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Cuphead analysis. Explosion of beauty and difficulty

Cuphead
Written by Kamran Haider

It is often said that the indies must take the risk to open a gap between so much blockbuster. Well, I can think of a few video games that have assumed as many aesthetic and playable challenges like the one at hand. An analysis of Cuphead is an extraordinary journey into the past, a time when titles were difficult, beautiful and original. A universe in which Studio MDHR moves like a fish in the water.

I have the feeling that in recent times everything that has to do with the difficulty of a video game is overestimated. We have spent so many years in which the industry has drifted towards a smoothing so strong of the level of challenge that the intention was to leave aside no one, not even the most inexperienced, and that caused something so exaggerated in terms of simplicity that in the past generation has abundant examples of how not to do things. That is why in recent times there is a strong push from some studies towards the challenge, mainly encouraged by the success of series like the Souls of From Software.

However, making an action video game that is difficult is very simple. It is enough to put some conditions of victory Leon and some enemies that do not need to be particularly clever while causing a level of devastating damage. What is really arduous is to get him to have a brutal challenge but, at the same time, be fun, hook and make us feel like continuing instead of leaving him. Cuphead gets all that and much more. I am surprised how a study that begins its journey as is this team composed of two brothers has such clear ideas. And I say it not only because of its ability to successfully transfer such an ambitious aesthetic vision, but also for consolidating a scheme that does not punish us with each death but teaches us the way, that does not frustrate us but stimulates us and makes us feel that, although everything seems uphill, it is actually a way accessible to enter a genre with a particular reputation for hardness.

Why have I started talking about this? To show that, yes, you can start a Cuphead analysis without focusing on your aesthetics. And, despite the fact that it is what attracts the most attention, the truth is that the debut project of Studio MDHR is much more than that. It is a fun, addictive and very difficult title. A jewel that seems from another time but has the virtues of having learned all the tricks and resources of today. And that are virtues of much merit.

Gameplay commented

Tea time

Cuphead’s story is as simple as one might expect, and it has that premeditated tone of innocence and naivety of the animated works of the 30s to which he intends to honor. Cuphead and Mugman are two nice beings of the imaginary world that the videogame proposes, two characters that venture into a casino from which, as a moral of the time, they will extract a valuable lesson. In a moment of frenzy with the dice, they agree to play their own souls with the Devil and this, as it could not be otherwise, beats them. However, it gives them a chance: they can redeem themselves if they exercise little less than gorillas that adjust Satan’s accounts, and they end all who also owe their soul to the Lord of Darkness and give them back. From then on we will have to look for them on a map in the purest style of the classic Mario games, on a map seen in a zenith perspective that interconnects the different levels and through which we can move freely and without fear of death.

Thus begins a hard road in which we have to face gigantic beings of very imaginative design and that will make things very difficult for us. No one said it would be easy, but I have good news: Cuphead is tough, but it’s also fair. Each section can be overcome in between less than two minutes and a maximum of three … If the thing is lengthened is that there is something we are not doing well. But believe me, it will be three minutes of maximum intensity where there is not a second to hesitate and no chance of failing by pressing the wrong button, for example.Tea time

It is fun, addictive and very difficult.

Even the most deliciously naive-looking threats, such as putting a couple of cases in a vegetable garden or a kind of Pin-Up in the purest Betty Boop style, are devastating. The first because they have a monstrous size and an unusually aggressive attitude for a vegetable, and the second because it can be transformed into a dangerous bull or flying sirens of harmful intentions. I do not say that it is impossible to overcome one of these confrontations at the first, but a good part of the key to success lies in observing the behavior patterns of our adversaries and try to memorize them in order to overcome them. Even knowing them is difficult to anticipate, and in fact, it is not uncommon for some of them to change the order or even, in an example of ingenious cruelty, there is one of them that turns into slots and is changing the types of attacks depending on the figures that appear on their three rollers.

And it is that practically everything in the world of Cuphead hurts us: the precipices, the small enemies, the great ones… Everything. And we cannot fall asleep because we only have three lives, that is, if we are touched or received an impact three times, we will have lost the game and will have to restart from the beginning of the level. The only ones that do not harm us are those characters with whom we are crossing on the general map and that either has something to say rather unimportant or give us something: coins. With them, we can access to unlock different weapons or enhancers, and these allow us to customize the experience so that the character fights or moves more to our liking.

