[Review] Cuphead


REVIEW # 00000000 01010100

Well, Cuphead and his pal Mugman,
They like to roll the dice.
By chance they came ‘pon devil’s game,
and gosh they paid the price (paid the price!)
And now they’re fighting for their lives,
on a mission fraught with dread.
and if they proceed, but don’t succeed,
Weeell the devil will take their heads!

My heart says…

Since I first heard of Cuphead I started wondering why I didn’t own a good PC or why I still didn’t owned an Xbox One. It was one of those games that made you want to buy a console just to play it. For a yer, since it was first released in September 29th, 2017 till last December I had this feeling that I was losing a wonderful game just because I didn’t have the platform to play it onto. But then I’ve received an Xbox One and when I saw the game with a 25% discount on the Microsoft Store I couldn’t say no. Since the game is meant to be played in co-op (there’s also a single player mode, of course, but where’s the fun if you can’t share the adventure with someone else???) I immediately hired my gf who happily joined me, kept by the appeal of the game and we started playing this great adventure that was even better then I thought. A game that will surely keep in my heart forever!

Splash screen

In pure 20s and 30s cartoon style, the game opens with the intro tune and the animation of the two main characters. The images looks like they were taken from an old film so they show all the imperfections and the scratches and marks that are the norm on the acetate.

Graphics

Cuphead visual make you drool. Really, if you love a modern game retro inspired, and if you are a lover of the old cartoons (like I am, since I’m a proud possessor of the full collection of the Warner Bros. and Merrie Melodies cartoons ever released). I mean there’s nothing to say, just look at them!

Narrative

The intro tune clearly explains the plot of the game. However a further explaination comes from the “comic strip” at the very beginning of the game when Cuphead and Mugman talk with their uncle Kettle. They went to the Devil’s casino to play dice and as they start to win, they become greedy with the result that they lost everything they won and became debtors. The Devil decides to send them in four different islands inhabited by other debtors to take their souls and so the adventure of Cuphead and Mugman begins. This time for God sake there’s no damsel in peril: actually if you stop a moment to think you spend all the game working for the Devil, taking the sould of the debtors that (almost surely) got cheated by the Devil.

You’re like an evil hero.

Gameplay

Mind that all of the bosses have been defeated with the regular difficulty – no easy allowed. I’ve always pretended to play at the regular difficulty and I’ve never tried the easy mode. Since we’ve played in two hence with more opportunity to damage the boss, the regular setting was a fair trade off. Defeating a boss gets (usually) harder as you proceed with the game, but even your skills tend to increase as you keep playing with the result that the most difficult bosses are the ones you encounter in the middle of the game: at the beginning you’re still a newbie but the bosses are easy so you can defeat them with no particular difficulty; in the end the bosses are hard but by that time you’ve mastered the game so the fight is rather fair, but in the middle of the game the difficulty of the game increases faster than your skills so the boss becomes tremendous (Baroness Von Bon Bon anyone?).

There’s a diverse set of weapons you can use but playing in two we’ve discovered that the best pair is composed by Spread and Chaser: the first has a short range but is very powerful, while the second is a bit weak but alwasy hit the target and it’s good when you have a lot of things on the screen because it can clear it while the other player shoots the boss with the Spread. Mandatory, of course, buying the health potion as soon as you can since it gives you a fundamental additional HP.

The Root Pack

Being the first boss, or better trio of bosses, it’s quite easy to defeat. The potato just spits at you but you can avoid it by just jumping. The onion can hurt you with just a few drops of tears coming from above that are easy to dodge and the carrot, the hardest among the three can throw you some small carrots and try to hurt you with its psychic ray: just wait until he fires and then move left or right to avoid it.

Goopy Le Grande

It appears like a jelly gum that bouces around the screen. Since all of the jumps have the same height and the same lenght is quite easy to avoid him. In his second form he becomes bigger and the jumps are different making harder to guess where he will land. The final form instead is quite easy since it’s clear when he’s falling and you can easy dodge him with an evasion manouvre.

