I spent two glorious weeks doing absolutely nothing over my winter break. It consisted of eating holiday cookies, playing video games, reading, quality time with my family, and enjoying the benefits of cable. For Christmas I bought by sister Cuphead for her new Xbox One. This was the best investment I’ve ever made on a video game.
On Inkwell Islands, Cuphead and his brother Mugman lose a bet with the Devil at a casino. The Devil agrees not to take their souls if, in return, they collect the “soul contracts” of runaway debtors. Now it’s up to Cuphead and Mugman to explore the islands and fight all types of nefarious foes.
This game is frustratingly difficult as much as it is rewarding. It reminds me of an old school video game, the kind with infinite levels that get more challenging as you progress. Except, there are no “easy” levels in Cuphead. There’s constant movement on the screen, where anything goes, and your only weapons are a customizable gun and charms that grant special powers. The difficulty might discourage some, but it only made me want to keep playing. This game is a lot more enjoyable (and easier) when in two player mode.
The look of this game really distinguishes itself from others. The character and world designs are based on 1930s cartoons from Fleischer Studios (Betty Boop, Popeye) and Walt Disney. Beautiful watercolor backgrounds, cartoony aesthetics, and a ragtime jazz soundtrack really immerse the player into the world. I also think the surreal imagery and high stakes make it feel like you’re in a twisted, epic fairytale.
My biggest gripes with the game is the issues with data saving and lack of directions. My sister and I had to replay half the game because our data was lost, only to then reappear out of nowhere later on. And since Cuphead is a digital download, there are no physical directions that come with the game. For example, we played the entire game in “simple mode” instead of “regular mode”, only to find out we couldn’t proceed to the final level unless the game was played in “regular mode” (that would’ve been nice to know).
Despite the all the difficulties, this is a must play game. It’s design and story are creative, and the gameplay is innovative. I’m glad I finally got to play Cuphead, and just in time for its new expansion The Delicious Last Course that’s set to be released later this year.