Don’t let Cuphead’s presentation lull you into thinking this game is going to be a typical Nintendo-esque platformer. Cuphead may look like a run-of-the-mill platforming game, or at least that’s I thought it was going to be, but I’d say it’s more similar to run-and-gun / 2D shooter games like Contra.

The gleeful 1930s tone of Cuphead devolves into something more sinister as soon as the game begins. Cuphead and Mugman find themselves in a casino operated by the devil himself. Cool cool cool–no big deal, right? Well, you end up taking one too many rolls at the craps table and find yourself in debt to the casino’s head honcho. The devil asks for your souls, but you end up working out a deal that involves collecting debts from other debtors. And so begins your long gauntlet of boss battles with the occasional reprieve of a typical platforming level.

Cuphead

After an initial tutorial you exit the Elder Kettle’s cottage to explore the world. Players can freely move around the overworld, but there are just a few areas that are interactable. Most of these are boss battles. To put things lightly–these battles are not easy. Each one allows players to choose between a ‘Simple’ and ‘Regular’ difficulty. I would probably equate Simple to Hard in most games and Regular to Ultra Hard. Each boss battle took a minimum of 30-40 deaths. I was playing in two-player co-op most of the time which may have made it easier or harder depending on how many projectiles were on-screen. That 30-40 could’ve easily been close to 100. You might say, “The game must be good if it kept you coming back after such adversity, right?” Well, yes and no. I wanted to keep playing purely out of a sense of not wanting the game to get the best of me. Once I finished a boss battle I felt a sense of relief more than a sense of reward. So, while the game is ‘good’, it offered more frustration than fun in my case.

Cuphead

Visually, on the other hand, Cuphead is top-tier. I don’t know if you’ll find a game more beautifully hand-crafted and animated. This game has to be seen in motion. You really feel like you’re inside a 1930s cartoon. Gameplay is fast and frantic even in two-player co-op. There’s a lot of charm to the visuals, the presentation, and the music. You’ll be entranced with each new boss phase and new area you encounter. Just getting to see the animation and craft each new level and boss brings to the table is the game’s greatest reward.

Cuphead

I certainly don’t regret my time spent with Cuphead, but also I don’t know when I’ll pick up the game again. There’s too much rinse and repeat and rote memorization of bosses to be fun for me after a while. That being said, if you’re looking for a steep challenge, Cuphead will certainly satisfy. The game is definitely a huge accomplishment–I just wish it was more universally accessible and fun for everyone.