Cuphead

Cuphead Review

It looks amazing, that's for sure

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a Nintendo Switch on

Cuphead is also available for Xbox One

ESRB Everyone 10+ rating

About a year and a half ago, Cuphead debuted for Xbox One only to almost universally wow gamers and critics alike. Now that it's available for Switch, let's get ready to blast some baddies with our magic fingers like it's 2017.

Cuphead screenshot 1
These run 'n' gun stages would be more fun if they had more to them

Although I own an Xbox One and play it quite regularly, I never played Cuphead for whatever reason. Maybe it's because I avoid hyped games and am always rooting for the underdog or perhaps I just couldn't find time. Well, that dry spell is over because I finally decided to take the plunge and play Cuphead on my newfangled Switch. Right off the bat, I was blown away by the astounding retro cartoon aesthetic as I've never seen anything quite like it in a game before. The animation, colouring, and effects are pitch perfect and the sound is excellent, too, complete with swinging melodies, gratifying effects, and strange vocal clips. It really is a gorgeously presented game. That being said, graphics and sound only go so far so let's explore what Cuphead's gameplay is all about.

Cuphead is generally a run 'n' gun game where you try and avoid enemies and projectiles while blasting away as much as you can. Aside from running and gunning, you can jump, perform a powerful shot via EX Shoot, dash, alternate weapons, and lock your character in place. It all adds up to create a solid foundation for a run 'n' gun game. However, it doesn't quite do anything unique so the gameplay ends up feeling fun yet not quite special. It definitely shines brighter with a local chum and you can even revive each other by jumping off the deceased player's ghost. So, if you like exceptionally difficult gaming with a pal then Cuphead will be worth checking out.

Cuphead screenshot 2
I don't remember saving you a first time!

Although the core run 'n' gun gameplay doesn't do anything particularly fresh or exciting, the amount of variety is undeniably solid. The majority of the stages task you with taking down an incredibly challenging boss and each one is completely different with their own attack patterns that usually change a few times throughout each fight. Other stages include short side-scrolling run 'n' gun platforming levels where you can earn coins to buy stuff at the shop such as new shot types, super moves (AKA EX Shoot), and charms that offer clever ability enhancements. You'll also partake in enjoyable distractions like clearing a mausoleum of ghosts and other fun activities.

I've been a huge fan of run 'n' gun games since classics like Contra, Rush'n Attack, Gunstar Heroes, and Metal Slug and one thing that makes these retro titles more enjoyable than Cuphead is the fact that they have a sense of adventure and structure to their campaigns. Cuphead merely consists of an overworld map where you try and master bosses and mini-stages that may take dozens of attempts but they only last about 1 or 2 minutes once you manage to have a successful attempt. As a result, I can't help but wish it was structured like a classic game in the genre where you traverse a unique and memorable stage only to end up at the boss. In my opinion, that creates a more satisfying and memorable formula than simply choosing what brief yet difficult challenge you want to beat next.

Before wrapping this up, I want to discuss Cuphead's difficulty. For starters, I love challenging games. However, I've come to realise that there is a variety of difficult game that I don't enjoy as much as pure tests of skill. Namely, games that require trial and error thus rely on repetition in order to succeed. It can be a puzzle game or a 3D platformer; any game that basically forces you to keep trying again and again in order to succeed simply makes my patience wear thin. I understand that many gamers get a huge sense of accomplishment once they manage to succeed but I can't help but think "Well, that wasted a lot of my time." For Cuphead specifically, you never know what to expect next. There may be a projectile that unexpectedly ends your life or an enemy that shoots a laser so fast that you couldn't possibly be prepared for it the first time around. Whenever something like this came up, I just wanted to play something else.

Cuphead screenshot 3
Hey, Mugman, you're facing the wrong direction...

Cuphead is a stunning game that truly stands out from its peers on a presentational level. That being said, its gameplay doesn't do anything particularly unique and its difficulty is implemented in a way that it basically requires fruitless repetition.

  • + Outstanding graphics and sound with its authentic '30s cartoon presentation
  • + Very enjoyable co-op gameplay
  • + Contains a solid amount of variety
  • - I wish it was structured like a classic run 'n' gun with bosses at the end of stages
  • - Gameplay doesn't do anything special
  • - Difficulty heavily relies on repetition
7.2 out of 10
Gameplay video for Cuphead 4:41
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Trivia

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