CUPHEAD [Face-Off Review]: Worship the Devil, Then Kick His Ass.

Chris “Holy Spirit” Sawin

Cuphead has been in development since 2010 and it has honestly felt like an eternity waiting for it. I’m a gigantic fan of really old cartoons and traditional animation in general, so I knew this would be something special as soon as it was announced. Cuphead has stunning visuals with its vibrant colors and smooth animation. Everything about the game bleeds and breathes not only its imaginative concept but also this unique kind of creativity that can only be found in old cartoons.

Travis “Heihachi” Moody

And the spirit of (Old World) Disney, Max Fleischer, and Fallout 4 is alive and well in Cuphead. Aesthetically, StudioMDHR has conquered the retro platformer genre in spades. It’s.. majestic. But for those following my rants on Facebook, they know I just can’t with this game. As someone who consumes as much nerd culture, pro wrestling, sports (hell, the NBA preseason began today), amongst a zillion other things, I just don’t have the patience for countless death. And I’m not sure in this “ADD” world of GIFs and MEMEs that others will either.

CHRIS: Ahh, Moody. Sure, the game is difficult, but it’s not impossible to learn and while you hate the bosses for being such dickheads — I can’t help but appreciate the evolution of each battle. Each victory feels triumphant and meaningful, which is something many modern video games fail to capture in their gameplay.

Every enemy in Cuphead is a two-face.

MOODY: Sure.. after my initial playthrough, I stopped, gently placed the controller down on the coffeetable, went for a calm walk, returned to sin, “got gud” and conquered 5 bosses in a row. Upon hitting the 13% mark (yay!), I died on the next “run and gun” level and stupid punching flower boss — even when I have him and his pattern all figured out. But hey, I am thankful for the upgrading charms (that invincibility dash tho), the victory percentage bar (that I should probably utilize more), and at least dying to the sounds of some sweet tunes!

CHRIS: That score is a wonderfully eclectic mix of barber shop harmonies and upbeat jazz. Cuphead truly embodies something that was produced in the 1930s and next to its brilliant style, its music, voices, and dialogue seem to be from a forgotten time period while its gameplay reminds you of sidescrolling favorites such as Donkey Kong Country, Kirby’s Adventure, and Super Mario World. We live in a time where 2D games and animation is a thing of the past and a retired medium, but Cuphead reminds us all that there’s still plenty of fun to be had with run and gun games hand drawn entirely from scratch. This is the type of game that not only surpasses expectations, but has the potential to be timeless and replayable for years to come.

MOODY: I have agreed with everything you said.. maybe up to that point. Cuphead‘s hand-crafted platforms, zany plant-and-animal-appliance-ware foes and bosses and thumb-jerking dexterity are some of the very best in a long long time. My only wish — and I’m sure gonna catch a lot of flack for this, if I haven’t already — is that a patch be added for a tad easier difficulty (and I mean TAD easier; I’m this shit-close to running through bosses) for those who don’t have 8-hours in the day to lose 400 times, only to YouTube how “gud” they are the one time they skate by a fuck-boss or magically catch a perfect score. Yes, I’m “casul” as fuck saying that, but as someone who was once great at Contra but not Mega Man (and would whoop dat azz in a plethora of other modern titles like NBA 2K, Forza, Injustice 2, etc.), is sucking at one cel-animated game a means to revoke my game journalist card?

CHRIS: I’m afraid that’s an entirely a different topic for another time, Moodster. As for today, Cuphead proves that the devil is in the details and that originality isn’t always found by squinting to the future. Sometimes glancing over your shoulder, observing the past, and riding a nostalgic wave of artistic genius is all you need to reach immortality. 5/5 Devilishly Dazzling Bibles.

Gambling against a guy with a giant die for a head and the Devil will probably pay off, right?

MOODY: Then call me the devil — or, more apropos, devil’s advocate. The biggest problem I have with Cuphead isn’t the game itself, which has had these four-eyes hynotized since it was first revealed at E3 2014; but its accessibility. The game requires as much of a willing for endless death (and pain) as it does technical skill. Should a title in the “casual/platformer” category be this controller-throwingly frustrating to non-perfectionists, and potentially take them away from seeing the entire product? Maybe not, but Cuphead‘s still too admirable an art to dismiss. 4/5 ‘I Suck At Cuphead’ T-Shirts.

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