Few video games are as gorgeous as “Cuphead,” an upcoming Xbox One and PC game.
Just look at this:
That winking, sinister-looking cigar you see above is one of the game’s many bosses. And that frustrated-looking guy with a cup for a head? That’s actually not the eponymous “Cuphead,” but instead is his trusty partner “Mugman.”
The game is so gorgeous because it’s hand-drawn — something few games pull off, and no games pull off as well as “Cuphead.” But what’s the game about? What do you do in “Cuphead”? Let’s dive in.
First things first: What you don't do in 'Cuphead' is deal with the devil. Don't! Seriously. He's The Devil!
More seriously, 'Cuphead' is a 2D side-scroller -- remember 'Super Mario Bros.'? That's a 2D side-scroller. 'Cuphead' is reminiscent of games from the Super Nintendo era (early-to-mid-'90s) in terms of how it plays.
There's a lot going on here, I realise, so allow me to break it down:
-Both Cuphead and Mugman are playing through this level, moving from left to right -- you can see Cuphead walking along the ceiling, while Mugman is hopping around on the ground.
-Usually, both Cuphead and Mugman (or just one of them) is walking along the ground.
-Cars are moving along from right to left, both on the bottom of the screen and along the ceiling.
-A crazy duck with wheels appears to be a type of boss or enemy character.
-There's a twinkling playing card in the middle of the screen -- maybe a power-up of some type? That's unclear.
Rather than jumping on the heads of your foes (a la 'Super Mario Bros.'), Cuphead and his compadre Mugman have handguns. I mean that literally -- their hands shoot bullets.
In many ways, 'Cuphead' is a mash-up of classic games like 'Super Mario Bros.' and 'Contra,' with a large pinch of 'Steamboat Willie'-era Disney animation thrown in.
When either of the game's playable characters dies, their ghost floats to the top of the screen. In this case, Cuphead has just been defeated and Mugman is looking stomping mad about it.
Since 'Cuphead' has been in development for many years, it's changed a lot over time. It used to be a game solely made up of boss fights -- you might've noticed that all of the images here feature a boss.
While there are many boss fights in 'Cuphead,' the game has a 'Super Mario World'-esque overworld map that allows you to choose where you want to go. Some levels are focused on a boss fight, while others require more standard platforming.
Also of note: Mugman is air-dashing in the image above, which looks like another move you're able to execute.
All gameplay stuff aside, the most incredible thing about 'Cuphead' is just looking at it. The game's main characters and enemies all look great, but the backgrounds are just outrageous. The one below, for instance, is a perfectly evocative drawing.
Beyond just platforming, there are levels where Cuphead takes to a prop plane and flies around while shooting down enemies. If you ever played games like 'Super R-Type' on the SNES, you'll be familiar with this style of 'bullet hell' shooter.
Rather than platforming, you'll navigate these levels by avoiding obstacles in mid-air -- all while shooting tons of enemies.
Despite the cutesy look and beautiful artwork, 'Cuphead' is an outrageously difficult game. Expect a serious challenge when it arrives on September 29 for Xbox One and PC.
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