Good day for a swell battle!
It took me nearly six years to finally work up the guts to play this game. Needless to say, it was was worth the wait – I should have pulled the trigger much earlier. For the three people on Earth who don't know by now, Cuphead is a critically acclaimed indie game that originally released in 2017. It quickly became known for its challenging difficulty, 1930s cartoon-inspired visuals, and its wonderfully jazzy soundtrack. It fast became renowned as one of the best indie games of the decade. While the difficulty level initially put me off, my delay in purchase was primarily because I wanted to own it physically on the Switch. So I crossed my fingers, and here we finally are.
The game takes place in the whimsical world of Inkwell Isle, where you take control of Cuphead, or his companions Mugman and Ms. Chalice, in their quest to repay a debt to the devil. It's a run-and-gun-like platformer that is made up of a slew of boss battles, which makes for an interesting, digestible, and appropriate pace considering its difficulty. Aside from it's pace, the most impressive aspects of Cuphead are its visuals and sound. It perfectly captures the look and feel of classic 1930s animation, by way of smooth hand-drawn characters, beautiful watercolor effects, and backgrounds that make your TV feel like it's been time warped. Its soundtrack is equally impressive and atmospheric – "reminiscent of the time." It plays brilliantly with the pace of the game and pairs incredibly well with the action that has you sweating the entire time.
Not for the faint of heart
I died a total of 575 times before rolling credits. The game is very challenging. But I promise you it's worth it. The bosses and their respective levels test you, however they are learnable. Much like Dead Cells – another game I dreaded – each session gives just a little bit more context on how to go about the level successfully. You play, die, learn what to do next time, and play again. Its difficulty curve is pretty punishing, but it's gradual enough. (Until you reach Dr. Kahl's Robot. Fuck that guy.) While the Cuphead experience is certainly frustrating, I found it to be more motivating, and in the end (at every boss end) immensely rewarding.
Each boss is a game in itself. They're wildly unique characters with their own respective move sets. While the mechanics and gameplay can at times feel repetitive, there's enough nuance from boss to boss to keep you interested. Their animations and personalities are just wonderfully rendered, and making dying and playing again all that more acceptable. You love them, and you hate them, and you smile when you think back on them.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ : Amazing
Despite its difficulty, Cuphead is an amazing game. It deserves every ounce of recognition that it received, and is undoubtedly one of the best indie games of the past decade or so. Its unique aesthetic, wonderful soundtrack, and wild characters all come together to create a memorable gaming experience for all skill levels. It's an absolute must-play game, especially for fans of challenging platformers. Whether you're a seasoned gamer looking for a challenge, casual gamer looking for a fairly novel gaming experience, or perhaps merely just a fan of classic animation, Cuphead is a game you must add to your library if you have not already. It's "a grand slam and then some!"