|System: Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Studio MDHR|
|Pub: Studio MDHR|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
One of the most interesting and innovative games that we saw at E3 2014 this year had to be Cuphead--a game that flips everything we know about genre and animation and graphics right on our head. So what is Cuphead?
Cuphead in Don’t Deal With the Devil, is a game rendered in 1930’s… yes 1930’s animation style. Every single character in the game has huge expressive eyes, wiggly spaghetti arms, goofy wide mouths and more. Every character stays in motion the whole time, practically dancing as the game goes on. The main character--a cartoon with a literal cup for a head--looks as close to Mickey Mouse as he can without begging for a lawsuit. Old-timey music featuring pianos and trumpets plays constantly in the background, and nobody speaks. Heck, there are even two layers of graphical filter playing over the whole game, one which makes the whole thing look like its being played on a CRT monitor, and another that makes it look grainy and faded like ancient film.
But a game’s graphics doesn’t make it great. Gameplay does, and Cuphead’s gameplay is like nothing we’ve ever seen. The game is a fusion of fighting game and 2D side scrolling shooter. Imagine, for example, a Contra style game, but there are no grunts to run through, no platforming stages where you can lose all your life. All you do is fight bosses, each with different patterns and abilities and more.
See, the key here is that by focusing on boss encounters each boss can be made much more interesting. Instead of just one or two attacks, each boss will have a variety of different attacks, each with their own tells that you’ll have to notice successfully in order to dodge. Some bosses have platforms that you’ll have to jump around on to fight them, and other bosses will come in several phases or parts. It all feels like a classic 2D shooter, except we are cutting out the middle man and getting right to the fun and epic parts.
Cuphead’s basic method of attacking is a simple gun. He points his fingers at an enemy and fires, like every basic gun in every 2D shooter ever. However, Cuphead can also get a variety of power-ups. Some new guns can drop simply over the course of a boss battle. Some are given as rewards for completing bosses. Some are simple upgrades, like spreaders and wide-shots, and others will be specific Mega Man style weapons that certain bosses will be weak to.
There are also new weapons and power-ups available on the “Mario 3” style worldmap that Cuphead traverses. Hidden on this map are even more weapons and power-ups and even hidden bonus stages and bosses. How do you unlock these hidden areas? Well, certain bosses will be able to be defeated in multiple ways. For example, some bosses might be able to be harmed by environmental factors. Others will need to be beaten under a certain time. All of this is hypothetical, of course, but the point is beating bosses in different ways will unlock different paths for you to follow with different rewards down each one.
Cuphead will also be an episodic game, which means you won’t get everything right at the beginning. Following a Telltale style model, Cuphead will be released in three chapters, each including 10 to 15 different bosses to play. So you can buy the first chapter and see if you like it, and if you don’t, you will have only wasted a very small amount of money.
There are a lot of other features that Cuphead will have, including a hard mode that introduces new boss patterns, RPG style upgrades that can make your guns and health better, infinite life cheats, super moves, and even two player co-op with Cuphead’s faithful sidekick Mugman.
I applaud Studio MDHR for their sheer creativity on this project. I honestly have never seen another game like this, and I can’t wait to see it come out on the Xbox One and Steam in 2015. If you like 2D shooters at all, check this out. I hope it will inspire other studios to take interesting risks with their graphical presentation in the future.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: July 24, 2014