Let me start off by giving a huge thanks to Microsoft for sharing one of their most sought after exclusives, Cuphead, to the Nintendo Switch! A year ago I never would have thought that I’d be playing an Xbox One exclusive on a Nintendo system, but here we are! For now let’s just celebrate the fact that Studio MDHR’s beautiful 1930s animation-inspired epic is now available on the Switch, allowing for more gamers to experience it like never before.
Prepare to die! Cuphead is a brutally difficult and meticulously animated masterpiece that kept me playing death after death after death. It’s the kind of game where I can spend an hour giving my all to take down one of the many grueling boss battles only to die 50 times in the process. If you’re the kind of person that is easily frustrated with games that aren’t easy, Cuphead is probably not the game for you.
That being said, this game is a wonderful delight that kept me coming back for more no matter how many times I failed. The game is all about recognizing patterns and perfecting your actions to eventually take down a boss. If you keep at it you will get better. You just need to have patience and trust yourself that it can be done.
All of the tools you need are given to you at the start of your adventure and it’s up you to learn them inside and out and use them best in any situation. Cuphead is a simple game with simple controls and actions, but those controls feel extremely refined to the point that when you die, you know it was your fault and not the game’s. Because of that the game’s bosses will throw everything and the kitchen sink at our titular hero and his pal, Mugman.
The game is mainly comprised of boss battles with each one consisting of multiple stages designed to test the player’s blood pressure in new and unique ways. Defeating one of these bosses may only take less than three minutes if done correctly, but expect to be committing much more time to learning all the ins and outs of each stage of the fight. Because of the amount of times that you’ll most likely fail, expect to be playing Cuphead for quite a while before you ever see the credits roll.
Cuphead also boasts a few run and gun style levels where the player can find coins hidden throughout the stage that are used for purchasing weapon upgrades in the game’s shop. There are not too many of these levels so expect most of your time to be spent taking on one of the many boss stages.
With every boss that I eventually bested a rush of dopamine flooded my brain. I sat back in my chair and rested a moment before turning my screen off. Cuphead is not a game that I can play for hours on end at a time. Every boss I fought in the game was the hardest one in the game – until I battled the next one. There’s no downtime in the game to allow players to catch their breath, so I made my own. I wanted to ride the nice little high I felt from taking down whatever animated horror tried to eliminate me in my gameplay session. Remember that little reminder in Wii Sports showing a window and telling the player they should probably take a break? That’s exactly what I did after each boss, which helped me recharge and keep coming back ready for more.
The game can be played in a variety of ways unique to the Nintendo Switch. With a friend and two Joy-Cons you can tackle the cartoon horrors co-op style in tabletop mode. But be warned that the enemies are significantly harder to take down in this setting! Although, I played most of the game in handheld mode, it also looked great docked and felt much better with a Pro controller.
With the Switch release, Cuphead comes packed with the newest update added by Studio MDHR allowing the player to choose between Cuphead or Mugman (previously Mugman was only available in co-op). For the seriously dedicated players there’s an achievement system that is designed to make the player aim for perfection (now if only Nintendo would implement its own native achievement system for the Switch). Last but not least, in the newest update players can look for a few secret bosses!
Cuphead’s art style is designed to look like something Walt Disney in the 1930s would have cooked up and honestly this was the real selling point for me. The game is downright beautiful. In every scene you can tell how much effort the team put into faithfully recreating what a cartoon from that era would look like. There are so many little attentions to details that are amazing when noticed – like the holes that appear on the screen from old films or the watercolor backgrounds that accompany every level.
The jazz tunes that play during each stage are just as infectious as the art style itself. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how much work the developers put into this game to not only make it look authentic, but also make it sound just as genuine as any animation from the ‘30s. There’s even a constant cracking sound heard in the background, reminiscent of a record playing that adds to the old-school feel of the atmosphere.
Cuphead feels like an emotional love letter to cartoons of yesteryear wrapped up in a run and gun action game. It offers plenty of challenges, even for the veterans of the genre, but if you stick with it eventually you’ll settle the score with the devil. The game forces the player into impossible situations until somehow you get out of it without spilling any milk. Because it is so difficult I can’t recommend it for everyone, but it wasn’t made for everyone. The truth is if you want to play Cuphead than you’re probably already playing it. Now Microsoft, if you’re listening, would it be too much to ask for a Switch port of Halo: The Master Chief Collection?
- Graphics - 10/1010/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Cuphead, one of Microsoft’s best exclusive titles, finally makes its way to Nintendo’s ultra popular hybrid console offering players a second opportunity to play this fantastic, but painfully intense game. It’s a knockout!