So, like everybody, I was totally struck by Cuphead’s art style when it was announced. But the gameplay really didn’t appeal to me, especially back when it was still a boss-rush game.
But I got swept up in the zeitgeist and I picked it up, and now I’m the proud owner of $100 worth of vinyl from the game.
It’s structured in a way that really softens the moment-to-moment difficulty; you can attempt at least 3 different levels at any given time, and a winning run in a level seems to top out at 5 minutes. There are also a good number of cheap, early upgrades that make some of the tougher elements (parries and dashes) easier to learn.
The art really is all it’s cracked up to be. There’s a few areas where it seems like corners were cut (level finales just flash words on screen, rather than showing any new animation), but if we picked those nits, this game probably never would’ve come out.
That said, there was also a lot of talk about the game ignoring the political/racial connotations of 30s & 40s cartoons. It seems like MDHR changed a couple character designs in response to this, but obviously the influence is still there (and bosses like a stereotypical Egyptian genie still remain). I also watched a couple of featurettes about the jazzy, big band music, and was dismayed to see a recording studio full of white people… (Like I said, I still ended up giving them a bunch of money for it )
Anybody enjoying/avoiding/thinking critically about this game?
I’m not very far (because it’s very hard), but the main thing I’ve noticed is that it’s very hard (see previous clause).
In all seriousness, I think the art style is amazing. I also think it feels pretty good and (so far) the difficulty doesn’t feel unfair. The parry mechanic is interesting, but I find it kind of awkward so far. Something about the timing and the fact that it’s done by jumping.
Also, I’m not particularly fond of the default control scheme. Anyone found a configuration they like?
I have this weird thing in my head about default controls being “the way it was meant to be played”, but I might have to break it for this game. It feels like they left the triggers unmapped as some sort of retro-game throwback, as if this is some slick-looking SNES game, but dashes and super moves would feel a lot better up there.
Can’t really overstate how wickedly good the boss design in the game is. You don’t really realize until you take a step back and analyze some of the later ones, in terms of just how many moving parts there are, how well they telegraph their attacks, and how much the boss can change completely during their 2nd and 3rd stages. All the while accounting for the fact that ALL of it needed to be consistently hand-animated.
Dr. Kahl’s Robot is probably one of the best examples in terms of how the first phase starts with 3 separate points of attack you need to focus on, the top being a huge beam attack telegraphed with a laser sight, the middle is a vertical sweeping laser that you need to parry to disable, and the bottom firing 3 missiles that sweep in a pattern from the bottom to the top of the screen.
You destroy the top part, and now he starts firing out cogs in a spread pattern. Destroying the bottom section replaces the 3 missiles with 1 seeking missile with an area-of-effect explosion, and all the while a robot arm reaches from the left side of the screen occasionally to pelt laser fire vertically from the middle.
That’s just the first phase of the fight. It’s staggering how much effort went into the elaborate construction of the fight, not only including the aforementioned hand-drawn animation, but also the big-band theme recorded for it. It’s hard not to gush because just about all of the boss fights are put together with this level of craft and care.
I’ll only mention a couple of gripes:
The run-and-gun levels, while still having a lot of the same great animation and unique mechanics, can sometimes have way too much going on and go on for a little too long. They feel like a late-stage addition to the game and it sucks that the coins in them gate access to the game’s unlockable weapons and abilities.
Not that this will be a major issue for most people since there aren’t that many xbone owners around, but the load times are a little too long across the board, which is only annoying for most of the game’s run, but it becomes intolerable in the penultimate fight which is one long gauntlet involving multiple mini-fights, all of which are preceded by a 5-6 second load time. It makes losing late in the level a potentially agonizing experience.
I agree that the Run & Gun levels are a bit long, and it’s weird that all of the unlocks are tied to them. But I don’t think my sessions with the game would last as long if I didn’t have these as a “breather” between bosses. Something like an intro/outro would make them feel more essential, but like I said, I get the feeling that those were sacrificed for the release date.
That’s the weird thing about those stages though, a couple of them gave me way more trouble than the bosses themselves. Particularly the docks stage, the whale-riding bit at the end was way too chaotic and confusing.
My mantra has been that they should’ve released the game years earlier, when it had captured everyone’s attention, in its original “boss rush” form. I’ve had little faith that the tacked on levels could live up to the quality of the boss design, and my prediction has been that they will only dilute the game’s focus, resulting in a lesser product overall.
I would love to end up being wrong, though. I won’t return home to my PC until late-December, so it will be awhile before I can evaluate the game for myself.
I imagine I’ll remap the dash to the right bumper, mirroring how I play Mega Man X.
I don’t think the Run & Gun levels bring the game down at all. They’re totally optional, and they give you something different to do. The trifecta of the Run & Gun, standard boss, and aerial boss levels feels pretty tight. To your point, though, the fact that they’re optional means they probably could’ve done without them. But who knows how their dev time got divvied up.
Those stages aren’t that bad, they’re just decidedly average compared to the high marks of the boss stages. Also, even if they were a late-stage addition, I get the sense that they were not the main reason why the game was repeatedly delayed. One of the last bosses involves about nine individual mini-bosses with their own mechanics and unique animations. Stuff like that was likely not in their original content roadmap before getting the main stage from Microsoft.
There’s a recent report that the game has sold about 100k copies via Steam, which is pretty damn good for an indie title from a new dev, which will likely have a somewhat long tail of further sales from here. I don’t think any dev should ever have to sink as much capital as they did into this one, but at least it paid off for them.
Nothing really overly introspective to add, just that I’m glad I finally got this game, it sure is beautiful (like holy shit I keep trying to sneak glances at the background paintings while trying to focus on the actual boss animations and designs AND fight them at the same time). I love pretty much everything about the way it plays which is maybe due to the fact that I had the benefit of hearing that I should remap the dash so I put it on RT and everything feels fine.
I’m kinda worried I’m gonna beat it too soon—I played about 2 hours and got 25% of the way through, and I just don’t want it to end.
That’s actually really comforting to hear. World 1 was a little tough, but once you learn the patters and get your “Cuphead legs” it’s fine. I’m happy to hear that it gets tougher. And I’ll try to get that harder difficulty unlocked for sure.
Yeah, it definitely ramps up as you go along. The bosses never quite feel “impossible,” (at least imo) but their patterns do require more trial and error before phases become trivial. The most difficult hurdle I had was getting passed the first set of bosses in the third area; because while they’re fairly straightforward, they both give very little room for error.
This is probably a weird semantic thing, but talking about the “difficulty” of this game seems to miss the point. Uncharted’s gunfights are difficult (meaning, frustratingly so) because, for the most part, the intent is to get through them, to seem like an action hero.
In Cuphead, dying when you reach a new boss phase is technically a failure, yes, but the intent is to learn more to progress further. Seeing that Cuphead silhouette get closer and closer to the end flag is satisfying in the same way that traditional progression is.