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Indie Game Spotlight: ‘Cuphead’ – Should You Play The Game?

During the Xbox E3 2014 event, the world got its first look, or should I say glance, at “Cuphead.” During the showcase, Xbox showed a highlight reel of a bunch of indie games coming to their platform, like they do every year, and we all got an incredibly small glimpse of “Cuphead” among a sea of other games. Those few seconds were enough for everyone to collectively go, “wait, what was that!?” and what followed after that was the success story that “Cuphead” wrote for itself, all thanks to the dedication and hard work Studio MDHR put into their game. Indie games are all standouts on their own because of the uniqueness they bring, but to stand out among a crowd of standouts is an achievement only a select few can claim they have earned. Let’s take a look at this beautiful game and see what makes it worth playing. Today’s game: “Cuphead.”

What Is ‘Cuphead’?

To simply answer that question, “Cuphead” is a 2D platformer with elements of boss rush and bullet hell that is painstakingly hand drawn and draws its inspiration from cartoons from the 1930s. The lengths “Cuphead” goes to and the way it delivers the single and simple concept it wants to is something that deserves all the praise and appreciation we can throw its way, as rarely can any game so confidently and flawlessly deliver its promise.

On the surface, “Cuphead” looks like a cute and stunning platformer, but don’t be deceived by its looks, as underneath it all is a challenging and brutal bullet-hell/boss-rush game that will make you want to pull out your hair at times. The challenge that “Cuphead” presents isn’t there just for the sake of it and is not simply artificial difficulty, as each encounter is masterfully designed and demands skill, patience, and the ability to recognize patterns.

The game also has a brief yet endearing story that starts with Cuphead and his pal Mugman losing at the casino and making a deal with the devil himself. The devil sends them on a mission to collect the souls of all the debtors in exchange for their freedom, and if they fail, they’ll have to pay the ultimate price. This simple plot, which itself wasn’t needed, does so much for the game and its charming presentation, and I love that Studio MDHR took the time to develop it.

As mentioned, Cuphead has his best bud Mugman, and you know what that means don’t you? The game can be played in a two-player couch co-op, and yes, it’s incredibly fun to play that way. Let’s talk about the game and the gameplay itself a bit, shall we? As mentioned, this game is really, really hard and will require some serious dedication, especially from players who aren’t familiar with this genre, to beat it. The difficulty is not “Cuphead’s” weakness, however; it’s its greatest strength. Each level and boss can seem impossible to beat at first, but the more you try it, the more you’ll learn about it and see the patterns, and when you finally beat it, the kick and satisfaction you’ll get out of it are unmatched.

You start off with a simple blaster or finger gun that shoots projectiles, and as you complete each non-boss level, you’ll have the chance to collect three coins hidden across each of these levels. You can take those coins to Porkrind’s Emporium and spend them there to unlock better blasters like ones that shoot tracking bullets, ones that lob projectiles that do big damage, or something like the charge shot, which, as the name suggests, charges before you can fire it but does massive damage. If guns are not the thing you are looking for, then Porkrind offers other upgrades as well, like the ability to dash, which turns you invincible while dashing, or an extra heart, which lets you take an extra hit before you die.

The gameplay revolves around you shooting bosses with your guns and dodging any projectiles that come your way, and spoiler alert: there will be a lot of them. You have three hearts, which means you can get hit three times before it’s game over, and amongst all this chaos, you’ll be doing your best not to get hit, all the while dealing damage to the bosses. As you keep landing hits, you’ll charge your guns and can use the “cards” at the bottom to fire the special function of the gun at the cost of one card. These do extra damage based on the gun, and if you can charge up to five cards, then you can use your ultimate attacks, which, depending on which one you have equipped, can do huge damage or make you invincible for a short while.

There’s another mechanic that you’ll learn as you play, and that is parrying. You see, in this game, anything that is colored pink can be parried, meaning you can jump to it and hit the jump button once again, and Cuphead or Mugman will slap it and give you an extra bounce and a full card for your ability. Learning how to parry is easy, but mastering it will require some skill and understanding of the timing, so make sure to master parrying, as it can be the difference between saving your life or ending it.

The bosses themselves progress in stages and have what we call “phases.” When you do enough damage to them, they will move to the second, third, or final phase progressively, with new attack patterns and animations, and become more and more deadly. This adds another layer to the combat here because you’ll have to learn multiple things about the same boss before you can finally beat it, which will keep you on your toes at all times. All of the bosses also have unique and hand-drawn models and animations, all of which look superb and are incredibly commendable.

There are plenty of bosses to fight and enough non-boss levels sprinkled in between that the game will keep you both entertained and infuriated for a long time, and if you want more, the game also has a DLC title, “Delicious Last Course” (Smart), which was recently released and added a whole new island with new levels, bosses, and a new playable character in Ms. Chalice. I haven’t personally played the DLC myself, so I can’t comment on it, but I have heard nothing but good things about it.

I am sure I missed out on a few things, but it’s okay; you can discover them on your own. This is “Cuphead” in a nutshell. A brutal 2D platformer with fun combat, tons of depth, and plenty of bosses to beat. The music here is phenomenal and features original tracks that take heavy inspiration from that era’s jazz, and the visuals are the cherry on top. Seriously, this game is stunning, and it’s hard to believe that each frame and each character were hand-drawn here. Massive kudos and major respect for Studio MDHR from my end.

Should You Play ‘Cuphead’?

Have I not made myself clear yet? Yes! You should absolutely play “Cuphead” without a shadow of a doubt. Whether you are a fan of this genre or not and whether you like challenging games or not, “Cuphead” should be your one exception to that rule and is a game that literally everyone should play for themselves. There’s so much creativity, hard work, and brilliance poured into this one that it’d be criminal to neglect all of that.

The completion time for this one will vary as this game requires skill and is bound to test your patience, so I won’t quote a number, but you should expect 10 hours at the very least, even if you are quite good at these games. Achievement hunters, the list here is self-explanatory and very, very hard. I managed to get 100% in this game, but I’ll be honest though, it wasn’t a walk in the park. I still enjoyed it.

“Cuphead” is available for $19.99 for the Xbox and PlayStation consoles, the Nintendo Switch, and the PC, and if you wish to get the whole package that comes with “Delicious Last Course” as well, it’ll net you $26.99. This game is worth every cent and is one that could’ve been a lot more pricey, and it still would have been acceptable. Seriously, go and play “Cuphead.” There’s not a single chance of you coming out disappointed.

See more: Indie Game Spotlight: ’12 Minutes’ – Should You Play The Game?

Kartik Sharma
Kartik Sharma
Kartik is sometimes a freelance content writer and an actor. He loves spending his time reading books, playing videogames, dabbling in music, exploring different cultures and languages, etc. loves everything that is art and loves to explore new horizons.


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