Cuphead - Critique
There are those jokes that start off being really funny, before they get boring, only to be hilarious again after a few moments of that. That's what it feels like to play Cuphead. With its stunning, caustic, and plenty of boss fights, StudioMDHR's first game made me take turns screaming in joy and horror, but with a real sense of glee once it got to the end.
The most obvious thing that jumps out when you see Cuphead is how amazing he is. His visual style, which takes over the animated films of the 1930s - with its watercolor backgrounds and hand-drawn surrealist characters - pays unparalleled homage to Max Fleischer and his style, in particular thanks to a real concern for the detail. Somehow, the game manages to balance the movements of a dozen elements with a blurring effect as they pass into the background without ever being unreadable even in the most moments. nervous. There's never been a game like this, and it's going to be hard to beat. Every scene is a work of art - an unthinkable conclusion for this art style.
The sound work is just as good: there is a quick mix of ragtime, swing, big bang and jazz (the list of musicians is as long as all the credits combined), escaping wonderfully from the bottom of each one. fights. Cuphead is truly timeless, all the more so when he surprisingly manages to combine that aesthetic of the 30s with that of the 80s. I feel compelled to point out that the way Porkrind (the local shopkeeper) breathes his "welcome" made me laugh every time I could hear it.
There is no doubt that the game is magnificent, and many players will probably be drawn to its plastic, but the title conceals a sickly difficulty within it, and a design made for the more adventurous. You may have learned here and there that the game is really very difficult. He is absolutely uncompromising in his difficulty from the start of the adventure. No level has a checkpoint, and if you lose health there is no way to get it back. You can discover levels where it will take hours to finish with them, and the ending is stuck until you beat all the levels in a classic difficulty mode (i.e. extremely hard). And don't think local co-op will make it easier for you: having Mugman, Cuphead's mate, makes the on-screen action much harder to follow. The game is probably even much more difficult with a second player.
As my adventure went on, I gradually stopped looking at the splendid settings of the game, because the action of Cuphead is so nervous, so stressful, that it just destroys the right side of my brain there. where the distraction is. This giant robot that shoots lasers and has only three places it can be hit after multiple jumps, before transforming into an evil slot machine in a wacky phase shift is nothing compared to my favorite boss : a giant bird that serves as a cuckoo clock, and whose skull changes into a glove firing rockets - a detail that I only noticed when I watched someone else play hours later.
While it certainly has its intense moments, Cuphead is structured in a linear fashion, with three worlds filled with many levels and a finale. These levels can take one of three forms: the least common - and the least interesting - is a run 'n' gun, where you have to shoot from left to right like a Contra. With the exception of a level where gravity is reversed, these levels are the easiest and least invented in Cuphead. They are meant to provide a respite from the endless boss battles, but end up being seen as a bit overwhelming.
The other forms are dedicated to bosses, and will show you all the colors. Some will fly Cuphead in order to pilot a small motor plane, avoiding the incoming bullets. Most of the time, it's about testing your dexterity, especially in your understanding of the strategy to be implemented, a bit like treasure hunting games (with fewer spaceships, but with more stars). angry), and are particularly interesting.
But the best form turns out to be the third one: platform fights. This is where MDHR has been most inventive, creating weird, often hilarious levels that allow you to use all possible gameplay patterns, and in the best possible way. Helping the passengers of a ghost train is both killing enemies, but also taking control of your platform rolling on the rails to avoid the bony hands of your opponent. To beat an actress in your theater also means having to go from room to room. This allows each fight of this type to be seen as a game, which uses your own shots and special moves. One of the latest levels even completely changes the structure where you fight, turning your clash into a miniature board game - it's a fun every moment, and these are the best boss fights I've ever had. play in my life.
But the thing besides Cuphead, which is also the most diabolical, is probably how to make yourself play more and more. No enemy has a health bar or hints as to the effect of your hits. It is only when you die that you have a glimpse of the proximity of the knockout, or the next phase. It reduces the clutter on the screen, and what's more is encouraging (or perhaps "berating", hard to say) to go even further.
It's not just a matter of playing the same way over and over again. You can unlock new types of shots, additional abilities and a series of special moves that offer you alternatives for the most difficult levels. Some are more useful than others - I only used the shots that set enemies attacking you from behind in a single fight, and I can't really imagine playing without the ability to prevent damage from taking damage during a fight. dash - but they force us to think about a strategic mix. It may even be vital to experience them. I only managed to kill the final boss with an immediate reload of my shots.
As for Cuphead, it is perfectly responsive. He has endless shots and a useful dash, which makes him a really powerful hero compared to some of his colleagues in the genre. He also happens to face extremely stubborn opposition, and the gameplay is good enough that the failures don't seem like his doing, but yours.
The only real issue with Cuphead's abilities is in the parry system. You can jump twice in a row from any object colored in pink, but you will receive damage if you misunderstand the principle. Unfortunately, the implementation is not ideal - sometimes the game has a generous hitbox, but it can also demand absolute precision. Even after completing the game, I still don't feel like I understood the principle.
There are also some curious design choices that sometimes make Cuphead difficult and less interesting. By default, the maneuverability of the pad will make you press two buttons at the same time, difficult to reach at the same time, in order to shoot and jump. This is an absurd choice especially since these are two actions you'll be using all the time - so be sure to re-type the associated buttons before you jump in. Having to quit a fight to change your special ability is a waste of time too, and it's all the more frustrating since everything else in the game seems to make sure you don't get frustrated with a possible failure.
But the random use of different types of combat during a single encounter is probably the worst decision made by the Cuphead developers. Let's face it, the fact that some bosses spawn multiple mini-bosses at random is rightfully exciting (which also allows you to take advantage of MDHR's artistic inventiveness), and the changes in attacks make things difficult and refreshing. Except when the concept is taken a little too far to its limits.
Certain combinations of attacks can prove to be rightfully unfair - such as when you're thrown against the edge of the screen as projectiles explode behind you - even if you get used to it over time. Likewise, winning a long-drawn-out fight just because of a bit easier randomness compared to your previous tries makes the triumph of your victory less impressive. The worst remaining anyway the levels where the platforms are placed at random, and where it is almost impossible not to make a mistake at least once. It's a shame that some levels are based more on luck rather than your skill, but luckily that's something that rarely happens. And no matter how long it takes you to beat a boss, without a doubt Cuphead's greatest strength is making the player feel even better after a fight to get to the next challenge.