Cuphead in the test - on broken pieces to success

Author: Linda Sprenger
Date: 2017-10-05 12:15:00
Studio MDHR's rock-hard Jump & Run Cuphead is not for the faint of heart. Our test shows, however, that those who enter into the deal with the devil and have enough stamina will be richly rewarded.

We were wrong about you. You, with your pretty graphic outfit in the style of old Disney and Fleischer cartoons from the 1930s; you with your funny animations, charmingly drawn characters, you are anything but a relaxed, nostalgic afternoon in front of the TV with Mickey Mouse, Popeye the sailor and Co.

Behind your fancy shell there is a core that is so hard that we almost broke on it. We literally descended into hell for you - and had a lot of fun doing it. Thanks Cuphead!

Boss fight parade

If we win a boss fight or complete a run & gun passage, we unlock paths on the map that lead us to new levels. Once we have managed all of them, the gates to a second and third world open again, which we also have to close before the grand finale.

3,2,1 ... Wallop!

However, achieving this goal is anything but easy. The merciless facts on the table: We can usually only take three hits before having to start the level from before. But we have an infinite number of lives and unlimited ammunition, a stronger special attack and a powerful "Super Art" attack that we can only carry out with a fully filled EX bar.

Our move set seems modest when we look at what the bosses have been up to. They take as many hits as a sack of sand can hold and usually have three different forms within the fight, each of which requires a different approach and thus forces us to rethink.

Die, learn, try again

Even our very first boss fight against the "Root Pack", a murderous trio of a potato, an onion and a carrot, turns out to be so tricky that after three unsuccessful rounds we are almost ready to eat the controller Fire corner. However, once we pull the belt vigorously, we start again and instead of shooting wildly, we start by memorizing the movement and attack patterns of our opponents (and nightshade plants) exactly until we have understood how we the different phases of the fight.

Our plan: In phase one, just jump over the balls of dirt that the potato spits at us and shoot at them at the same time; in phase two in the left corner of the screen because this is where we are best protected from the tears of the howling onion. And in the final phase of the fight it is better to keep moving to avoid the psychic rays and flying carrot rockets of the three-eyed carrot colossus and work off its life bar piece by piece as it runs by.

That’s the theory. After our aha experience, however, we still need a few attempts to successfully implement our tactics. Especially in the last phase of the fight, every evasive jump requires precision and every shot requires the right timing, which is basically easy to do thanks to the excellent controls .

On the other hand, we fail because we either react too slowly, confuse motion sequences in the heat of the moment, fail to foresee attacks by the enemy that we have learned by heart, or simply fail to concentrate. We also state here: Cuphead is tough, but still fair. We just can't make mistakes.

With patience and spit to sweet victory

Again and again we die; and with each death we learn a little more, get better and finally send the nasty vegetables back into the ground: "Hurray, we did it!". The feeling of strutting off the field victoriously after many, many failed attempts overwhelms us and becomes even more intense the more challenging the fighting becomes.

After having overcome many more bosses, the first one seems like a no brainer in comparison. Already in the last stage of the first world, the level of difficulty increases again so much that we no longer need seven, but maybe 27 attempts to kill one boss. We can't deny that some fights or run & gun levels have frustrated us, that we were about to just give up.

But in the end that's only up to us. Pause, take a deep breath, carry on. All you need is a high degree of perseverance and the will to learn , both of which are rewarded in the end with an incredibly euphoric and satisfying feeling to play.

Clutched firmly on the handle

Cuphead, you are a smart boy. You are teaching us not only to overcome the obstacles you put in our way, but also to ignore our own weaknesses.

You send us through hell, make us pull our hair out and clench our fists with a growl, but inspire us so much after every hurdle we have overcome that in the end we feel invincible - at least for a short time. A deal with the devil? We would do it again at any time.