The most obvious part about Cuphead is that it looks absolutely stunning. It’s 1930’s Steamboat Willy looking visuals pay homage to Walt Disney and his cartoons of the ’30s and are perfectly implemented. Somehow it manages to balance alot of moving parts that make a game without ever feeling unreadable or blurry, I have to say that Cuphead is the first of it’s kind to ever have this sort of graphics and might be the first and last of it’s kind. Every scene is almost like a masterful piece of artwork torn out of Walt Disney’s collection, torn out of the cartoons of the ’30s. It’s an achievement.
The sound work matches the visuals as well: a mix and match of different music that was part of daily life in that era. It’s a mix and match of swing, jazz, and big band music and it pummels away in the background of each fight and when you enter the open world. It makes the game feel ultra special, like something that would’ve been torn out of the early 20th century if videogames had existed, it’s a bizarre mix of 1930’s aesthetics and 1970’s / 1980’s design. There’s no doubt that it’s absolutely breathtaking and many people will be drawn to that, but hidden in that is hardcore design. The game is absolutely hard as shit and pretty confusing and outside of the nice looking designs, the game isn’t that special from my point of view but that might change as I go on through the game.
You may have gleaned into it and might figured it out but it’s hard as shit, like fuck you difficult to an extent. It’s uncompromising and doesn’t include level checkpoints or no regaining health. You could literally hit levels that take hours to beat and die and you have to start all over again from the beginning and I think that’s one of the reasons why the game isn’t as special and diminishes it’s impact in my eyes, I wish it wasn’t so difficult so I could at least stand a chance and the thing that I don’t like about it is how they don’t tell you exactly what to do in these boss battles and you have to figure out on your own which is shooting at the bosses and evading their attacks. Seems easy, right? Nah, it isn’t and there’s no way to shield yourself from these attacks. I haven’t tried co-op because I have noone to play it with so I might never know what’s it like in co-op although I hear it’s FUCK YOU difficult, instead of simply “fuck you” difficult like it is in singleplayer.
The combat is frenetic and basic, simply like every other platformer but it’s structure is linear in which you have to travel to three different islands in order to pay your debt back to the Devil and it is filled with one level completions and some side quests. The least interesting of these side quests are the Run ‘n’ Gun’s that are simple platforming ripped out of Contra or other old school games. These levels are easy ( sometimes.) and least interesting levels that Cuphead has to offer. They’re meant to be breathing spaces but end up being dull and lifeless.
The rest of the levels are straight-up boss battles, with one having you in a biplane and avoiding UFO’s and a singing fish. As much of a test they are, they are also a lesson on patterns and you have to pay attention. They’re a throwback to the classic games that gamers from the 1970’s and 1980’s remember.
The best thing is the platforming battles. This is where the studio does best in which they craft weird and interesting bouts that have you interacting with the control scheme. It’s an absolute joy.
For now, Cuphead makes me feel good but not really. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone with this game as this is the first platformer that I’ve ever played in my life, it’s hard as shit and that’s where I’m getting frustrated with the game. Perhaps, I will come out of the frustration feeling joy and happy as shit. Stay tuned for my review.