I've been enchanted by Cuphead from the start. Not because he's a puritanical guy who likes some old-fashioned things, in the traditionalist style, especially when it comes to entertainment. And not because it's a side-scrolling platform game, one of my favorite genres and which, every now and then, has some glint, as was the case of Ori and the Blind Forest, plus one of my xodos.
What captivated everyone in Cuphead, and me too, was his unique visual style, inspired by the cartoons of the 30's, whose memory highlights Mickey, Disney's mascot, in the unforgettable "Steamboat Willie", masterpiece that was born in 1928 and has become timeless.
With the advent of new technologies and the natural evolution of animations, this peculiar style stopped in time - but never died or fell into oblivion. Cuphead made a point of resurrecting such an art, and that ambition, by itself, coming from an independent studio with the backing of Microsoft, is honest enough. Especially in open world times and fluttering guts. But that's not all that makes Cuphead shine.
Intelligent use of side-scrolling
Why did Cuphead take so long to arrive, many wonder? The title was postponed more than once by Studio MDHR, a newcomer on the market. And there are rational explanations that justify the delay. First: this is the developer's first game, founded by the brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer. Second: the staff is small, there are 14 people working together in all. Enough number to fill an average sized room, for example.
And thirdly, the programming and illustration of such a peculiar product entail unexpected challenges. Ambition has a price and has been well paid. Cuphead makes intelligent use of the genre to which it belongs and knew how to be humble enough to listen to the feedback of the players when asked: "Wow, but there are only bosses in the game?"
To each defeated boss, you feel incredible, the majoral, the skilled, the player with good abilities. The detail? The difficulty is Cuphead's greatest trump card.
No, there are not only bosses in the game. No longer. Originally, that was the proposal. The team listened openly to what they all said, returned to the drafting table, and drew complete "Run & Gun" stages, meaning "run and shoot" literally with coins to collect and hordes of enemies to be crushed.
Each phase makes smart use of your skills. There are stages where you stand headlong, jump across platforms as you deflect ketchup bursts and mustards from an uncontrolled hot dog, flies through scorching skies as you face a mermaid that turns into jellyfish, uses lifts full of men of mud, runs from a giant while deflecting skulls of fire and so on.
Each presentation is unique, there is not even one enemy that repeats itself in different phases. The stages last for a maximum of three minutes - a calculation that is based, of course, on your skills to deal with the game.
Cuphead is the art of reliving a magic that makes you feel incredibleCuphead is the art of reliving a magic that makes you feel incredibleCuphead is the art of reliving a magic that makes you feel incredibleCuphead is the art of reliving a magic that makes you feel incredible
Cuphead is the art of reliving a magic that makes you feel incredible.
Where the weak have no place
To paraphrase the title of the film directed by the Coen brothers, Cuphead is not a game for anyone. Still, he strives to deliver a work that appeals to Greeks and Trojans, casual and addicted, hardcore and intermediaries. And, in that sense, it manages to be inviting, mainly because of the visual appeal.
Curious to note that Metal Slug also has a cartunesco charm in the animations and the rhythm. Not as fast-paced as a Gunstar Heroes or a Contra, two of my favorite titles of the novena era, Cuphead finds its own rhythm, more or less at the speed of Metal Slug and Ninja Gaiden, within what is insane and prone to conquer all the love of the masochists on duty.
The bosses are proof of that. They convey the same sense of personal fulfillment as a Dark Souls: to each defeated boss, you feel incredible. The major, the skilled, the player with good abilities. And you know the detail? The difficulty is Cuphead's greatest trump card.
Each time you hear and read the "Knockout!" On the screen, which indicates that the boss has been defeated, the endorphin is released and spreads through all the veins of your body, from head to toe, shivering spine and pushing out the cry of victory that was steeled in the chest, ready to be awakened. This delightful feeling, my brothers and sisters, only those who are fans of Dark Souls know. And Cuphead provides that.
If you die, at any point in the stage or the battle against the boss, goodbye. Start again - your "bonfire" is at the beginning of each stage, always from scratch.
There is no checkpoint. There is no regeneration of life. There are no healing items over any phase. Nor is there any refreshment in the chiefs. If you die, at any point on the stage or the battle against the boss, goodbye. Start again - your "bonfire" is at the beginning of each stage, always from scratch. Overcoming these obstacles distills pleasure in the brain and body.
It is the same psychological flavor one has when eating chocolate, fried foods and the like. Or when doing gym. That is why the "marombas" assiduously frequent the places that have iron to be pulled. It's also the same sensation, scientists say, when we have sex. Of course every pleasure has its proportionality, but Cuphead has those moments when you simply feel incredible.
I have already described, in the previous paragraphs, the feeling that the bosses convey, but I must emphasize: this is where Cuphead shines. Even if the team did not enter the races, the game would hardly lose its light if it was only with the bosses.
The animations of each show a complex engineering work: we know that transformations of bosses, if not created with the utmost degree of care, can be boçais. In Cuphead, though, they're cool. Each boss has, on average, three different forms, which are assumed at appropriate times.
