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Ever find yourself craving a gaming experience that tests your soul, all while embracing the chaos and reveling in the challenge? Welcome to Cuphead by Studio MDHR Entertainment. This classic run-and-gun action game thrives on intense boss battles, drawing inspiration from 1930s cartoons. Its visuals and audio throw it back in a way that even your grandma would find nostalgic. At Player Opinion, we embraced an embarrassing number of defeats in the pursuit to gain our soul back in Cuphead.

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Cuphead Game Review

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Gameplay Experience: 16/25

Cuphead’s retro arcade style captivated us with an exhilarating, feverish quality. Conquering levels and defeating bosses for our souls was satisfying. While controls were generally effective, we faced issues with a controller (details to follow). Our main concern is the game’s balance—it’s not just about “Get Good”; it’s about tailoring the experience to the audience’s expertise. Cuphead’s steep learning curve, especially challenging for the average or younger player, leads to brief, intense gaming sessions. In contrast, games like FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series strike a commendable balance. Decisions in Cuphead carry weight but are constrained by items at Porkrind’s Shop. With a limited initial coin supply, your first upgrades significantly impact progress. Despite these downfalls, we found ourselves investing a significant amount of time passing Studio MDHR Entertainment’s challenging levels.

Presentation & Immersion: 18/25

At a glance, Cuphead’s story is a backdrop to its gameplay—standard for a side-scrolling platformer. However, jumping into the old-school Saturday morning cartoons vibe of its 1930s-themed environment, complete with original character designs, reveals a charming and visually impressive world. Cuphead shines in the audio department with nearly three hours of original scores by Kristofer Maddigan. Live performances by diverse musicians, including a 13-piece big band, a 10-piece ragtime group, a solo pianist, a vocalist, and a tap dancer, bring the music to life. Despite these strengths, concerns arise about the heads-up display, particularly the small playing cards serving as a life bar—it falls short. Overall, Cuphead feels more like a showcase for animators and musicians than a mere game.

Design & Technical: 16/25

Recall that controller issue? Sometimes, a simple input adjustment is all you need—maybe tweaking the dodge and special attack buttons. We initially thought, no problem, the settings are straightforward. However, attempting to customize led to an unexpected bug preventing level entry and interactions with characters on the map. Resorting to default controls, oddly, made the game more challenging and less enjoyable for our playthrough. Additionally, the presence of true AI in the game is questionable, as the level design aligns more with early game design styles like Super Mario Brothers, emphasizing pattern recognition over a sophisticated AI adapting to your playstyle. Content is somewhat limited, offering around 10-12 hours of play. Despite these quirks, lies an intricately yet well-crafted, decent, and enjoyable mechanics system.

The Skinny About Cuphead

Final Considerations: 13/25

Cuphead offers a mostly satisfying experience, especially when conquering its challenging courses. While there’s an optional DLC available (not necessary for enjoying the game) and no microtransactions to worry about, the motivation for a replay, especially for solo players, might feel a bit lacking. However, playing with a friend adds an extra layer of enjoyment. While we don’t expressly discourage trying Cuphead, it comes with a caveat: for those seeking a truly challenging escapade, coupled with the very real likelihood of throwing in the towel, proceed with caution and relish the journey—particularly with a friend, where the experience truly justifies the cost of the game and in which case we do recommend giving it a go!

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