About the game:
- Developer: Studio MDHR
- Publisher: Studio MDHR
- Platforms: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, macOS
- Release Date: September 29, 2017 (Xbox One, PC), October 19th, 2018 (macOS), and April 18th, 2019 (Nintendo Switch)
- Price: $19.99
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the game Cuphead.
From the moment I laid eyes on Cuphead, I knew it would be perfect for the Nintendo Switch. A challenging platformer, co-op, and just the aesthetic that so many Nintendo Switch fans love. However, there was an issue. Cuphead was an Xbox One console exclusive. Two years later, Cuphead is landing on the Switch as a result of Microsoft and Nintendo’s excellent relationship.
Cuphead is a game based on a 1930’s art style, where you travel through a unique world doing the Devil’s bidding. The creators of the game, Studio MDHR, used the same techniques used in the 1930’s when creating the game. This includes hand drawn cel animation, rich and extremely vivid watercolor backgrounds, and an incredible jazz soundtrack. The game is a run and gun action platformer in the fictional setting of Inkwell Isles, and it has many intriguing and intricate bosses. You play as Cuphead or his brother Mugman, as you embark on a great adventure throughout the vast world. The story goes that one day, Cuphead and Mugman come across the Devil’s Casino, and choose to enter despite the Elder Kettle’s warning. They begin playing, and after winning multiple times in a row, the Devil tells the brothers that he can raise the stakes. The Devil tells Cuphead and Mugman that if they can win the next roll, they can have all of the money in the Casino. However, if they lose the roll, the Devil will get to have their souls. Cuphead agrees to the stakes, and rolls the dice. He rolls two ones, or snake eyes. He and Mugman get on their knees and beg to the Devil for mercy, so he gives them a task. The Devil tells the two brothers to go out in the world and collect the various soul contracts from those in debt to him by midnight of the next day. He explains that if they recover the contracts, he might let Cuphead and Mugman keep their souls. Cuphead and Mugman frantically leave the Casino, and run back home to the Elder Kettle to explain what happened. The Elder Kettle gives them a potion that allows the brothers to fire blasts from their fingers as a gift to help them on their journey. The two thank the Elder Kettle, and embark on their quest for the contracts.
Gameplay is pretty simple. You run around as Cuphead or Mugman, shooting blasts from your fingers. There are multiple weapon options to choose from which adds variety to the gameplay. The level variation is very enticing in Cuphead. Run and gun levels have you getting to the end goal of the stage, while enemies and obstacles stand in your way. These run and gun levels were frustrating at times, but I felt very accomplished to pass them. Then, there are many boss battles throughout the entirety of the game. The boss battles are my favorite part of Cuphead. There are a total of 19 boss battles in Cuphead, all of which I enjoyed so much. Each boss is super unique, and each one has their own personality and charm. Studio MDHR says that the game is 75% Boss Battles, and 25% platforming levels. From beginning to end, I enjoyed every single boss battle Cuphead threw at me. I also felt accomplished when going back to the hub world after beating a boss, as there was a soul contract waiting. Little details like these make Cuphead stand out from many other games. The in game shop, Porkrind’s Emporium, offers upgrades to players if they use gold coins, which are collectibles in run and gun levels. I found myself replaying these run and gun levels until I collected all of the coins in the level. The upgrades available were worth it, such as getting an extra life, or getting a new weapon to use. The game is very challenging, however this challenge was welcome. There were 2 bosses in the game that took me over 4 hours to beat. Although I died time and time again, I wanted to keep playing and progress further. The game keeps it fresh with bosses. Cuphead will randomize the order that certain assets come out in a boss fight. An example being the boss Baroness Von Bon Bon. In this boss fight, a gumball machine, candy corn, jawbreaker, and chocolate bar all come out from a living candy castle. If you die, they will come out in a different order the next time you fight the boss. This small change adds variety, and ensures that players cannot memorize patterns as it is random. Although challenging, the gameplay is super enjoyable, as it kept me playing for hours. The bosses also have multiple parts to them. If you die, you see your progress in how close you got to defeating the boss. For a lot of bosses, I got to the third tier, but died relatively quickly. Every time I found myself dying or getting a low rank, I found myself trying again and again to get the A+ rank.
