If you wish current video games were as difficult as the games you played in the late 80s and early 90s, you are in luck if you own a a Nintendo Switch. Cuphead provides that challenging package you might be looking for, but be aware: it’s really, REALLY hard, and there is a good chance you won’t have a lot of fun. Cuphead will appeal to a very niche audience, but I wonder how well it will do long term.
Despite being based on cartoons from many decades ago, the artwork itself is still reminiscent of many of the cartoons I watched when I was a kid. From the first screen, those who remember the 1930s animation style that was popular for decades after, will instantly be hit with that sense of nostalgia. Things for myself only got better from there, as you were walked through a simplistic tutorial; this tutorial was not simplistic because it was trying to help out new players, but the controls for Cuphead are just, well, simplistic!
The story of Cuphead is also reminiscent of old cartoons. Cuphead and his brother Mugman are raking in tons of coin in the Devil’s casino, and they just cannot seem to stop winning! Obviously, the Devil isn’t a big fan of all that money leaving his hands, so he tricks the brothers into selling their souls to him, and will only release them if they collect the souls of those indebted to the Devil himself. With this task, and only 24 hours to complete it, you are set loose in the world of Cuphead.
Controls and Gameplay
Cuphead is the ultimate definition of easy to play, hard to master. You really only need to worry about a few different button combination. Moving left and right, jumping – and sometimes dashing alongside a jump – shooting while moving, and shooting stationary. A few extra button presses get worked into the mix as you trade in coins for abilities and other fancy upgrades, but for the most part, what you are taught early on is all you will need to commit to memory.
At the beginning, Cuphead’s abilities are pretty minimal, but you will soon gain new powers, special abilities, and of course, weapons. The further you get into the Cuphead story, the more well thought out weapon-power-ability combination could be the difference between success and failure. Often times, you won’t know which load is best until you’ve died a few times and had to retry. Trust me here, you will die, a lot!
Dying in Cuphead should be seen as a learning experience as opposed to a defeat, and a handy progress bar after each death will let you know how far you’ve gotten, and how close you were to finishing the fight. I’ve been constantly using the term fight for a reason. Cuphead is more of a series of boss battles than any platforming, which was shocking to me as the information we got heading into this review period pointed towards a side scrolling platform title. While those elements do exist, they are few and far between, which is INCREDIBLY disappointing, as Cuphead would have made an excellent platforming title.
Trying to complete all the contracts for the Devil doesn’t have to be a solo experience, and players can take on the various bosses with a friend. While I found it fun when we were successful, it was definitely frustrating when we racked up loss after loss, especially as the hectic nature of two players on the same screen began to get to me, definitely throwing me off my game. Although it can be great for a few laughs, I definitely prefer to play alone!
It’s hard to recommend Cuphead unless you know exactly what you are in for. This is NOT a platformer, and is legitimately a endless litany of boss fights. If you enjoy that type of challenge – 2-3 minutes of fast paced action where a few misstep’s will spell your doom – then Cuphead is an easy recommendation. If you expect games to hold your hand, or offer up an easy mode if you fail too many times, you’ll probably want to sidestep this adventure.