Microsoft and Nintendo have been very friendly towards each other since the Nintendo Switch launched and Cuphead on the hybrid console is just another fruit of that labour. The game reached critical acclaim on Xbox One and Windows, but how does the game fare on Nintendo Switch?
Cuphead is a very difficult game. If you are one who is prone to throw their controllers, perhaps set up a cushioned area to throw it into (that’s what I did). The gameplay is hectic and fast-paced, requiring you to whittle down the enemy boss’s health whilst avoiding all oncoming projectiles. Each boss goes through different stages as the battle continues, requiring you to memorise attack patterns – you will never defeat a boss on the first attempt, trust me.
Cuphead and Mugman are customisable with different weapons, specials and charms. Each Island has a Shop that allows you to buy these upgrades from and you get the coins to buy them from run n’ gun levels; whereas the specials upgrade are obtained upon completing Mausoleum levels, requiring you to parry against ghosts. This setup felt quite disjointed from the regular gameplay; it may have been a better fit if you received coins depending on how well you perform during the boss battles. Receiving no rewards from boss battles aside from progressing through the game just feels out of place and unrewarding.
Having Co-op be so seamless in Cuphead makes it a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch. This is absolutely the optimal way to play through the game as having a buddy by your side through the difficult moments definitely comes in handy.
Cuphead is a fast-paced action game, so it is crucial that the game runs without a hitch. Luckily, Cuphead on Switch runs perfectly smooth at 60 frames per second, so if you get hit, that’s on you. This may have been a concern for some going from the more powerful Xbox One/PC versions that the game was exclusive to to the less powerful Nintendo Switch, but rest assured that the game runs perfectly.
The levels in Cuphead are quite simple, generally within a single frame that contains various platforms for you to be able to use in order to avoid taking damage. There are also some autoscroll levels that are few and far between which keeps the gameplay fresh. On top of this, there are shoot ’em up levels that place Cuphead in a mini fighter jet, mixing up the gameplay even further.
The run n’ gun levels offer much more typical platformer scenarios, very much reminiscent to Mega Man. Throughout these levels, there are five coins that you’ll want to collect which as previously mentioned, can be used to buy upgrades. These levels can take approximately 3-5 minutes to complete and if (when) you die, you need to start again from the beginning. These levels may have benefited from checkpoints because getting all the way to the end and dying, only to have to do the entire level again is very discouraging.
Cuphead and Mugman have found themselves in some terrible debt with the Devil after losing an all-or-nothing roll at the craps table. However, a deal was struck and in order to save their own souls, they must go around as debt collectors and retrieve the souls of bosses that are owed to the Devil. Having this plot provides great context to the travelling and battling of boss to boss. The presentation is also very well done, with fantastic dialogue and visual cues that look just like they would be from a 1930s cartoon.
Graphics / Art Direction
The biggest topic of conversation around Cuphead has always been its art direction with its inspiration from classic cartoons. I’m pretty sure it speaks for itself when I say that Cuphead’s art style is absolutely incredible and with the modern widescreen aspect ratios, the new presentation brings a whole new light on the classically-inspired animation.
Music / Sound Design
Much like the graphics, the soundtrack goes all in on the 1930s nostalgia. It blends so well with the animation that it wraps up the entire package with a neat little bow on top. There’s also the added effect of record scratches and lower quality recording that perfectly imitates the sounds of the time. The only downside to the soundtrack is as a level can take many attempts to beat, the music can get a little repetitive.
On top of the soundtrack being simply amazing, there are often audio cues in boss battles that signifies when something is about to happen. This is in addition to visual cues, meaning that Studio MDHR know just how important every aspect is when making a high quality video game.
Final Score: 90%
Cuphead is one of those must-have games that should never be ignored. The classic animation, the soundtrack and the overall presentation of the game makes it stand out amongst the rest to truly become a video game that will stand the test of time. Its difficulty may limit its enjoyment for some but for those who love a good challenge, Cuphead is a game that deserves a spot in every Switch library.