuphead” has some levels that only consist of a boss battle. Given the game’s unique art style, it seems like a missed opportunity that there aren’t themed levels for certain bosses.

The amount of the time, passion and talent that it took to make “Cuphead” is apparent as soon as you start playing. There isn’t another game on the market that has the same style as this. It’s a shame that the game is so focused on challenging boss battles that it neglects the concept having platforming stages that lead up to the big fights. That would have gone a long way in making the game feel more fleshed out as a whole. As great as this game is, it’s the minor flaws adding up that keep it from being five stars.

[Final Score: 4/5]

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.

Glossary: Platforming/Platformer: Games that involve jumping from platform to platform in order to advance. The most famous example would be “Mario” games.