As you progress through the world, the difficulty increases. But the learning curve is not as punitive as many preach out there: with patience and perseverance, you learn and choreograph your opponent's attacks, knowing how to deal with them next. Just get drunk on the Dark Souls philosophy that has no error - and that thought is much older than the From Software franchise, in fact.
I finished the game the day before writing this analysis, on a Sunday, in about 8 to 10 hours, according to the time computed by Xbox Live, and with the right to face the hell, that makes an escort agreement with the brothers protagonists. I did not think it was the hardest - but, without a doubt, the most unforgettable. In fact, the penultimate boss, King Dice, sent me, for a brief moment, to the end of Banjo-Kazooie, when you must cross a board playing luck, and can do well or badly at each step.
What about online coop?
Although very well seasoned, Cuphead, for now, lacks an ingredient: cooperative online mode. The local modality works without errors, but lacked that option to do this without the need presence.
What about support for other languages?
It was also missing from the release, but Studio MDHR, posting on its blog, has ensured that the lean team of 14 people is working full steam ahead to take care of all these situations.
Therefore, the texts arrive in the future through a patch - and believe me, there are more dialogues than you think. Being in our language, these texts make the product even more accessible to all layers of players. As the developer is attentive and open to feedback, online cooping should also be a matter of time.
Power-ups, world of play and a soundtrack of crying
Coins are not collected only in the stages in which you must run and shoot. Some of them are hidden in the gaming world, and that makes sense in having a minimally exploitable place for you to enjoy - and the isometric perspective was the best possible choice for this, even though the locomotion through the islets is slow.
These golden items are your money to buy power-ups from a stock; with them you have variants in your shots, improvements to dodge, optimization of the special and more.
It's cool to talk to objects and animals - forks, boxes, turtles, radios - and listen to your personal dramas. Some ask for help, as is the case with a trio of musicians who, in fact, are a quartet. The fourth limb is missing somewhere in the world. And this subject is so much fun that I'll do a brief dissertation just for him.
Do you know what a Barbershop Quartet is?
Before proceeding with the analysis, I need to discuss a cultural curiosity quickly, which is actually part of the review. Cuphead's quartet of musicians is nothing more than a "Barbershop Quartet", a musical genre in which four people, usually men, conduct the songs without any instrument, only with their voices.
It consists of a main singer, who carries the melody in a major tone; a bass vocalist who leads the bass line of the song; a tenor, responsible for the harmony between these parts; and a baritone, which completes the note not sung by the principal, the bass or the tenor.
Cuphead's soundtrack, watered down to the best jazz 'Tom & Jerry' ever conceived in the drawings, is one of the best features of the game
In BioShock Infinite there is a tribute to "The Beach Boys" with the song "God Only Knows", at the beginning of the game, in a floating boat. Whoever played it will surely have this memory awakened the instant they read this text.
It's exactly a "Barbershop Quartet" that you hear in Cuphead when you find the fourth member hidden in some bush. It's beautiful to hear. Look for these two words in Spotify that you will find a lot. Within this, the soundtrack of Cuphead, watered down to the best jazz that "Tom & Jerry" has already conceived in the drawings, is one of the best characteristics of the game. Jazz and cartoon seem to have an inexplicable chemistry, in fact.
One of the best Microsoft exclusive
I've already written so much in this analysis that I need to start stitching stitches. I was so excited about Cuphead that my flow of thought was greater than my ability to concisely. In the light of this, I ask your forgiveness.
There is also one last balcony that I need to describe better about the game: the parry. By pressing A when you jump, you can bounce any pink items on the screen, and this will accrue your special shot. Applying the technique in the heat of combat, with thousands of projectiles in your direction, will make your reflexes up to date - it will completely deplete them. If you have the balls, an Expert mode is released when you finish the game.
The caveats are due to the lack of an online mode for coop and locomotion through the game world. If you are on the third islet and want to return to the first to try to score better on a boss, you should walk at a slow pace - without a quick trip or even a command to accelerate the walk.
As much as the online coop can arrive in the future through the update, the game, as it is, allows only the local game. And I also hope for the patch that will bring our language to the texts - this will be of great value, but it does not necessarily go into evaluation.
For all it has boosted in recent years, because of its importance to Microsoft's platform owners and, above all, the boldness to take on a unique style to which many could twist their noses, Cuphead is one of those charms that rarely appear there. A relic that will certainly be the inspiration for many games going forward, especially with regard to the aesthetics and objectivity of its proposal, completely arcade, unsullied, in which one sitting can yield a lot.
The challenge, pointed by many as frustrating, is, in fact, the great asset of the game. Cuphead knows how to be generous in the learning curve. And there is nothing better than the feeling of feeling incredible with each challenge overcome.
In my opinion the game is 9/10 EXCELLENT
"Cuphead makes you feel incredible from start to finish, with every challenge overcome. Endorphin will distill deliciously well through your veins."
- Unique visual style, with charm to spare.
- Refined soundtrack to classical jazz with good references.
- Colossal cheffes that lavish creativity, with their own mechanisms and full of different transformations ..
"Run and shoot" stages can break the pace of bosses in a positive way.
-You feel like an incredible player with every challenge overcome: the experience is difficult, but dominating.
- No co-op mode online for now.
-Locomotion slow through the game world - and no options to accelerate.