Cuphead earned the IGN Best Xbox One Game at E3 award in 2015. The 2-D animated game is about two main characters, Cuphead and Mugman, who lost a roll of the dice while gambling against the Devil. To repay their debt and be spared their lives, they must do the Devil’s bidding.The game is developed by Studio MDHR, an indie company consisting of two brothers, Chad & Jared Moldenhauer.One interesting fact I discovered about the character, Cuphead, is that “he descended from a 1936 Japanese propaganda animated film where a man with a teacup for a head morphs into a tank.” The brothers previously donned their characters with a plate or fork for a head, and about 150 different designs before the version they are today.
If the audio from the trailer is indicative of the gameplay, then take note: wear your heart monitor and observe how your pulse changes with the turbulent cadences of the musical composition. Great jazzy sounds, but it definitely puts your cardio on high alert as the music is symptomatic of how the gameplay is going. When everything is mellow, so is the music, and when the gameplay is high strung, you can bet the music is also.
Watching the animation of Cuphead is exhilarating as it reminds me of watching old Disney cartoons, like Steamboat Willie. Studio MDHR was inspired by 1930s cartoons, even hand-drawing and painting the background of each frame! The introduction was very “old-timey” in black and white with the silent film wistfulness of written narration, but to see an updated version with bright exuberant colors with a palette of interesting characters is just almost too much for the eyes to handle. When I get a chance to play this intriguing game, I will want to pause every scene just so I can grasp each aspect of all the strange worlds. To name a few, some of the games that influenced their design choices were Gunstar Heroes, Super Mario World, and Street Fighter III.
As for gameplay, Cuphead is a classic “run and gun” action game where you can shoot in all directions—up, down, and diagonally. Play single player or as a two-player local cooperative mode that allows both of you to take down your enemies together. You can master and acquire multiple weapons, learn special power moves, and “discover hidden secrets.” There’s a world map, which makes me think of a 2-D version of Animal Crossing, but when you enter a building, instead of paying your bills or putting up new wallpaper, you end up battling a boss. In fact, the game is based on battling bosses, even to the point that the “developers planned to surpass the Guinness world record for number of boss battles in a run and gun game by having over 30 to the record’s 25.” The boss fights proclaim to be super difficult, and after watching professional video gamers fail at beating the bosses at E3, the news was a bit discouraging.
For instance, on one level, Cuphead uses his special spinning moves to fight the boss, but he also has several obstacles dodging slippery fish, a large shark, the ink of a seven-armed octopus, and more. The battle can get pretty nutty with everything going on all at once, especially paired with the intense music. And as I mentioned previously about strange worlds, you can be fighting at sea on a ship, in a crop field fighting a giant carrot, on a railroad track chasing a train and dodging eyeballs, in a club on the dancefloor, or in the skies on a fighter plane; it really looks as insane as it sounds! But still, how many of you played a level of Candy Crush Saga (or the like) 30 or more times, determined to move on to the next level? You end up learning the best power moves and combinations to use over time, gaining knowledge from trial and error. Do you know how Cuphead is better? You get infinite lives! And when the game is based on battling bosses, it won’t take long over time to figure out all the special combinations you need to kick some seven-armed octopus’s derrière.
When it comes to the mechanics, Studio MDHR boasts that the game has precision controls. People who played Cuphead at E3 said the movement was easy, and the warfare is unlike and incomparable to other modern fighting games. I am personally looking forward to playing this game, even though I prefer to play something more plot-driven. Cuphead will definitely revitalize a different type of gameplay that has been missing in the current releases of games. I guess you will have to test it out for yourself to see what you think.
Developer: Studio MDHR
Systems: Xbox One and Steam
Release Date: Sometime in 2016