Cuphead - One Cup. One Gun. One Mission.
Cuphead's Action-Packed Journey to Collect Souls for the Devil
Wacky Animated Action
Cuphead, the fast-paced run-and-gun shooter developed and published by Studio MDHR, combines the aesthetics of vintage cartoons with modern gameplay design. The uniquely styled game is available for PC (via Humble Bundle, Steam, and GOG) Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch, and it brings to the table an aesthetic that you almost certainly haven't seen before. Cuphead requires quick thinking, even quicker reactions, and pinpoint precision.
Deal With the Devil
Cuphead follows the story of its titular character, who has been unfortunate enough to lose a game at a casino owned by the Devil. What's even more unfortunate is the stakes of that gamble were the souls of Cuphead and his brother, Mugman.
To settle the debt without relinquishing his soul, Cuphead bargains with the Devil to become his repo man. Only, instead of repossessing cars and houses, Cuphead hunts down debtors who owe their souls to the Devil.
Rather than having a rigid narrative structure, Cuphead takes the player through several unique levels and boss battles, each of which takes place within one of four in-game worlds. Your character's powers and abilities will grow as you progress through the game. But will he eventually be strong enough to take on the all-powerful Devil? Only time will tell.
Concept Rating: 5/5
Spectacular Old-School Animation
If there's one area where Cuphead truly stands out, it's the visuals. The game features an eye-catching 1930s cartoon aesthetic packed with vibrant colors, 2D animation style, and beautiful hand-drawn artwork. The different levels boast well-realized themes, intricate detail, and constant movement. There's never a dull moment when it comes to Cuphead's graphics.
Whether it's silly animations in the background, rapid-fire projectiles being shot across the screen, or Cuphead leaping from one obstacle to another, the game always has a ton going on visually. And yet, the animation is always smooth and rarely feels overly cluttered.
Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, the visuals and audio use the same techniques of the era.
Cuphead also has a beautiful original soundtrack perfectly suited to the game's style. While you frantically speed through levels and take out cartoon enemies, you'll hear lots of high-tempo ragtime, swing, and jazz music. These musical choices not only fit the gameplay but also perfectly capture the era to which Cuphead pays homage.
Graphics & Audio Rating: 5/5
Runnin' and Gunnin'
Cuphead is a run-and-gun style shooter, and with its exceptionally fast-paced and difficult gameplay, that classification is accurate. Many levels are maps that move right to left as you navigate them, and there is never a shortage of enemies, obstacles, and hazards. Things happen very quickly, and there's virtually no time to slow down and take a breath.
With each stage, your goal is reaching the end and defeating the debtor you're attempting to chase down. To complete each level, you'll need to rely on your dexterity, reactions, and shooting ability. Cuphead's gameplay can be overwhelming at first, and there's a steep learning curve, but fortunately, your character dying never feels like too big of a setback.
Challenging Boss Battles
The intense boss battles are what make Cuphead so exciting and challenging. Every boss is different and features unique aesthetics, mechanics, and weaknesses. Also, the boss fights consist of multiple stages or forms the player must defeat.
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!
To beat Cuphead's most challenging bosses, it takes strategy, persistence, and usually, trial and error. Whether you take on a giant boxing frog, a marionette, or an underwater Medusa, finding success in these challenges comes down to picking up on patterns, making quick adjustments, and avoiding deadly combos. Sometimes, it can feel like one of these boss fights is going on forever, but coming out victorious after a prolonged battle feels so rewarding.
Cuphead will only have three hit points separating him from death. That means you can only afford to make a couple of mistakes before you must restart the level. This gameplay mechanic, combined with the rapid-fire action and abundance of perils, makes Cuphead feel unforgiving.
Fortunately, the stages and boss battles within the game are typically only a few minutes long, and when your character dies, they can reload almost instantly. So, while you'll almost certainly have a few frustrating deaths while getting the hang of the gameplay, failing will never set you back enough to be truly infuriating.
Cuphead and Mugman
In addition to the standard single-player mode, Cuphead also has co-op capabilities. You have the option to take on the various stages with the help of a friend; one person plays as Cuphead, while the other plays as his brother, Mugman. However, don't be fooled to think that teaming up will make the gameplay any easier.
When you play Cuphead in co-op mode, there are even more enemies and projectiles to avoid, and you and your friend will each have less space to maneuver than you would in the single-player mode. As a result, the collaborative play consistently feels more hectic and stressful, but hey—some people enjoy that kind of thing. If you don't mind a bit of craziness and you are ready to embrace the chaos, jumping into co-op can be an exciting challenge.
The Delicious Last Course
As of June 2022, players can enjoy Cuphead's new expansion, The Delicious Last Course. In this exciting new DLC, a new playable character named Ms. Chalice joins Cuphead and Mugman, bringing new abilities and modified moves to the table. The expansion also features a brand-new island to explore, a variety of new wacky and monstrous bosses, and several new weapons and power-ups.
Gameplay Rating: 4/5
Getting Your Hands on Cuphead
The full version of Cuphead launched for Xbox One on September 29, 2017, and over the next few years, it would come out for several other platforms, including PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. The game's expansion, The Delicious Last Course, made its debut on June 30, 2022. The base game is $19.99, and the latest DLC is an additional $7.99 on all platforms.
A True Stand-Out
Today, there are so many quality games on the market. However, titles that genuinely stand out are always few and far between, and Cuphead falls under that category. The game's artwork and aesthetic alone would be enough to make Cuphead memorable, but the animation and gameplay also do a fantastic job of bringing those visuals to life.
No one will accuse Cuphead of being a relaxing game, and for anyone who prefers a laid-back gaming experience, it won't appeal to you. However, gamers that enjoy fast-paced action will find Cuphead extremely impressive and memorable.
Replay Value Rating: 4/5
- Perfectly executed cartoon aesthetic
- Smooth animation
- Unique, dynamic bosses
- Short, action-packed levels
- Steep learning curve
- Punishing gameplay mechanics
- Overly difficult co-op mode
Cuphead is a rapid-fire run-and-gun shooter with wonderful '30s cartoon animation and plenty of dynamic, challenging boss battles.