Hands-On: ‘Cuphead’

We delve into the quirky beat ‘em up ripped straight from a 1930’s cartoon.

Studio MDHR

This one’s gonna be a knockout!

If there has been one pleasant surprise at E3, it’s Studio MDHR’s throwback game, Cuphead. Starring the titular character, who looks like Mickey Mouse crossbred with a tea kettle, Cuphead is designed to look like a 1930’s cartoon in the vein of Popeye or Felix the Cat. It really speaks to the game’s charm and unique premise that the game’s demo, nestled within the Microsoft booth, was drawing more onlookers than any games around it. Although it meant the wait was long, it was well worth it.

The story of Cuphead is actually pretty dark compared to its infectiously happy visuals: Cuphead and his friend Mugman have made a deal with the devil, and to get their souls back, they have to defeat his enemies. The stark subject matter actually contrasts well with the visuals, and it’s all conveyed in a great silent movie style, with minimal dialogue. On the surface, Cuphead is your basic side-scrolling beat ‘em up. Walk to the right and beat up enemies, as well as jump to dodge attacks and cross gaps. Cuphead doesn’t stray too far from this formula, but does offer up a few ways to keep the fighting fresh. From the outset, you can switch between two weapons, which Cuphead hilariously uses by snapping his fingers. The red shot does more damage, but the blue shot fires faster. You can also grab power-ups for things like multi-shot and build up a super meter. Finally, you can also aim in eight directions using the right control stick, allowing Cuphead to attack multiple baddies at once. Boss fights are another highlight, with each one sporting a unique, quirky look and a series of challenging attack patterns.  It’s nothing revolutionary; it gets the job done and done quite well.

Studio MDHR

Studio MDHR

Where Cuphead really shines is in its presentation. The 1930’s cartoon style is oozing from every part of this game, from the Max Fleischer-esque characters with giant smiles and rubbery arms, to the jazzy big band soundtrack, to even things like a 1930’s announcer beginning each level with an enthusiastic slogan. The graphics even have a filter over them to make everything in the game look like it’s a film playing on a damaged 30mm projector, complete with dust and scratch lines. The amount of detail put into every little part of the game is astounding.

Cuphead has all the making of a great indie game, and while it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, the way in which it’s put together makes it feel fresh and brimming with personality. Studio MRHD has paid attention to every little detail, and it shows, right down to the way that Cuphead moves and attacks. An old school beat ‘em up with the visuals of a 1930’s cartoon might be one the most random ideas ever, but once you see Cuphead, you’ll realize it’s the best thing you’ve never heard of.

Is ‘Cuphead’ the best indie to come out of E3? Tweet me @MaxMielecki. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded.

About Max Mielecki (157 Articles)
Max Mielecki is a TV writer at YouNerded and does comedy for the interwebs. He knows Han shot first. For further ramblings follow him on Twitter @Maxmielecki.

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