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Review

Cuphead (Switch) Review

by April 18, 2019

Cuphead on Switch is a big deal. It holds importance as a title released on the Switch due to its status as an Xbox One exclusive title, and Microsoft themselves asked StudioMDHR to create a port to the hybrid console. If successful, this could be the first in a long line of Microsoft exclusive titles finding a new audience. I do hope that it does well, as Cuphead is a difficult, yet well refined platformer that is worth checking out.

The game is well known for its high level of difficulty, the first level of the game alone took me about ten attempts to get through (no, not the tutorial). When games this difficult pop up, it’s easy to throw around the name of that game like games weren’t difficult before 2011, but you won’t read any comparisons to that game in this review. It’s an old-school difficult platformer through and through, but victory mostly comes with persistence, and more importantly, patience.

The most striking aspect of Cuphead is certainly the animation style that faithfully reproduces the late 1930s cartoon aesthetic. Characters wouldn’t look out of place in old short films of Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat.  While we’ve seen recent works that utilise the old Rubber Hose style of animation in Adventure Time and Kingdom Hearts, those examples pale in comparison to the dedication of the StudioMDHR animation team.

This animation style smoothly coats a game with familiar mechanics of run ‘n gun games seen in many 1980’s series such as Metal Slug and Contra. It’s like experience what we used to know about cartoons, and what we used to know about video games all wrapped up in a package together. For the most part, the run ‘n gun aspects require the player to learn each level in order to be able to complete them appropriately. I did however experience moments where enemy placement was more random, and these moments led to many occurrences where I lost health due to an unexpected enemy or even death as I was struck by an enemy over a gap in the floor. These moments come pretty rarely though, and I’m satisfied that the game does a well enough job that I could take these slight imperfections on the chin and hope for a better result on my next attempt.

The aesthetic and gameplay make the narrative on the whole a more coherent experience. Cuphead is a character with a cup, wait for it, for a head. Cuphead makes a deal with the devil, and the only way he can repay his debt is by collecting contracts from other beings that have made similar deals with the devil. Each of these beings who’ve sold their soul appear in the game in various boss fights. Each of the boss fights must be completed in order for Cuphead to regain his soul and live his life peacefully.

Each of these bosses, unsurprisingly, can be just as difficult as the levels themselves. Figuring out the patterns and being able to successfully defeat the boss are two very difficult steps needed in order to defeat them. The bosses come with an easier mode, but the game does not allow you to collect their debt if they’re defeated in the easier mode. What it does do, is prepare you for the harder version so you can build your skills up and eventually take the bosses down.

The game can be played entirely in co-op mode. The second player taking on the role of Mughead, both players proceed as normal, but is made just that little bit easier due to the death mechanic being similar to the New Super Mario Bros. system. Once a player dies, they’re able to be saved by the other player as long as that other player doesn’t die first. It’s definitely good to see that there are some mechanics in place to assist players having a tough time with the game overall.

Another system in place is the parrying system. By pressing the jump button in mid-air, Cuphead and Mughead both flip and are able to bounce off of an object in the level. The caveat is that the parryable objects only come in pink. At first, some objects are obvious, and after time, blend in with the scenery. Sometimes they come as light-pink butterflies flittering in the level, another example are pink seeds being shot from a boss. It’s a cool added system that wasn’t necessarily needed but adds another dimension to the game and gives it that added sense of uniqueness.

Like I wrote about earlier, Cuphead is a truly special game. An Xbox exclusive being released on the Switch. The announcement on the Nindies Showcase was an important one that received a lot of attention and fanfare. Luckily, Cuphead is a game that can back up the importance and expectations that have been thrust upon it. There doesn’t feel like any technical downgrades on its transition to Switch. Cuphead is a difficult, yet beautiful game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet encourages a sense of learning from the player.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Good

+ Difficulty is based on learning the levels and bosses
+ Gorgeous rubber-hose style animation
+ Co-op isn’t a hindrance to difficulty

The Bad

+ Randomness in some levels lead to unfair deaths

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Final Thoughts

Cuphead is a truly special game. An Xbox exclusive being released on the Switch. The announcement on the Nindies Showcase was an important one that received a lot of attention and fanfare. Luckily, Cuphead is a game that can back up the importance and expectations that have been thrust upon it. There doesn’t feel like any technical downgrades on its transition to Switch. Cuphead is a difficult, yet beautiful game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet encourages a sense of learning from the player.

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About The Author
Brad Long
I yell about pro wrestling, ice hockey and rugby league directly into the internet.

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