CupHead review: best platformer on Xbox?

A simple, 1930’s themed 2D Platformer, CupHead is an absolute blast to play!

Literally the last time that I played a 2D platformer was New Super Mario Bro’s 2 on the 3DS. The game was fun, but I’m beginning to see the benefits of playing a game like that with my xbox controller instead of using a gamepad. CupHead is a 2D run and gun platformer set in the 1930’s era. The game was developed by Studio MDHR, released as a microsoft exclusive, and is also an Xbox Play Anywhere title. Here’s my thoughts regarding the newest game On xbox:cuphead devil image-optimizeddesign: It’s odd these days to see a game with such a spectacular sense of uniqueness, and originality, but CupHead nails it perfectly. Most new titles have their own way of standing out, however CupHead does something refreshingly different that no other game can compete with. The game description states that it’s focused mainly on boss battles, and I can agree. Every level has its own boss that consistently feels different from the last, and has its own unique way to defeat them. The bosses never once felt similar which is impressive considering that it’s the core point of this game to take on these bosses, and that it never gets stale.

Each boss battle has up to 3-6 different stages in the level where the boss switches up its method of attack, and makes you change tactics on the fly, which makes for a really fun experience. By design, CupHead is supposed to be challenging, and you will die a lot. If you’ve ever played any of the Dark Souls games, you’d know the rage inducing feeling of dying over and over again, until you finally beat the level, and get to progess in the game.

CupHead has a similar feel in that the bosses require time, and patience as well as skill in order to understand how they work. Once you know the moves, you can find the weaknesses, and defeat them. The 2D nature of the game is nice to see compared to all the 3D games I typically play, because everything seems just a bit more hectic, and local co-op is a blast when playing with friends.

The fact that two players can revive one another makes for a simple but fun synergy, and makes it really feel like a great 2 player game worth picking up. Another interesting aspect is that throughout certain levels, there are coins to collect, which you can then spend on new weapons, abilities, and charms to help you out. This adds a way of customization to your character, and fun decision making that affects you in battle.

Graphics: CupHead has quite possibly the most creative, and retro graphics I’ve ever seen in a videogame. Everything from the open world landscapes, to the hand drawn watercolor background in each level, and the incredibly detailed boss battles are all super pleasing to the eye. It’s the little details that make it all stand out though. You’ll see that on the loading screens it’ll look like an old film projector effect with the scratches, and static noise which helps lend you to believe that you’re watching a film from the 1950’s.

Cuphead boss battle image -optimizedwhen in the home menu openworld, everything looks alive and has cute little dynamic animations, and the characters will bend their legs repeatedly like their made out of rubber. In the boss battles if you pay attention you’ll see their hilarious facial expressions, as well as other carnival themed artwork that’ll make you think you’re tripping on acid. While CupHead does have many modern features, it does a great job of making you believe you’re really playing a game from the 1930’s, and getting that old school feeling makes for a fun experience.

Audio: It’s hard to describe the voice acting in this game, think “1970’s wrestling match on live TV commentary speaker”. The voice scripting is very much old school themed, and you’ll either love it or hate it. When in the open world menu, there’s a bright musical theme in the background that makes the whole game feel happy, and easy going. In the “run, and gun” levels, there’s a sort of suspenseful, and uplifting vibe to it that helps the mood, even when you die for the 10th time. When in the boss fight things get tense, and the soundtrack helps create the “Golly this is where I put on my tryhard panties” vibe. It’s nice to have such a well rounded soundtrack in a pretty straight forward game, and you can clearly tell that the developers spent a lot of time perfecting it.

Gameplay: Playing CupHead reminds me a lot of old style arcade fighting games, and of course Super Mario Bros. Having that side scrolling 2D view provides an interesting way of interacting with the level around you, and makes the enemies a bit tougher because there’s so much to watch out for. As you progress through the game, you’ll gain coins which you can then spend on a range of helpful tools in the shop. There’s many different weapons to be had, abilities to use, and charms to collect, which goes slightly down the path of RPG gameplay, and I think it works well with a game like CupHead.

Cuphead early boss battle-optimizedFor example, many different equipable weapons are available to use like the “chaser” which fires homing rockets so you don’t even have to aim, or the “eight way” that acts a short range rapid firing shotgun. Weapon abilities are another interesting aspect of CupHead. As you move through a level, your selected ability will charge up over time, and then you can use it whenever you want. each weapon has it’s own unique ability, and if you save up five abilities in a row, you can use one super ability that deals huge damage. Aside from weapons, there’s also secondary abilities like the “smoke bomb” Which makes you invincible, and invisible when you dash.

Verdict: I’d say that for $20, you really cannot go wrong with this game. Unless you completely despise 2D or old school styled games, CupHead will provide hours of entertainment that can be made all the better when you have a friend playing along side you in local co-op. The artwork is awesome, the gameplay is swift, and fast reflexes are a must if you want to win in this game. If you’re an Xbox gamer, and searching for another great exclusive, then CupHead might be just what you’re looking for. Check it out here if you’re interested in getting CupHead.

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