I’m not a big fan of classic platformers. I like modern games with rich stories, expensive worlds, and deep gameplay. But there’s something about Cuphead that just clicks.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. It could be the charming 1930s animation style, the mascot-like main character or the simple yet grueling gameplay. Whatever it is, it made Cuphead one of the games I most enjoyed playing at Gamescom 2017.

Cuphead

Cuphead, for those of you who managed to avoid this indie gem, is a classic side-scroller. By “classic” I mean “really, really difficult”. It took me and a fellow editor 6 tries to pass the first level we played, and it was a relevantly simple one. And even then we only got a score of D- because we didn’t kill every enemy or collect all the coins.

It’s tempting to think about the game as “Contra meets Steamboat Willie”. The screen quickly fills with enemies and projectiles, and you can’t take your eyes off it for a second. Quick reflexes are a must to make it through a level, but also the abilities to keep track of multiple flying objects at once. It’s chaos and it’s beautiful.

From what I saw at Gamescom 2017, Cuphead has two types of levels. The first is a standard “Run and gun”, where you simply need to get to the end (maybe simply isn’t the best word to use here). These levels involve plenty of shooting, jumping and timing.

The second type of levels is the boss battles. This is where Cuphead really shines. Bosses are all diverse, and fighting them is never the same. One boss battle has you fighting a mermaid from a plane, and in another, you fight a giant flaming cigar with jumping on platforms. And every one of them has its own different challenges.

Cuphead

Cuphead is a tough game, but it’s also extremely pretty. The hand-drawn backgrounds, characters and animation all look amazing. I swear the designers at Studio MDHR made the game this beautiful just to make it even harder. It’s really difficult to concentrate on avoiding getting hit when you’re busy admiring everything on screen.

If you find the difficulty a bit overwhelming, you can ask a friend to drop in and help you. The game does scale its difficulty when you play in co-op, but having someone who can revive you is worth it. Though you to be fairly quick to do so, and there are no second chances.

From what I’ve seen, both Cuphead and his buddy Mugman play very similarly. The difference was in their special attacks. You can unlock new attacks, bonuses and special moves throughout the game, so maybe what I saw was two characters using a different attack. If that’s the case, then the only difference is a cosmetic one.

So far, Cuphead was great fun to play in co-op. I didn’t get a chance to play it alone, but it feels like this is a game you should play with a friend. You’ll be able to play the full game on PC and Xbox One when it comes out on September 29.


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