Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard the name Cuphead, which is one of the hottest games making rounds on Steam (besides PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, of course). Announced in E3 2014 in the Microsoft Press Conference, a lot of people had high hopes for the game, especially retro gamers, who like to press for retro styles in most games. Cuphead proved to be just the title needed to give the gaming industry a break from the long haul of AAA titles with their microtransactions and loot boxes with shitty gameplay mechanics. Not only that, turning a seemingly unrealistic demand of a certain niche section of the community into something that would conquer haters in the long run is no mean task.
Cuphead is a platformer with two main protagonists, that sets the stage for cooperative gameplay besides singleplayer gameplay. The game is about Cuphead and Mugman, who decided to gamble with the Devil, and seemingly lost, leading to Devil making unreasonable demands in return for not claiming their souls from them.
The art style is something which strikes harmony as well as discord. It is seemingly “old” and “retro”, and not something which is fit for the modern era. Because who plays a game with 1930s graphics, right? Back when cartoons started being a mainstream thing in Europe, when Disney was the premier channel for child entertainment. A simple mimicry of the older graphics is perhaps one of the main features that made me fall in love with the title. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, and when used properly, can create miracles. Like Disney in the 1930’s. Like Cuphead.
Cuphead’s story isn’t anything special, but is just an absurd one like cartoons. Maybe the story isn’t that big of a deal? After all, when did cartoons start showing reality? Cartoons are inspired, but they do not depict, real world situations. Naturally, a “cartoonishly absurd” story not only maintains a harmony with its art style, it adds to the nostalgia. More the nostalgia, harder it penetrates the heart of an average gamer, as they swim back in time to their childhood in a daydream, only to wake up on seeing the menu screen, when they have exhausted their fill of lives.
One of the only parts that resembles modern games are the gameplay features, and no doubt, the hardness of the game. It’s basically a dark Dark Souls meme (did I see a pun there? I hope not), one that has been modeled into perfection by Studio MDHR, the developers behind Cuphead. Yeah, the game’s hard, and awkwardly so, until you decide to give up and buy an Xbox controller like the pleb you are, and start grinding your way through the levels without pausing, only to find that you are one year worth of time behind the average ‘speedrunning’ Twitch streamer or Youtuber. Thing is, nothing’s hard, and certainly not a game, because video games are means of entertainment, not a form of masochism. (That’s basically every video game in the ’90s, but who cares?) You just need to be brave enough to find your way through the levels, either by killing every enemy, or without killing anyone, and just finding your way past them.
Starting from the trailer, the background music plays like an old record on play. The main game retains the music, which sounds like a pre-World War record. If you’ve a weakness for old records and music, you’ll find yourself trying to reach out to adjust the record, only to find it as nothing more than a hallucination. So powerful is the charm of the music of Cuphead, it sends you back in time, till you manage to crawl out of the daydream and open the music menu for adjusting the music (though it is recommended to leave it on, for ‘old time’s sake’, after all!) It adds to the beautiful retro art style, and blends in beautifully with the game, a complete package, unlike the DLC ridden games released these days.
Level design? Plebs might say “Where is it different from a modern ‘Mario'”? Is Cuphead an average platformer resembling Mario? No. No game resembles any other, there will exist the slightest ounce of difference, just like genetic differences in twins. Cuphead’s levels might be designed like Mario, but enemy spawns are much different from Mario. Enemies are much more frequent, and this is only the easiest difficulty, hardest has you craving for mercy and reaching out to the Bible for help. A Dark Souls-styled Mario? Still not a worthy comparison for the decent level design that is overlooked by players as they have to focus more on how to dodge or kill enemies to proceed without losing lives, or just click the refund button, because they aren’t cut out for the game anyways.
A homogenous combination of everything old, and using the powerful tool of nostalgia by resembling a cartoon of the ’30’s, when Disney started being famous, Cuphead emotionally weakens every gamer that plays it, which eventually makes them the Devil’s pawn, and makes Microsoft succeed in hiding the fact that they didn’t manage to make the Xbox One relevant, and are repeating the same thing with the Xbox One X.
Cuphead is a good game, and if you disagree with me, you’re a normie AAA sucker who likes to ignore the better titles that come out these days.