Very seldom does a game catch my attention like Cuphead did when it graced our live-streams back at E3 IN 2015. Cuphead, a colourful homage to 1930s cartoons, stood out among grittier titles like Gears of War and Dark Souls. I wouldn’t normally jump at the chance to play a “run and gun” style game (I’m still traumatised from getting the high score in Bully’s side-scroller Nut Shots) but I was totally drawn in by the 30 second clip. The fact that the release date ended up being my birthday further cemented my choice to buy it on day one.
Cuphead has been compared to notoriously butt-kicking Dark Souls due to its difficulty. Other than the obvious glaring differences you could make an argument for it. If you die during a level, you have to restart the section, enemies and all, just like Dark Souls. You also die very frequently. Before you scream “UNETHICAL GAMES JOURNALISM” I did make it through the tutorial (I have video proof). However, that doesn’t mean that I have not died a million times (I have video proof). The beauty of Cuphead is that dying is how you learn. Again, just like Dark Souls.
After the whole Dan Takahashi drama people have become snobby about the game and its difficulty, claiming it as some litmus test for a true gamer. Cuphead does not care if you are an experienced gamer or not. When you face one of the many bosses or run and gun levels for the first time you will not know your arse from your elbow. You won’t know if a certain enemy can be shot and killed, you won’t know if it’s better to hold off on shooting and concentrate on dodging, you won’t know if the platform you’re about to jump on will burst into flames. The list of obstacles is endless. Adding to this is the option to buy guns and special powers from coins collected in the world. Changing these around can really help with your game-plan. Still though, you won’t know if it will help until you try, and fail, and try again.
Cuphead gives you the option of local co-op which is a thing I sorely miss in today’s online obsessed world. Luckily for me, I have an on demand player 2 in the form of my little brother (like I was for my older sister). When I found myself at the mercy of a giant carrot, I turned off the game, nipped into town, came home and gifted a second controller to him. It took us a little while to get used to the addition of a player two but soon we had defeated the carrot and also cackling blimp lady Hilda Berg who he had been having trouble with when playing solo.
Each boss we have encountered has been designed so well that we look forward to seeing their multiple transformations throughout fights. Often my brother and I are shouting “WHAT?” at each other in awe and confusion. I think the greatest feat of Cuphead so far has been how captivating it is. No matter how many times we have failed we have never once felt anger or frustration. We have found ourselves almost instantly pressing retry every time and we go back in, guns blazing, probably a little wiser than the last attempt but probably not wise enough just yet.
Watch my true first few minutes with Cuphead below if you dare. I hope the Xbox One police don’t come after me for this abysmal display.
Right now Cuphead is €19.99 and is available on Xbox One and PC.