Reviews - Updated on April 13, 2022

Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Well really, why hasn’t anyone used the visual style of nascent animation? Or rather, why did no one make an independent setting out of this feature of the cartoons of the 30s of the last century? And who would think in 2017 to create a two-dimensional game that, in terms of its mechanics, is not far from the arcades of twenty years ago?

StudioMDHR Entertainment thought of doing the first and decided on the second. And now bathed in applause.

Cuphead game review

Believe me, these cute guys will make you cry bloody tears.

Hey Disney!

And it didn’t take much. Cuphead is a very prosaic and even primitive shoot ’em up. Run, jump, shoot – with the exception of small trifles, the game completely leaves on the classic set of actions. Looking at it, you will surely feel something so nostalgic, but decide that the target audience of this entertainment attends a kindergarten, and you hardly need it. And make a big mistake – Cuphead can surprise you not only with the original setting.

Big-eyed characters in white gloves, vintage clothes, bold contours around objects – the signature of early Disney or Warner Bros. impossible not to know. All these huge smiles, grotesque emotions of the characters are familiar to everyone, but not everyone caught them. Here, any object becomes alive – just draw two eyes for it. Here light jazz plays everywhere with childish clapping, and the image is deliberately spoiled by “roughness”.

The visual design of Cuphead is definitely amazing. The artists authentically conveyed the mood of the cartoons of the 30s and drew a huge number of different decorations and characters in the spirit of that time. The stylization is perfect, and for this artistic miracle, the masters of StudioMDHR are worthy of all praise. Nothing is repeated here: all three game worlds are unique in their visual embodiment, each level with all its content is drawn from scratch.

Take my soul

And it is very touching when they begin to tell you a story that is quite appropriate for this retro atmosphere. Two brothers of “dizziness” (anthropomorphism is ubiquitous here) somehow went into a casino. On a wave of luck, they agreed to the proposal of the master-devil: if the guys win the next game, they take all his wealth; if they lose, they give their souls. As you might guess, at the most crucial moment, luck failed them. But the villain gave an alternative to the guys: they must become devilish “collectors” and collect the souls of all his debtors.Cuphead game review

The one who has the wider smile is cooler.

Here is such a dirty job waiting for Cuphead, one of the brothers. For knocking out souls, he initially has one means – some kind of watery charges from his finger. In the future, you can buy more powerful weapons. There is a whole store here that allows you to surprisingly well “customize” the character. In addition to the main “gun”, you can screw additional ones (like boomerangs or charges flying in three directions). There are also variations in the choice of ultimate, which we get access to after a certain number of successful hits on enemies. Tip: buy the fourth heart first – life is the most important resource here. Three initially available hit points is not enough for levels without save points. But more on that later.

Duel

The most pleasant feature of Cuphead is the variety of content. Each mission contains a completely new set of enemies, scenery and traps.

Most of the tasks here are presented in the form of a fight with “bosses”, which, in principle, corresponds to the plot logic. Yes, no replays – each battle is unique, each villain is a work of cartoon art and will fight you back with their own methods. Sometimes our hero will fight in a helicopter. The principle is also classic, but it adds variety.

In addition to battles with the “leaders”, there are levels that are essentially reminiscent of ordinary platformers – we run forward, shooting enemies along the way and collecting coins. Again, each stage is presented in its original setting and contains its own set of opponents.

Of course, with such a generous approach to filling levels, it is unlikely that the game could turn out to be too long. Only three not very big worlds and the final – you will be able to complete Cuphead in five hours. But in the most likely scenario, much more time will be needed. The fact is that the locations here are characterized by a rather high level of complexity. They did not expect? Believe me, it is unlikely that you will be able to pass at least one of them on the third attempt.

Cuphead game review

Defeat the honeycomb, kill the queen and take her soul – can the main character be called a positive character?

What is the difficulty?

The unique style and abundance of content is great, but this alone will not succeed in keeping the user at the screen. The complexity of Cuphead, which is so dissonant with the “childish” atmosphere, is completely unexpected. And that makes it even more annoying. Why can’t I, a grown man with a blisters on Super Meat Boy, handle this three-button kindergarten interactive cartoon?!

The complexity is due to the unexpected appearance on the screen of different combinations of objects moving along an unpredictable trajectory. Without understanding how opponents behave, suddenly crawling out both on the right and on the left, no skill is enough, because you simply don’t know what this big-eyed wall can throw out. Of course, this unpredictability disappears after several playthroughs, and in the end you adapt, recognize the behavior of the enemy and easily move on. But, as I said, there is no repetitive content here, so each level needs to be adjusted from the very beginning.

The battle with each “boss” consists of several stages, in each of which we have to fight, in essence, with a new enemy. Each of them has an original “pattern”. And so, by trial and error, you kill the first monster, and another one appears in its place, capable of throwing out absolutely anything. You are losing, and now, in order to adapt to the second, you need to pass the first along the way. However, after the second, the third one comes out … The distance increases, you replay the same thing every time, sometimes making stupid mistakes, and you start to hate yourself and the game when you start over again for the tenth time.

In fact, run and gun style levels are the same. Combinations of flowers running out of different parts of the screen, unexpected cliffs, shooting mushrooms, passing cars require one thing – getting used to. Getting into a new situation, you will surely lose a heart. But go a little further next time.

The difficulty increases significantly as you progress. Unexpected “chips” appear, for example, buttons that change the direction of gravity. You will try twenty times to dodge cars running around the floor and ceiling. And when you go through a difficult episode, die from some new psychedelic contraption, you will see that this is only a fourth part of the whole level, the main battle will begin – with your nerves.

Cuphead game review

Is he the superhero of 2017?

Still, it’s worth saying that the difficulty in Cuphead is artificially created. This is a cunning approach of developers – to bombard the player with content in such a way as to devalue his “skill”. The success of the passage ultimately does not depend on skill, but on the number of repeated passages and memorization of dangerous situations. Sometimes you feel it especially strongly – when you get stuck at some level for a couple of hours. Here, the style, the music, and the “challenge” itself are no longer pleasing. But you cope – and the doors to new challenges, new design, new characters open up before you … And the mood improves.

***

Cuphead throws magic dust into your eyes: the unique setting immediately captivates, touches and causes a slightly frivolous desire to quickly look around, go through one or two levels and quit. But it was not there. When these touching cartoon creatures repeatedly send you to the beginning of the level with wide smiles, anger boils in you. You challenge the animation of the 30s and now you won’t stop until you erase all these drawn reptiles from the screen of your monitor.

Pros: Audiovisual style of early Disney cartoons; “challenge”; an abundance of non-repetitive content.

Cons: give me back my keyboard!

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