Cuphead Review | Nintendo Switch

As soon as Cuphead came out, I wanted it. Like most gaming whores, I have most gaming machines but I don’t have an Xbox One and I wasn’t looking to buy one just for this game. I was hopeful that when the Xbox One would retire and move into Shady Acres, I could go pick one up at a lower price along with Cuphead and even Forza (I tire of driving the McLaren to go to the shops). But… the gaming fairies heard my cry for help that I didn’t make and released it on the Switch just for me. And everyone else. Well, is Cuphead any good? Yes.

“A brawl is surely brewing. Now go!”

— The Cuphead announcer

Cuphead - First page of the Cuphead storybook

Cartoon Willie’s

Visually Cuphead is stunning. If you haven’t seen it yet, and surely you have, the design is in the style of 1930’s cartoons according to most, but generally speaking, it’s a style most are familiar with. Think Steamboat Willie (heh) or dare I say one of my favourite artists, McBess, albeit with a little more colours. Playing Cuphead is like playing a cartoon. Not like Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace with limited movements but a bona fide platforming shoot ‘em up. Yeah, that’s a genre. By the way, the visuals are stunning, yes, but the sound production is also on par and, well – I’m in love. Well, not love but lust.

How does this fair in terms of gameplay? For me, it’s ridiculously hard. Just because the style is cute doesn’t mean the difficulty is going to give you a free pass. I found myself dying much like Dark Souls. Ok, I’m not that bad, but games have gone back to their (dark) roots and getting harder and harder. Bring back cheat codes! I fared better with Gunman Clive. I found after my 18th death or so that you can select an easier mode but that wasn’t much better initially. However, once you learn the mechanics (i.e. have a good reaction time), it’s a lot of fun and despite the challenge, rewarding.

Cuphead - The shop front

Cuphead is Coin-Op?

Each level has a selection of coins to collect. You can spend the coins at the shop, unlocking upgrades such as long-range shots, power shots and health upgrades. These do make an impact on the levels but doesn’t make the character overpowered, which is a good balance. To my dismay, I couldn’t one-shot kill a boss but shame on me for being so lame. That said, unlocking these upgrades make some earlier level attempts easier.

If you’re a proper gamer, or just better than me, you can get a score at the end of each level based on the health you have left, the time it took and your blood pressure. My best score so far was B-. No doubt that’s because it was from the first level…

Cuphead - Results screen, scoring a C

Side-scrollin’ and Shootin’

When I saw the gameplay before it came out on the Switch, I thought that the projectiles both Cuphead and his brother Dave a.k.a. Mugman fire out of their digits ruined it a little for me. Almost all the playthroughs/demos had the characters performing an auto-fire routine and just made the screen messy. I guess I was in denial that I wasn’t watching a cartoon.

Since playing the game though, I see why. The baddies are relentless and keep coming at you so you have to shoot at them while dodging their attacks. It reminds me of a side-scrolling 1941 – not the year in general, but the game from CapCom. I’m only using that reference as I like that game and, surprisingly, beat it in the arcades. Alternatively, why not try My Friend Pedro?

So yeah, Cuphead is good and I recommend it. If you strip it from the visuals, it is still a very good game but the aesthetics are it’s selling point to lure you in. This could impress visitors to your den when you load it up –

““Wow, isn’t it clever?! It’s like playing a cartoon!”. ”

— My mum

Well, that’s what my mum said and she thinks everything is clever. It is clever though and that’s a fact. Yes, Cuphead is difficult but you don’t have to commit 100+ hours to be good at it. When you do become better at it, add it to your CV and get a job in gaming. You see, gaming is good for you. It gives you a career path, job satisfaction and freedom but first, you have to beat Cuphead.