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Cuphead (2017): An Old-School Platformer With Style

Cuphead title card

Cuphead has a gambling problem, and that’s why he and his friend Mugman owe their souls to the Devil.

They’ve got one last chance to get out alive, though, and that’s where you come in.

I’ve only played about five levels so far (three boss fights and two traditional platform-y levels), but I just wanted to share some quick thoughts on the recently released Cuphead. It’s a game I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and you know what? It delivers.

Don’t Deal With The Devil

Cup Head takes on an angry helicopter

The first thing that surprised me was just how good it looks. Sure, I knew going in that Cuphead was hand drawn and based on animation from the 1930s. But seeing it in action – you are legitimately playing a cartoon, here. Watching a video of it on YouTube is one thing, actually playing is another. It’s really something.

I’ll admit, though, at first I was a bit disappointed in the actual gameplay. The way shooting snaps to specific angles made it feel a bit weird (especially playing with a 360 controller), and I died quite a bit in the early going, which frustrated me somewhat. But a few tweaks to the controls in the options, a readjustment of my mindset, and it was smooth sailing from there.

Cuphead overworld map

The other thing that surprised me was the world map. You freely walk from location to location, unlocking levels as you go, a la Super Mario 3D World. For some reason, I was expecting just the old fashioned one-level-after-another. The bosses (so far) are also separate from the “Run & Gun” platform levels. I like that, because it means I can just walk right up and replay a boss fight whenever I want.

There are upgrades, too. Different guns, and “charms” that do certain things – give you an extra heart in exchange for weaker fire power, for example.

Point is, there’s a lot more to the game than originally presented however many years ago.

So far, I think it’s fun and definitely worth checking out.

Final (Initial) Thoughts

Dodging spin attacks in a biplane

Approach Cuphead as you’d approach something like Mega Man. It’s a game of pattern memorization and skillful execution. It’s difficult, but fair. You’ll die a lot, but retrying is quick and easy. And you’ll see some pretty cool stuff along the way. The art direction – and really, the whole presentation — is amazing.

Time Played: Maybe 2 hours
Released: September 29, 2017
Platforms: PC (Gog, Steam, Windows) and Xbox One

Written By

Founder and editor-in-chief of Atomic Lagoon. Spends his time changing aquarium water, feeding cats, and watching old monster movies in 3D.

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