Hilda Berg

She’s been the first tough boss of out adventure. Probably playing alone against her would be quite hard because a helping hand from a second played is mandatory here. She can transorm into different constellations with different – and deadly – effects. The last form is difficult to handle because there’s a small storm of stars and the UFOs that shoot lasers at you. If you look the video online it seems easy to defeat Hilda but when you’re sweating on the controller, trust me is not that easy…

Ribby & Croaks

The tough part of this fight is the last one but just because we didn’t know what to do. We’ve tried so many times to shoot at the boss with no effect unless we figured out we had to parry the slot machine. The first part is very easy (you just need to duck and shoot). In the second form you need to be careful and try to be much accurate as possible because one frog throws you some spheres while the other blows an intense wind at you. Luckily enough the spheres follow a recognizable pattern – once they bounce, once they’re thrown into air.

Cagney Carnation

This horrible pseudo-sunflower it’s a medium-to hard boss to defeat because the throws stuff at you and plus he has also his roots that emerge from the ground and get you from below. An helping hand is needed especially in the first part of the fight, since he can shoot seeds from which emerge some piranha plants and small pumpkins that throw seeds back at you.

Djimmi the Great

Not the easiest boss of the second island. Even in its first form in case he decides to open the chest with useless objects to throw at you, you’ll most likely lose some lives. In its final form he can be deadly because the combination of laser coming out from the pyramids and psychic ray coming at you leave you not enough room to move.

Baroness von Bon Bon

For sure she’s the toughest boss not only of the second island but the toughest among the first ten. We’ve tried I think a thousand times to kill her and I’ve almost thrown away my controller for the frustration. Her last transformation is very difficult to manage because you are forced in the left part of the screen and you have to deal with the rolling head of the Baroness that hunts you, with a giant rolling candy and with the fact that the monster cake moves towards you and the screen keep scrolling left. When I’ve defeated her I shouted a “vaffanc**o tr**a!” (“fu*k you b!tch!”) that probably alarmed all of my condo.

Beppi the Clown

A rather easy boss for me, a tough one for my gf who kept dying at the beginning of the second form of the clown. And that means that I had to do all by myself. If you’re lucky enough to time your attack to Beppi while the little train is not on your way you’ll arrive straight to the end and the final form is all but hard – it took me only three attempts to defeat him.

Wally Warbles

I cannot hate Wally. He’s a poor bird and when I’ve defeated him I wasn’t so mad at him like I’ve benn with other bosses. The tough part is the second form when he shoots all of his feathers towars you. The first times we’ve been to this point we thought we could have never defeat him but if you pay attention there’s an easy pattern with which the feathers comes at you. The last for is not so tough (I’ve tried only 4-5 times) and with some bombs you’ll defeat the poor featherless Wally

Grim Matchstick

The first time we’ve encoutered this boss I’ve sais “Meh…it will be easy”. Nothing in the world is more false than this sentence. Even though the first part of the fight is rather easy and with a bit of skill you can complete it still untouched the second form of the dragon it’s a real pain in the ass with those fuxxing flames jumping around and draining all your lives. It took us a llllllot of attempts but when we finally beat him we knew that the hard part was coming (but instead…)

Captain Brineybeard

After we’ve entered in the third island this was the first boss we’ve fought. We thought it was hard but in 15-20 minutes we’ve defeated him. The first part is pretty predictable and pose no threat while the second form with the ship spitting cannonball can be a bit more difficult since sometimes you have to dodge three different attacks at the same time. The last form is rather easy and after 4-5 times I’ve negotiated with it I’ve finally beat it. Easy.

