“Cute but deadly” doesn’t even begin to describe Cuphead. The ID@Xbox darling is getting in front of the public here at E3 2015 and they’re learning what we’ve been saying all year: Cuphead is the most stylish, adorable, funny game around. And it’s so fun and challenging it hurts.
If Max Flesicher took a break from Betty Boop cartoons and decided to make a Contra game, it’d look something like Cuphead. Embodying the cartoons of the 1930s, the game pops with more charisma than even the cartoons it’s paying homage to. Giant cuckoo clocks, friendly (and not-so-friendly) animals, and two bizarre heroes whose craniums are dishware all contribute to the game’s standout style.
But don’t be fooled by the cuteness; Cuphead is brutally challenging. It’s not just in the style of classic run-and-gun games, it actually captures the rage-inducing challenge that made so many of us smash our controllers in the ‘80s and ‘90s. But Cuphead isn’t too hard. In fact, it’s such a beautiful array of patterned projectiles that we could only be mad at ourselves when we died. But then, we died a lot.
Still, thanks to the assorted boss battles that made up its E3 demo, we were able to dig down into the real experience of Cuphead. While leaping, dashing, and shooting all play a huge part in the game, the parrying move is what sets it apart. See, the game rewards you for jumping into pink projectiles: If you time it so that you neutralize the shot, you get a boost to your special meter. Filling the special meter allows you to unleash Cuphead’s giant laser beam attack – which is the key to beating bosses.
An amazing jazz score that further captures the feel of the ‘30s-era cartoons accompanies the hectic insanity of giant mermaids, evil pirates, a skeleton train, and other big baddies that try to prevent Cuphead and Mugman from fulfilling their goal. (That goal happens to be paying off their debt to the devil. This game is weird as hell.)
It’s nearly impossible not to be excited for Cuphead. You’ve never seen a game like this, and the amount of work that’s gone into it so far is painstaking and impressive. You’ll have to wait until 2016 to get your hands on it from ID@Xbox, but it’s clearly going to be worth the wait.