rAge 2016: Cuphead is frustrating, maddening, and insanely fun
Tancrid "Tank" Muller·
There were a ton of games on show at rAge 2016. So many, in fact, that I fear some of you may have missed the small area at the Xbox booth dedicated to the absolutely brilliant Cuphead. If you did, I feel bad for you, son.
Ever since Matthew and ChrisThe Crusher tried it out at rAge 2015, I’ve been itching to have a go at the quirky platformer myself. So, when the lines dissipated a little, I summoned The Crusher with the help of the official NAG signal, and we geared up for what would turn out to be one of the most fun gaming sessions I had at rAge this year.
First off, for those of you who don’t know, Cuphead is an indie game by Studio MDHR, and plays for the most part like a run-and-gun platformer. It has a retro arcade feel to it, with visuals to match. Okay, now that you have a basic idea of what the game is, forget it. What Cuphead actually is, is a frustrating, fast-paced trek into cartoonish madness. Which, as I’ll attempt to explain in this post, is a very, very good thing.
Now, I’ve repeatedly heard that the game is really difficult, but I just brushed it off as those people not being as 100% legit beastly as I am at games. I mean, I’ve finished all of the Dark Souls titles, and I only cried like twice (please, hold your applause).
Well, Cuphead isn’t Dark Souls, but I probably died more during my 45 minutes or so playing the game than during my entire playthrough of Dark Souls 3. Everything happens really fast, and I always seemed to find myself with a single life left before I even realised it. In fact, if it wasn’t for The Crusher dragging my (mostly) dead weight through about half of the levels, I’d have probably never even reached the game’s first boss. While we’re on the topic of bosses, the ones in Cuphead are total dicks. Their attacks aren’t wholly unpredictable or hard to spot before they launch, there’s just so much happening on screen at any given moment that if you blink it’s all over.
It’s a really difficult game, but to me at least, the true appeal of Cuphead lies within this difficulty. Sure you’ll die a lot (like, a whole lot), and sure you’ll get frustrated, but the game never feels unfair. If you die it’s on you, and with each death, you’ll come back stronger, faster, and smarter. So, when you do eventually complete a platforming level or defeat a boss, it feels like an event. It feels like you’ve accomplished something. Not only that, you did it because of your own skill, perseverance, and (in the case of multiplayer) your flawless teamwork.
I’ve watched Cuphead grow and evolve over the last couple of years from a stylish boss rush co-op shooter, to a full-on platformer with a single player mode, and every time more game footage makes its way online I’m impressed all over again. The Crusher and I didn’t get very far during our playthrough (because I suck), so we missed out on experiencing everything the demo had to offer. This footage shows that the demo even includes vehicle focussed levels that look seriously fun. But while my time with Cuphead was short, and my gaming skill low, I massively enjoyed every second of it.
Cuphead still hasn’t been graced with a solid release date, only launching sometime this year, but we do know it’ll be coming to XBO and PC when it does.