Cuphead, for those who do not know, is a run and gun side scrolling video game with visuals akin to 1930s animation, also known as “rubber hose” animation.
Cup head is a level-based game with bosses at the end of each level that the player must defeat in order to progress further into the game.
When I was playing the game, I could not help but draw connections to similar games like Super Mario Bros. and Contra, both games with 2-D scrolling aspects and, in Contra’s case, shooting. Cuphead’s animation, although mimicking that of 1930s cartoon animation studios, makes it its own.
The player models (Cuphead and Mugman) are memorable and aesthetically pleasing, and the enemies are extremely fluid and creative. The bosses in the game remind me of Metroid or even World of Warcraft bosses due to their intimidating appearance, multiple attack sequences, and phases (three) that change sequentially after enough damage is dealt during the previous phase. Many bosses took me at least two or three tries to beat, which some might find annoying, but I found that it made victory that much sweeter.
The backgrounds retain the cartoony feel and the enemies are tailored to each stage of the game, which gives a sense of immersion. The sound design is good and flows well. For instance, before every boss battle, the announcer has their voice filtered in a way that it sounds as if it was recorded for an old arcade game and the music is bombastic and jazzy.
Although many games attempt to use the “old cartoony drawing style” as a gimmick and fail to develop a good game, Cuphead uses the animation as a lure and uses its gameplay to keep players engaged. The game is difficult; that is no lie if you are unfamiliar to the genre. Even experts of the genre admit that Cuphead takes it up a notch in difficulty with respect to similar games.
The game also has multiple weapons, abilities, and “supers” that a player can purchase and use/equip at their discretion. There is a glaring balancing issue in regard to this part of the game where some weapons/supers seem underwhelming and others are overpowered. I hope that the balancing issues will be corrected with a patch in the future since I find myself rarely using or never using certain weapons/supers.
Overall, Cuphead is fun, but challenging game with great visuals and sound design that I would recommend to any side scrolling fan.