Video Game Review: Cuphead

Aggravating, yet enjoyable. Cuphead brings a unique style and game-play to the gaming industry. Cuphead is a 2D run and gun indie video game with the animation style of a classical 1930’s cartoon, with the game mechanics similar to that of Contra or Metal Slug, and a hair pulling difficulty.

This game was on my radar since their first E3 debut in 2014, and ever since I was anticipating this release. However, the game experienced delays and instead of being available in 2016, it was finally released this fall 2017. The game, in this reviewer’s opinion, was well worth the wait. It was everything I expected and more.

The story starts out by telling you about these two characters, Cuphead and Mugman. The two get into trouble at the Devil’s Casino, yes, the actual Devil himself, playing craps and after a winning streak the Devil raises the stakes where if they win once more, they’ll own the casino; if they lose, well the Devil will take their souls. Without hesitation, Cuphead rolls the dice to a dreaded snake eyes. Once the Devil confronts the two brothers, they begin to beg for mercy. The Devil cuts them a deal: if they’re able to acquire the contracts of the debtors in Inkwell Isle, the Devil might let them go. The brothers immediately get started on their epic journey to gather the contracts and they head to the Elder Kettle where he gives the two each an elixir that gives them the ability to fire blasts from their fingertips, in the fashion of a gun.

The story wasn’t the part of the game that kept pulling me back in, making me not want to put the controller down, it was the game mechanics and the animations.

The way the characters moved, dodged, and fought were well executed. Your primary abilities consisted of being able to only move left and right, shoot, jump, duck, dash, lock your position so that you could shoot stationary in any direction, and parrying pink objects.

Enemies in the run and gun stages would come from all directions on the screen, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes all at once, keeping you on edge all game. If you turned away for more than one second without pausing, there would be a good chance that you would lose a heart instantly, and you only have three of those to lose (unless you have the extra heart charm). Throughout the run and gun stages, you had the chance to acquire coins and then use those to buy new shooting styles and charms. The characters had “EX” moves, where you would build up a small power up attack from either parrying pink objects or continuously hitting enemies.

The boss stages were probably the most enjoyable and frustrating parts in the game. Each boss had their own variety of moves and transformations that kept the players trying to guess what their own next move to be.  I died over 300 times (there’s a place in the level select stage that displays your death counter) while playing this game but I still had a blast playing. I think half the fun of the game was seeing what you did wrong and attempting to beat them again with your new approach.

I would recommend this to anyone wanting a game with beautiful visuals and a unique play style. Overall Cuphead is a challenging yet enticing game you can play from the comfort of your couch. Keep in mind that if you decide to play this game in co-op mode with a friend, the enemies take an increased amount of damage to be defeated, so choose your player two wisely.

By: Tony Cannizzaro

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