On first glance, Cuphead is deceptive. The colourful throwback to children’s cartoons of the 1930’s looks inviting, potentially grabbing the mainstream attention but as soon as you pick up the controller and play any level, you’ll notice that you may have been tricked by the devil and now you’re being tortured by a cute, farm vegetables. While Cuphead looks visually appealing, the devilishly tough levels feel like a stark contrast but the overall package is memorable and tough but instantly replayable.
For the most part, Cuphead is a 2D boss-rush game with a few levels of run and gun levels to mix things up. You play as Cuphead and your sidekick Mugman who have made a deal with the devel which results in them taking on a large number of bosses in increasingly harder scenarios. For the most part, bosses only take a couple of minutes but dying is a regular occurrence meaning you will be spending a lot longer with each boss then the actual boss battle takes. What would normally take around two or three minutes to complete will easily take half an hour through retries.
Each boss is about learning patterns as well as quick reflexes. Dying is guaranteed in the dozens per boss and there are enough aspects present to deter frustration which never makes it “too much”. When you do, you will see exactly how far you got into the level marked with lines for when the boss sequence changes as well as a flag to mark the end of the level. There’s a great sense of accomplishment on you get ever closer to the flag as well as know how many phases are left to the boss itself. Plus, controls feel so precise that you never feel like the game itself let you down; rather your mistakes were the cause and you can take that valuable information forward to the next attempt.
You don’t have a lot of tools at your disposal. The Run and Gun levels have five coins to find on each level and these coins are used to buy tonics and more at the store which can be added to your loadout. Certain loadouts will be better catered to certain types of enemies meaning it’s not always the standard approach that works. However, don’t expect major changes to how Cuphead controls or plays.See these loadouts as a series of small but sometimes meaningful changes that may help you in these boss battles. However, every boss is beatable with the standard and empty loadout.
Cuphead is an incredibly well-made game with every aspect that feels like it has been crafted to perfection. The visuals and animation are unparalleled and the myriad of boss battles are all interesting and tough in different ways. Impatient players may hit a wall at some point but it’s definitely not down to a fault with the game, it’s just the structure and design is not for everyone. For everyone else though, Cuphead has something for everyone whether that be the 1930s style to draw you in or it’s the control perfect for those who want a challenge. Cuphead was worth the wait.