Platforms: Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
ESRB rating: E 10 Plus (mild cartoon violence and alcohol and tobacco references)
"Cuphead" is a run-and-gun type of game that glows with perfect 1930s animation. It's a game packed with high amounts of difficulty, but it will keep you interested throughout the lengthy campaign.
It’s all about the animation
As soon as you turn the game on, you are greeted by a 1930s classic cartoon animation style and an old-fashioned barbershop quartet soundtrack. The quartet begins singing about who Cuphead is, and your adventure takes off from there.
"Cuphead" was produced by StudioMDHR. It has been a hotly anticipated game for a couple years now ever since it was announced at E3 2014. It promised hand-drawn 1930s Max Fleischer-type animation, who was the creator of the Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons. It follows the same type of animation from Walt Disney’s "Steamboat Willie."
This was something that’s never been done before in the video game industry, and it seemed developers achieved what they were looking for and garnered quite the success story from it. Each frame is hand-drawn, and the detail and outcome look absolutely stunning.
How to play
The game, in its most simplistic detail, is a run-n-gun type of game. The majority of the game is dealing with fixed screen boss battles that run anywhere from 90 seconds to three minutes. The hero uses a finger gun (never an actual gun) animation to fire projectiles at his enemies. He also has a “super ability,” which changes depending on which one you purchase with coins you gain on your adventure.
The main driver of the game is its unforgiving difficulty. Projectiles will be thrown at you in random patterns, and it’s your job to duck, dodge and weave all while continuing your assault on your enemies.
You normally only have three hearts of life, so if you get hit three times, you must start the engagement over. There are no checkpoints here.
There is a “simple” game difficulty you can play, too. The bosses have significantly lower health, but you won’t fight all the different incarnations of the boss you normally would, which cuts the content away and kind of dilutes the game a bit, considering a large appeal of the game is in its animation.
You need to play "Cuphead" on a controller for the best experience because you can shoot in eight different directions with a variety of projectiles at your disposal. You can also change between two types of projectiles while in-game and on the fly.
There are over 26 bosses. That may seem like a lot, but you actually have to run through an entire level of random enemies to get to the boss on a few occasions. You have the option of running the game with a friend, a player two, if you will. Just give him or her a controller and he or she will be able to help you out.
The soundtrack is true to the times
The musical soundtrack, even down to the vinyl record scratches in the songs, is very authentic to the time period.
The barbershop quartet that sings about our little protagonist is a joy during most of the game. They tell our hero’s story in song as he continues on in his adventures, and it’s one of the best aspects of the game. The sound effects throughout the game also sound very authentic. They sound like they were actually made in the 1930s with the sound props and microphones of the era.
What parents need to know
"Cuphead" is rated E (10+ for everyone). It’s defined by the ESRB with mild cartoon violence and alcohol and tobacco references.
Most of the game revolves around you collecting soul contracts for the devil because you lost your soul betting in the devil’s Casino. At the end, you have the choice of saving everyone's soul after defeating the devil character or continuing to be his minion. For the most part, it’s pretty safe for kids 10 and over, but parents might want to watch out for little kids playing the game.
A great game for a great price
At $20, the game is a really great buy. Depending on how good you are at these types of games, you’ll get at least 12–15 hours of playtime on the normal setting. After beating it on normal mode, you get the chance to play NewGame+ mode, which is harder and could set you back the same amount of time as a normal walk-through.
"Cuphead" is available on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Steam platforms. Buying it digitally through the Microsoft Online Store will net you cross-platform playability on your Xbox One and your Windows 10 computer using the same GamerTag.
When you play "Cuphead" you might notice you had as much fun looking at it as you had playing it, something most games now either go against or focus on.
Here’s hoping that more indie game studios will take risks and produce extremely different gems like this to diversify the gaming landscape a bit because it has certainly been refreshing, and we could use a lot more.