Cuphead “Don’t Deal with the Devil” Review – Xbox One

Another game I didn’t get until late in the week last week and given the difficulty of some levels and how long it’s taken me to feel I’ve got enough to finally put thoughts down – I’m delivering this post a little later than I had hoped. Seriously I’ve died well over 300 times.

When Cuphead was announced 3 years ago it instantly grabbed the attention of gamers with it’s beautiful looking 1930s style animation and character designs and old school platformer style gameplay and story. The time has finally arrived and it’s Cuphead is making waves across the gaming world as an extremely difficult game. Some have even used the asinine comparison to Dark Souls. Is it a difficult game? Yes. Is it going to really test your patience? Absolutely. Is it satisfying? 100% YES!

Cuphead is the story of Cuphead and his Pal Mugman who do a little gambling at the local casino and end up losing their souls to the devil himself. They plead with him to spare their lives and Satan makes a deal with them to go collect the souls of his debtors. From there Cuphead and Mugman(only if you’re playing local co-op) embark on their journey to collect the souls together.

A majority of the game is nothing but boss battles with a few run n gun levels peppered throughout. The fights are broken up in to several phases where the enemy takes on different forms and pattern changes. For example, one early level features a giant potato spits balls of dirt(or maybe manure) and worms at you. Once defeated a giant onion pops up and cries forcing you to maneuver around the screen in an effort to avoid being hit by the salty tears. The onion then transforms into a weird psychic carrot with a 3rd eye who controls baby carrots and tries to hit you with them and then switches to throwing psychic brain waves.

Each boss battle takes roughly 3 or so minutes sometimes less depending on how you attack. It may seem like a paltry amount of time to complete a boss battle but you’ll be playing the same level over and over and over as you perfect the patterns of each phase within each boss battle so the actual length of each one feels perfectly appropriate because you’re likely to spend 20 or more minutes perfecting the level. When you do – a rush of relief and satisfaction will overwhelm you. It’s a fantastic feeling of great accomplishment as you see your score come up on the screen but that feeling is fleeting as you realize there’s another boss battle just around the corner.

The run n gun levels are great and I wish there were more of them. Taking on a run and gun level will have gamers running though an aold school platformer level that have a bit of a Contra feel to them. Enemies will come at you from the right, the left and below. You’ll want to speed through the levels like Mario but it’s not likely going to get you too far. At least not until you’ve really gone through it multiple times and figured out all the patterns. Each level also has coins and parries. The coins are used to buy weapon power ups or charms to help you complete levels and will often times require you to test out tactics with different pairings to ensure victory. Parries are simply projectiles that appear in a redish color that you can tap on and will not be take a hit to the XP. Each level will rank you on completion based on time, coins picked up and parries.

The first things people notice is that the presentation of Cuphead is nothing short of spectacular. From the dust and dirt particle effects that you would see in old film before being digitally cleaned up to the hand drawn animation with the look and feel of a 1030 cartoon and the incredibly appropriate jazz soundtrack. Full disclosure – I do not like Jazz but this soundtrack was outstanding. The gameplay is great and I found the controls to be perfectly accurate and precise.

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again. Cuphead is NOT Dark Souls. What it is, is a game that pays homage to cartoons of the 30s with gameplay of the 80s. It will make you want to be better. To replay the levels over and over and see it out to the end. It doesn’t coddle gamers like most games today. There are no save points. there are no respawns. It’s simply going to make you start over and learn and do better. Please don’t let those people dissuade you from trying Cuphead out for yourself. It’s a fantastic game that absolutely deserves your attention.

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