Rumor Honeybottoms

The first times I’ve faced this bee I though I would nevere beat it. My gf fest incredibly comfortable against her but I really couldn’t figure out where to stand and when to jump, dodge or run. It took us several days of trials and errors  before reaching the last form. The first one if you know where to stand (the pattern is almosta identical everytime) can become easy, while the second form can be a bit of a problem: not only when she shoots the oranges (those parry objects to me looked like a peeled orange) but mainly when he shoot the triforce (again, my personal impression of that death triangle). If the platforms help you the third form, when she shoots bullet can be quite easy but the last form due to the position the boss is standing (very low on the screen) makes difficult to hit her with enough power (some bombs will be perfect in this stage). Luckily enough my gf had the right weapon (the tele-guided attack that always strikes) and this is the first boss she’s defeated (fun fact: yes, I’ve defeated all of the previous bosses alone 😦 )

Cala Maria

It looks like island three bosses are not that difficult. Maybe it’s only because we play in two or because we’ve become experts, I don’t know. Cala Maria took us more than the we thought but only because her medusa form (when she can turn you to stone when she watches you) is not so easy to deal with. But the hardest part is probable when she spits three pirate ghosts that have the ability to understand where you’re moving: the key is sto stand together and quickly evade on the opposite side of the screen just before they start to hunt you (but this is difficult when that stupid sea horse spits you a powerful water jet). Try to keep your special attack for the last form because you won’t stay so long in that narrow space with the possibility to be petrified…

Sally Stageplay

It was credited as one of the easiest bosses of the game and in fact in only 10 minutes we’ve dealt with her. The pattern of her attacks is predictable even though sometimes you’ end un in an unlucky place and there’s nothing you can do but lose one or two HP. Her final form is very easy and at the second attempt I’ve defeated her.

Werner Werman

Another boss that was described as easy and that was even easier than we thought. Actually he’s been the first boss in the whole game we’ve defeated together. It took us only 6-7 attempts in total to defeat him. The hasdest part is probably at the beginning when you have to parry at the right time on the jumping platform to avois Werner. In his second form, the attacks are very easy to dodge and the final form against Tom the cat (it’s a shameless copy-paste of Hanna & Barbera cartoon) has almost no attacks: just his paw and two ghosts that shoots you balls you can even parry. Considering we are in third island, this is the easiest bos of the game.

Phantom Express

The triumph of the parry. There are valves, bricks and ghosts you can parry in this fight and all of them are damn important to reach the final form of the express (a mechanic horse). Probably because we were playing in co-op, this boss was easier than we thought (that night we’ve defeated five bosses in 3 hours). My gf weapon (the tele-guided attack) was extremely useful because destroyed all of the eyes the ghost was shooting towards us and the bricks throwing Jack-o-Lantern giving me the possibility to aim directly to the boss. In his second form just put the cart in the center, you can always avoid the sheleton hands, while the third form has a very predictable attack pattern. The final form is very easy and you only need to parry the tail of the horse and shoot him. Very easy.

Dr. Kahl’s Robot

We both feared this fight. Everywhere we’ve read online, this was cited as the most difficult boss of the game. And in fact the first times we’ve tried we’ve been horribly killed before the middle of the first stage. We thought that we would have never seen the end of the game because of him so we went to bed quite heartbroken. The evening after we’ve tried it again, always thinking that it was only a waste of time but then slowly we understood the pattern of the attacks and what we had to do: we did a wonderful teamwork: she dealt with the antenna while I was “shutting off” the laser beam and smashing the belly of the robot then we both destroyed his heart. This was the hard part because of those fucking bombs, the robotic arm and other deadly weapons. The middle stage is the easiest part and my advice is to use bombs to defeat robot’s head. And then there was the final part. It was described as a bullet hell with an endless streams of bullet and electrified rods to dodge leaving only a small portion of the screen as a “safe zone”. And this is the part in which my experience with the shmups produced their results: yes, that stage is like a bullet hell and there’s the electrified panel that forces you in a small portion of the screen, but you can use the little time betwen an attack and the other to unsleash your special. I’ve come the the final stage only three times and the third was the right one. In the end it took us 30-40 minutes to defeat him so, again, probably because we’ve played in two, this boss wasn’t hard as we thought.