The Switch version runs fantastically. The port was done in house at Studio MDHR, and they managed to make Cuphead run extremely similar to the other versions. The game runs at an extremely steady and reliable 60 frames per second in handheld mode and docked mode. The game runs at a steady 720p in handheld mode, and jumps up to a steady 1080p while docked. Studio MDHR has said that the output is identical to the Xbox One version, and this is for sure the case after playing the game. There are plenty of ways to play on Nintendo Switch. Handheld is supported as well as tabletop mode with single Joy-Cons. The Pro Controller is also supported in handheld and docked mode. The controls are extremely smooth, and I never found myself feeling limited by them. The controls are as follows:
- Move – Left / Right
- Crouch – Hold down
- Jump – B (Hold for a higher jump)
- Dash – X
- Descend – Down + B
- Shoot – Y (Hold for rapid fire)
- Lock Movement – R (Hold to stay in place)
- Parry Slap – Press B mid-jump (Pink Objects)
- EX Move – A
Co-op mode in Cuphead is much more chaotic than single player mode. If one of the players die, the other player can attempt to revive them by parrying the ghost as it floats up to the top of the screen. It may sound easy, but at times this is incredibly difficult. Most would think that since two characters are playing doing damage to a boss that the boss would be easier, however that is not the case. Studio MDHR thought of this, and compensated by giving the bosses more health as a compromise. Playing together on the Switch is fun, but it is very challenging. I spent most of my time in single player mode, but I did touch on co-op for a while to see how it compared to single player.
Everything about Cuphead screams vintage nostalgia, and just plain fun. The goal of the 1930’s style is screamed in every shape and way possible. All of the models are hand drawn in the same way that models were drawn in the 1930’s, which gives off an incredible aesthetic that is carried throughout the entirety of Cuphead. In addition to the beautiful hand drawn over world and gameplay, Cuphead has a fantastic smooth jazz soundtrack that takes the game one step further. This phenomenal 51 song three hour soundtrack by Kristofer Maddigan is an absolute joy to listen to, and I found myself going back to these songs even after I’d beat the game. The soundtrack is a real joy to have while playing as it goes so well with the game itself. At times, it can be cheerful and full of excitement, while at others it can be menacing or humorous. There wasn’t a point in the entirety of Cuphead that I got tired of the soundtrack. Each song is unique and perfectly fits where it is placed in the game.
Cuphead was first announced at Microsoft’s E3 2014 where reception was generally positive. The game was expected to be a mere 40% complete and was not playable in its current state. Cuphead was again shown at E3 2015, 2016, and 2017 where it was announced to release in September of that year.
Cuphead has won many awards over the past two years including but not limited to:
- 2017 Game Award for Best Independent Game
- 2017 Game Award for Best Art Direction
- 2017 Game Award for Best Debut Indie Game
- 2018 BAFTA Games Award for Music
At E3 in 2018, it was announced that Cuphead would receive DLC titled Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, and it adds a ton of new content. Ms. Chalice, along with her brand new abilities, will be added as a new playable character as well as a whole new island. New weapons will be added, as well as new charms. And of course, new bosses will be making an appearance in this add-on. The official description of this DLC is “Assist Chef Saltbaker in Cuphead’s final challenging quest!” We are yet to know how many bosses will be added, but I’m sure we will hear at E3 2019. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is scheduled for release in 2019.
The Nintendo Switch version is not the only thing launching on April 18th, as there is new content for Cuphead coming to Xbox One, PC, macOs, and of course Nintendo Switch! The April 18th update will allow players to pick Mugman to start their adventure, so now you can choose Cuphead or Mugman at the start screen! This update also includes fully animated cinematics, which are an extremely nice addition to have. Switch owners playing Cuphead for the first time will be playing the game in its best state yet. Cuphead also has full support for eleven languages as of this update. These new languages include French, Italian, German, European Spanish, Latin Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Simplified Chinese. In addition to all of these new improvements, the update also brings new animations to Cuphead. Multiple new fight intros and enemy animation have been added. For Nintendo Switch owners, this is already bundled in when you purchase the game. If you’re not playing on Switch, this update is available as a free to download update, starting on April 18th.
Cuphead is an extremely fun platformer with a ton of challenge. From the bosses to the soundtrack, Cuphead offers a unique experience that I am very glad I got to experience. I had a ridiculous amount of fun playing this, and I am confident I will be replaying it in the near future. Cuphead is the most fun I’ve had in a long time on Switch, even though it was one of the hardest games I’ve played in a while. If you’re up for a challenge and want to have some fun, give Cuphead a shot!