Of course, everything has its considerations. For example, we can buy one more life to be more resistant, but at the cost of all our shots doing less damage than with the three standard lives … Or take an interest in a weapon that automatically targets enemies, but also causes less pain to our opponents than normal, so you have to value. The good thing is that we will alternate between one weapon and another with the press of a button in full action, and it is also very positive to be able to overcome phases already completed with new gadgets or weapons. Too bad you have to kick the entire stage to go to the oldest, whether bosses or levels.

Wait, why do I speak of level or boss? At first, Cuphead was going to be more focused on clashes against giant creatures as the only playable experience. However, those responsible, surely aware that something was missing to round off their proposal, decided to incorporate a series of scroll levels in the purest style of classic platforms and action. Here it may (or may not) be that there is some great challenge at the end of these in the form of a creature to be shot down, but in general terms, it is more about ending everything that moves and trying to get from point A to B. No There are surprises in this field.

Easy Trigger Heroes

Of course, the best thing about the game is its ability to keep us glued to the screen, which we do not without reason call addiction level. For that use several tricks. As I said before, at the beginning of the text, the most obvious is not to get frustrated. We never die because of the game, this one is not cheater at all, and if we fall it is always our responsibility, however extreme the conditions of combat are. On the other hand, Cuphead always looks for us to improve.

To start, because we can overcome the confrontations against bosses in easy or normal difficulty, and although the first one has nothing to “walk in the park” it is in the next one that we get the best of ourselves, in addition to maximizing the assessments in the inevitable score table with which we are judged at the end of each level. As if that were not enough, if we choose the minimum challenge we do not get the souls of our adversaries and we won’t be able to finish the campaign, so the game is looking for us to tickle at all times to get the best of ourselves. The same goes for classic shooter style levels. These hide in their most remote and unattainable places more coins that we can obtain, but always demanding a significant risk when it comes to getting them. What to do? Does it compensate to play it and choose to improve our team? It is you who decides.

Cuphead is hard, but it’s also fair.

The thing is that the bug you feel is what makes the video game more alive. Finished a section of shots and platforms that I have managed to overcome sweating (literally), I begin to ask myself … And that coin that I left on the road? Could I get it too and thus buy the weapon I like? Or a boss that I have managed to defeat with the last life and suffering the unspeakable. Could you cut the time or end it with more lives on the counter to raise the score? Cuphead itches you where you know you can do it to get us to not leave the command, and that is priceless even with some challenges that touch the desire to throw the command through the window.

And this is especially satisfying when it is covered by a wrap as beautiful as that of this video game. Each time you have to talk less about the visual facet in recent titles because fans can already see it in movement before buying it, but in some releases like this, it seems mandatory to dedicate a few short lines. The thing is that Cuphead pretended to be something like playing an animated movie from the 30s, and the effect is perfectly achieved. The grain, the application of different filters to imitate the frames, the careful movements that emulate handmade animation … The general feeling cannot be described with words with which to do it full justice, so if you have not seen it already in motion You’re wasting your time and I recommend you take a look at the commented gameplay of Cuphead that accompanies the analysis or any of the promotional trailers that have been used to publicize the product. Must be seen to be believed.

Round the whole audiovisual face with a flourish.

For the rest, the best thing to say is that the title has got everything put to the service of taking us by the hand to another time. Both aesthetically and playable and not forgetting, by the way, the sound. Colossal music that takes us back in the best possible way to a century ago and that rounds out the entire audiovisual aspect of the program with a flourish. On the other hand, it is true that the work is in English, something that has not sat very well among many fans. However, we must remember at all times the indie profile of the video game, a type of market where translations are not as common as in the Triple-A, and the fact that their leaders have promised that in the future there will be news in the scope of the location, although they have not specified what they mean.

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Conclusion:

Cuphead was a video game for which it was difficult not to show enthusiasm in its promotional phase and it is a title that did not have it easy to live up to expectations. And not only has he been, but he has amply complied with them. It is a classic old school shooter that has all the good of the past and has also learned valuable lessons from today’s video games. A fantastic title, which is not for everyone and that, under its careful and friendly aesthetics, hides a challenge at the height of only the most persevering and skilled players.

  • It is a classic video game, yes, but also very imaginative
  • Aesthetically and loudly it is a real wonder. Nail the era
  • The level of difficulty does not discourage. It is very challenging, but also addictive
  • Missing details to refine, such as zero agility to revise already finished levels
  • The local multiplayer is not bad, but we miss one online

About the author

Kamran Haider

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