Do you like soul-crushing difficulty? Do you feel like the day is incomplete if you don’t, for one reason or another, shout in rage and throw your controller across the room? Then oh boy do I have a game recommendation for you! Cuphead is the playable 1940’s propaganda cartoon that no one knew they needed until it was dreamt up by Studio MDHR earlier this year. Even though this game is absolutely brutal, you will be too busy admiring the beautiful animations and art style that brings this game far above the normal hum-drum bullet hell into something truly unique and wonderful.
Cuphead starts with a story book detailing the plight of Cuphead and his pal Mugman. Gamblers at heart, Cuphead and Mugman find themselves on the losing side of a bet with the Devil himself. After striking up a deal with the Devil, Cuphead and Mugman proceed to fulfill their bargain which entails collecting the dues of other debtors who are in the unfortunate predicament of owing the Devil himself. Through the various stages and worlds that you embark upon, you will be confronted with a variety of hand-drawn and beautifully colored animations that near-perfectly mimic the infamous cartoons of a darker time in animated history.
The actual gameplay involves jumping from platform to platform and dodging an onslaught of projectiles or enemies that are produced by the various bosses. With some foresight and attentiveness, Cuphead will almost always give you warning when any given attack will take place. Most of the difficulty of Cuphead comes with memorizing the attack patterns and indicators that each boss exhibits and exploiting them effectively and without pause. For each death that you will have, and there will be many, you can always look back and say “Oh, that was my fault, I can definitely do better next time.” As far as difficult games go, this type of player-centric error system gives the player the morale to keep moving forward even in the face of insurmountable odds. Nothing will sap drive from a player more than an overly unfair conflict, and while each boss has a gigantic amount of health and multiple different phases you will never feel like you cannot move forward. Each memorization and death will inch you closer and closer to the final catharsis of defeating an incredible adversary.
Cuphead is not for the faint of heart. The game has a variety of levels and lasts quite a long time, all of which are either bearable or unbelievably difficult. When playing through Cuphead, you will be amazed at the animations and art that look like they were pulled directly from the 1930-40’s and slapped right onto a great game. Like I mentioned above, the game is incredibly difficult and you will lose far more often than you win. But, if you can push through the pain, Cuphead will deliver some of the most amazing visuals and soundtracks of the year.