King Dice

Well, we’ve been extremely lucky with him. The difficulty here is not (only) King Dice being tough, but having to negotiate with the mini-bosses before him. And everytime you fight a new one you’ll have the same HP you had left from the previous battle, so you have to be extremely cautious to succeed in this long run. Luckily enough the bosses are diveded in three “tiers” each one composed by three bosses. The second most important thing is learning to choose the right number from the dice (with a couple of attempts will become rather easy) and, despite having or not a power-up (the possibility to gain an extra HP) my advise is to pick #3 (Mr. Wheezy) #6 (Phear Lap) and #8 (Mangosteen, definitely the easiest of them all); stay away from #1 (Tipsy Troop), #5 (Hopus Pocus) and #9 (Mr. Chimes) they’re a real pain in the ass! After all of these mini-bosses you’ll fight against King Dice and what you have to do is basically parry all of the cards he throws at you and then shoot at him. The funny fact is that when we fought King Dice the game kinda froze and he wasn’t able to throw cards at us, so we could kill him with no hazards 😀

The Devil

This is the final boss of the game and it will surely make you sweat, but due to the fact that by the time you face him you should be good enough at the game, the final fight is challenging but not impossible. The hardest part is the first, in which the Devil has a huge set of weapons to throw at you: bouncing balls, flames, his hands, his head turned into a spider and his minions running on the screen. Then suddenly everything becomes easier: the second part is still a bit tricky but dodging the axes and the falling platforms is no big deal; when you face the two hanging…I don’t know how to call them, you’ve amassed enough attacks to unleash a special that will drain enough HP to the devil. Then the final form is just you against the hear of the Devil and you only have one platform to stay on while others fall from the sky. I thought this part would have been super hard but I’ve past them the first time, so…end of the game!

 

Controls

First thing first: always check your controller before a Cuphead session: being a game that heavily relies on pixel perfect jumps and perfectly timed movements if for some reasons your controller is defective of has a low sensitivity you’ll surely want to throw it out of the window (and that’s bad because this controllers are friggin’ expensive). By the way after some (a lot?) hours of play you’ll be able to manage the controls with enough ease to perform every kind of movement, including shifting from one weapon to the other depending on the necessity. I found some of the bosses easier to defeat with the analog and some easier with the D-pad: I don’t know if it was just a quirk of mine or someone else have experimented this situation but in general my advice is to use the analog against the bosses you fight on the plane.

Sound

Let’s be frank, you’ll be so busy dodgins projectiles and trying to stay alive that you won’t listen that much to the music, but if you try to listen carefully you’ll find out that the game tunes are a wonderful recreation of the old cartoons of the first half of the ‘900.

Longevity

Cuphead is an hard game. When you’ll be near the end probably you’ll start to think that “it wasn’t so hard” but just because you don’t remember how you struggled against the first bosses. Once you complete the game withe the easy setting you can try with the regular (or you can do like we did and we played directly “regular”). By the way it will take a bit of time to complete it and you can always try to top your “grades” (the evaluations awarded after every boss): for example in our gaming session we’ve never got more than B- (that can be translated in “we sucked”).

Final Score 97/100

What else to say, Cuphear is a true gem in the world of modern gaming and blends state-of-the-art 2D graphics with a retro appeal that is one of the main features of “modern-retro games” of the decade. A game surely not to miss!


Year: 2017

Developer: Studio MDHR

Publisher: Studio MDHR

Genre: Shoot ’em Up, Run ‘n Gun

Game Mode: Single Player, Co-op Multiplayer

Original Platform: Windows, Xbox One

From the same developer/publisher:

  • Unfortunately still nothing 😦

Inspired to:

  • Alien Hominid

If you liked it you can also try:

  • Claws of Furry

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29 Comments Add yours

  1. Matt says:

    I am looking forward to playing it when it arrives on the Switch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. benez256 says:

      Luckily you don’t have to wait so long, it’s schedule to land on the Switch on April 16th 🙂 it’s so good it makes me want to buy it again 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Matt says:

        Yeah, it’s just around the corner! Hopefully I will survive the gauntlet of bosses.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Red Metal says:

    I wonder if the shopkeeper in that last screenshot is a Wonder Boy III reference? All he’s missing is a cigarette. Anyway, I have heard a lot of great things about this one, so I’m glad it’s coming to the Switch. I’ll definitely check it out when it debuts on that console.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. benez256 says:

      Actually I haven’t thought about this reference but it might be! Check out the eShop so next week you can purchase it!

      Liked by 1 person

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