Ceramic Panic! Cuphead Has Indeed Arrived

We didn’t even think that we would live to see this day, but after so many years of development and several delays – it happened! Cuphead, a hardcore platformer in the style of 1930s cartoons, has finally been released. And, if I may share, it’s not just a game, it’s a miracle.

Cuphead's captivating splash screen

First and foremost, of course, thanks to the audiovisual design. If you have ever watched the early works of Walt Disney, Max Fleischer, or Tex Avery, then you have a good idea of how everything looks and sounds here. From watercolor backgrounds and trembling pencil outlines to Mickey Mouse’s signature gloves and the crackling vinyl of lively ragtime on the soundtrack, Cuphead replicates the aesthetics of animation from that time period so meticulously that you don’t notice any catch at all. It’s as if it was truly made in some “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer” studio at the dawn of the last century. The only thing missing is the voiceover of Comrade Gavrilov to get the maximum dose of nostalgia.

To be honest, I didn’t expect the game to make the same impression in person as it did in the trailers. Well, I mean, having the controller in your hands does change the perception quite a bit, and even the beauty of Ori and the Blind Forest quickly breaks down into a bunch of gameplay elements upon personal acquaintance. But with Cuphead, everything is different for some reason. It’s a flawless and cohesive picture – a living cartoon, in which the interactivity is still hard to believe.

Side-scrolling action
High-flying adventure in a biplane

Oh my God, this cartoon is so complicated. Previously, the original idea of turning Cuphead into a collection of boss battles seemed strange to me, but now I understand where it comes from. They didn’t make a friendly platformer with lazy enemies, but a real 2D obstacle course where you can’t achieve anything without a dozen or so failed attempts.

Although the emphasis on encounters with major villains remains, it’s evident. Side-scrolling sections where you only need to reach the end of the level are not very frequent and require much less effort. Compared to the platforming torture of Bloody Trapland, everything here is quite prosaic, so to speak. But when a giant telepathic carrot or something even worse appears on the screen, that’s when the main spectacle begins, which the game was designed for.

Diving into exploration in Cuphead

Boss fights in Cuphead are distilled pain, broken down for maximum effect into several stages, each with its own conditions and surprises. Innocent-looking arenas gradually turn into deadly meat grinders, where you need to deftly maneuver between dozens of different projectiles and enemy attacks, while also shooting back. It’s usually impossible to succeed on the first try; you have to repeatedly figure out the boss’s tricks and find the “keys” to each stage. In other words, you often die frustratingly while progressing towards victory at a snail’s pace.

Of course, enjoyment is subjective, and I don’t consider myself among those who enjoy it, but with Cuphead, I don’t want to stop. Its difficulty is still fair and challenging enough to truly feel yourself improving with each new attempt, and the boss designs are too good to deprive yourself of the pleasure of seeing what comes next. In the five hours that I managed to play, my cup-headed protagonist encountered such bizarre characters that… Dark Souls He/she is relaxing with his/her dragons inside out. Special greetings to Baroness von Bon Bon from the cake castle and her chocolate-candy entourage!

It’s a bit disappointing that beyond the above description, there is not much more. Unjustly, for example, they overlooked the world map, on which currently nothing happens except for moving between levels and chatting with rare NPCs. Exploration should have been richer, and along with it – to unlock the potential of the upgrade system, because in its current atrophied state, it is of little use. Some of the scarce range of improvements clearly stand out among the others, so the reason to go for a coin in a hard-to-reach place disappears almost immediately.

The scorecard for completion is also hanging idle. There is no actual difference between the shameful B- and the brilliant S, except for the corresponding “achievement” and dubious moral satisfaction – so only ardent perfectionists would return to individual episodes. Again, if the game had a more coherent economy and extensive horizons for leveling up, many would gladly (and tearfully) fight for the highest rating, if a worthy reward was offered for it.

Encounter with the Baroness
Mysterious mausoleum

In short, Cuphead will appeal to those who are not averse to persistently and diligently banging their heads against a wall, methodically chipping away at it brick by brick, without any reservations. It looks stunning, plays smoothly and pleasantly (with a gamepad), and offers a surprisingly serious challenge – what more could you want? However, if self-torture as entertainment does not attract you, the forecast becomes ambiguous: either it will become a long-awaited embodiment of a childhood dream to “play a cartoon”, or it will bring boredom with its hardcore monotony in the rhythm of jazz. Practice and user reviews show that there are no half measures here.

But it seems worth trying in any case. Firstly, in the market of 2D platformers, there is currently an abundance of metroidvanias and other roguelike hybrids. Cuphead, on the other hand, is the first high-quality game in a long time that does not belong to them, and therefore feels like something unique and fresh, despite being built on the same foundations as the ancient Contra and similar games.

And secondly, for $10, which is the price of the game. asking on Steam, there is hardly anything better among the novelties.

PC, Xbox One
Action, Adventure, Co-op
StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.
StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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