Upon first glance of the recently released Cuphead, the 1930’s style of animation is sure to be what catches your eye. And rightfully so. The completely hand drawn animation is absolutely stunning. And let’s face it, when was the last time you played a game that pays homage to the cartoons of the 1930’s? The answer, I believe, is never. Studio MDHR really went the extra mile to make sure their game oozes 1930’s style. Not just the animation, but the sound effects and music as well. From the first time I saw the opening menu and heard that theme music, it became clear that the developers did not cut any corners.
But the 30’s is not the only era that Cuphead reminds me of. Cuphead’s gameplay lends itself extremely well to the classic run n’ gun games of the late 80’s and 90’s. Games like Contra and Sunset Riders. There are currently no online modes for Cuphead; the only multiplayer available is local. This alone gives it the feel of a game like Contra. But it doesn’t stop there, as soon as you jump into one of Cuphead’s several “Run N’ Gun” levels, you are attacked from all angles. The first thing I thought of was the beginning of Contra 3, when the bullets immediately start flying and you have to start blasting or get blasted. It’s the same thing here; if you blink you might get hit by an enemy. It’s pure insanity.
As you’ve no doubt been told countless times already, Cuphead is TOUGH. Several times I found myself trying to coordinate no less than three different actions at the same time just to stay alive. It felt like I was trying to rub my stomach, pat my head and scratch my back at the same time. Keep in mind I do not have three arms. But the level of difficulty found in Cuphead is a breath of fresh air from 20 years ago. I personally loved Sunset Riders (SNES) back in the day. My brother and I would pop that cartridge in the SNES and go at it for hours and sometimes not even make it very far. It didn’t matter because the game was so fun. And that’s exactly how I feel about Cuphead.
Every time I start a new level in Cuphead, my thought process is as follows:
Attempts 1-3: “There is no f*ckin’ way any human can do this.”
Attempts 4-7: “Alright I made it about 30% of the way through the level before I died. I guess that’s progress.”
Attempts 8-12: “There is a pattern here. I can figure this out.”
Attempt 13: “Screw the pattern I’m just gonna run and shoot.”
Attempt 14-20: “Bad idea. Let’s Learn that pattern.”
Attempt 21: I’ve just beaten the level. “NOTHING CAN STOP MEEEE!!!!”
Then the whole thing starts over again. And again. And again. It’s a cycle; just like the classic run n’ gun games. You dodge bullets, you shoot bullets, you kill the boss and then you do it again. Simple concept? Sure. But it has stood the test of time and I am so happy Cuphead has brought this concept back with a fresh spin on it.