There is comfort in simplistic video games. Run here, jump here, dodge that, it gets into the nostalgia portions of your brain and allows you to relax. Now combine that with the nature of old school cartoons, and I do mean old school, and you’ve got Cuphead, the game that I was most eager to play at during E3 and had a damn fun time doing so.
Developed by brothers Chad & Jared Moldenhauer, Cuphead is an action game composed almost entirely of boss fights. As either Cuphead or Mugman, players will have to fight against boxing frogs, evil pirates, or giant psychic carrots. Don’t let my earlier words fool you though, the game is anything but simple, rather it just has a simplistic play style; run, shoot, and try not to die. Dying is so easy in fact that it can happen as soon as you start a boss fight if you’re not careful.
Cuphead can be played in either single player or co-op, and I have to recommend co-op because of both how fun and difficult the game is, you’re going to need the help. Players will be forced to continuously shoot, jump, duck, and run throughout every encounter, none of which are the same as the last one.
The first level I played had me going up against some evil vegetables. The first of these was easy enough to dispatch, but the second, being the giant psychic carrot, took a little more time. In addition to always blasting him with your weird finger lasers, you have to dodge his psychic attacks as well as telekinetically-controlled carrot missiles. Did I mention how bananas this game is? It’s totally bananas.
A second level had us fighting against two frogs dressed as old-timey boxers. They weren’t just boxing frogs though, no they had special powers, some of which involved launching spectral fists and others rolling into giant balls and trying to squash us. This is where the teamwork at the heart of the game’s co-op is key, when facing two bosses they would find themselves on both sides of the screen and each with some sort of attack that was enhanced by the others. It’s not easy to jump away from giant electrical balls bounding around the room when caught in a tornado, let me tell you.
Even if the gameplay of Cuphead wasn’t as fun as it as, the design of the game would still make it something worth seeking out. Created using traditional cel animation techniques, all hand drawn and hand inked, the game is a living breathing cartoon. Not in the same way that Super Nintendo games based on cartoons were, there is a seamlessness to Cuphead that tricks the player into thinking they’re just watching a cartoon. Add in the watercolor backgrounds and the original jazz recording score and you’ve got my favorite thing I’ve played at E3. The game is flat-out genius.
While walking around E3 today, people would ask me ‘So what’s impressed you the most about the conference this year?’ and every time I mentioned Cuphead. Don’t let the silly name fool you, it’s a game that has a wholly unique visual style and gameplay that will keep you addicted. I absolutely cannot wait for a full version of this, and hope by the naming convention from the trailer (Cuphead in “Don’t Deal With the Devil”) that there is more in the works.
You can check out the previously-released trailer in the player below.