Cuphead Review - It's not MADE for Everyone so...Hard or Soft?
Full disclosure: this is mostly to signal boost opinions that are already out there, and add my own twist. I just finished Cuphead last weekend, and while this review wasn't planned, I couldn't skip spreading the word about this amazing work of art. Cuphead is hard as hell. It will frustrate most gamers, so...how is it?
Cuphead is a run and gun game in the style of the old Contra games, made for Xbox One and Windows 10 by Studio MDHR. I personally played the first three, although I never beat Super C. It can be played individually(as I did for this review), or in two player co-op. That being said, Cuphead is its own animal, so lets' get into what makes the game so unique.
There is no question about it: Cuphead is one of the most unique looking games in a long time. Inspired by old cartoons of the 1930's, Cuphead is beautifully drawn and fluidly animated. No one can pass by the gameplay and not stop in awe. My wife fell in love with the presentation. This includes the music, which reminds me of old cartoons from the original Looney Tunes era...before that in fact. From the old school cartoon announcer, to the jazzy riffs, it is all presented in a beautiful package. You would never imagine that it hides a very difficult experience. Regardless of skill, Cuphead is something I think EVERYONE should at least experience looking at. It is a shining example of why video games are art. I've never had my wife fall in love with a game that quickly.
Cuphead is a boss battle focused shooter. Most stages in the games three worlds are boss battles, going up against unique baddies such as a large garden potato, a stack of poker chips, and a giant mermaid. You have unlimited ammo, two available weapons, a super move, and three hit points per level. That's it. You get hit three times, you die. You then have to go to the beginning of the stage and try again. The game shows you how far you got in each stage after death, for further motivation. There are also several weapons to unlock, as well as "special" abilities of which you can equip one at a time, like an invincible dash. You pick your load-out before each level, then head in.
The game is brutal. There is a tutorial at the beginning that teaches you the basics in two minutes, the rest is up to you. You will die. A lot. This is a game of memorization and twitch reflexes, as well as execution. There is a good amount of trial and error, like in old-school games. Throughout it all though, I never once felt cheated. It was always my fault I died. While difficult, I didn't feel frustrated often, other than at myself for not getting good quick enough. The game even talks trash to you after each death, with the boss or stage baddies throwing barbs. All it does is motivate you to get back up. Cuphead's main message to me, was to not give up, and that no obstacle was unbeatable. The amount of satisfaction and joy you get from finally beating a boss or level is something most games get a couple of times, at best. Cuphead gave me that feeling after almost every level. It is a testament to the combination of presentation, gameplay, and love that is present in this game.
There have been articles posted on other sites that criticize Cuphead's difficulty, stating it will prevent some gamers from fully experiencing the entire game. That the game isn't made for everyone. I agree, but I don't think those are negatives. Cuphead bring studio MDHR's vision to life, they decided who the game is for. It might look like it's for that casual Minecraft player, but it is more for someone like me. This doesn't mean we both can't enjoy it, it's just that I'll get more out of it. NOTHING is made for everyone. It's like saying Mexican food isn't for everyone because you may not try the more specialized dishes. Something that is made for everyone, ultimately becomes for no one. You can't please everyone with every aspect of your product. That being said, at a retail cost of $20, my rating for Cuphead is
Pick it up, you won't regret it. Even if you play through a few levels on easy mode(which won't unlock the endgame BTW), you will feel happy you did. Cuphead is the current "gamer standard" for cred. I may not go back for the Expert mode, but I am damn glad I went through the entire game on normal. I will not review a game I don't finish. I don't think anyone should give anything other than impressions at that point. I'm just some guy, but I won't tell you a three course meal is worth it if I don't eat the dessert. My gamertag on Xbox Live is Sir Deimos if you want to verify my credentials.