‘Cuphead’ is bursting with retro nostalgia and creativity

Two brothers are out gambling at a casino where they find themselves on a winning streak, until they make a bet with the devil himself and lose their souls. Now belonging to the devil, they must go through several trials in order to get their souls back. This is the story of “Cuphead.”

“Cuphead” is a side-scrolling, bullet-hell game with a cartoon look of the 1930s. The game itself practically oozes charm and love as you can see just how much care the developers, or devs, put into creating the game’s overall look and feel. “Cuphead” gives you both a burst of nostalgia and a taste of newer gameplay mechanics that really show how creative the devs where during the creation process.

The game starts off very strong, showing the ins and outs of the controls and then showing you the hub world where you select what part of the game you want to play. One of the best things about the game is that you don’t have to start it in just one place; you can start from one of nine different levels, each with their own unique layout.

To some degree, the game plays like many other sidescrolling games: you move to the right, shoot the bad guys, collect the coins and run to the end. However, “Cuphead” requires precise timing and accuracy with jumping and shooting and parrying to make it to the end in one piece. Luckily, each run & gun level has a set of coins that you can use to get items to help you in the game. Run & gun levels are the traditionally styled levels where you move from left to right jumping over obstacles and and shooting enemies until you make it to the end.

As for the boss fights in this game, they aren’t exactly a walk in the park. The devs really make sure you stay on your toes during each boss encounter. No two bosses are the same; each of them have their own specific signals as to when they are going to do a specific type of attack; they try to keep you guessing as much as possible.

What makes these battles so intense is that through each set of phases for each boss, the player never sees a health bar during the fight. They only see a progression bar after you lose or you just beat the boss.

There’s never a real way to  know for sure when the fight is going to end. You have to use your head and keep on fighting until the boss finally falls.

While “Cuphead” isn’t completely original at its core, its look most definitely is and that’s where it shines. The devs put in insane amounts of hours to create this level of animation done by hand and using hundreds of frames for even the most basic of movements. A perfect example would be the flower boss from the Floral Fury level which has hundreds of frames for just his back and forth hand movements and basic attacks. The game’s visual aesthetic is gorgeous; it’s not likely you’ll find another game with as much love and care put into it. I cannot stress enough just how amazing the art direction for this game truly is.

The game is great and fun for the whole family: it’s filled with quirky characters and bosses and fun worlds that make you feel like a kid again. For only $20 dollars, “Cuphead” is a must-buy if you love platforming video games done right.