Remember Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Steamboat Mickey, Betty Boop? Classic animation of the 1930’s was both frightening at times and magical. There’s something special in the scratched frames of old cartoons. Thankfully someone else feels the same way. Studio MDHR has brought a digital version of that majesty in the Xbox exclusive, Cuphead.
Developer: Studio MDHR
Published by: Studio MDHR, Microsoft Game Studios
Available on: Xbox One and PC
From a tutorial that gives you the perspective of an old school animator at his drawing table to the game’s nearly impossible final boss, Cuphead is a game loaded with expression and charm. Players will take on the role of a cute propaganda cartoon character called Cuphead (and in 2 player mode, Mugman) who after making a deal with the devil must pay off his debt by collecting the cartoon souls of others who need to pay the piper.
First of all, Cuphead is a challenging game and that’s putting it lightly. Studio MDHR credits gameplay influences from Gunstar Heroes (Seven Force!), Contra III, Contra Hard Corps, Super Mario World, the Thunderforce series and Street Fighter III. Boss fights in particular are enraging, you’ll need to memorize patterns and use precise timing. In a way it’s reminiscent of playing Contra on the original Nintendo. It might seem like chaos but getting the hang of jumping and shooting required practice to get through that game in less than 30 lives and you’ll need the same focus to make it through fever nightmare boss fights in Cuphead where you’ll only be able to take three hits from an enemy.
Cuphead is a fantastic game but not in the same technical behemoth way Horizon or Tomb Raider are. What makes this game among the best of the year is the process by which its made. It’s where the soul of this game takes shape, one that reminds me of watching a talented mechanic rebuild a classic hot rod. In an age where entertainment can feel completely digitized, Cuphead is a…