Cuphead: A real blast from the past

Cuphead has been in development for a while now, some seven years in total, but it’s finally coming out on September 29th and so we took a chance to play the near-finished game at gamescom.

The side-scrolling shooter hasn’t been a big genre for many a year, and the genre staples of gun toting-robots, military stereotypes and agile spaceships still haven’t completely faded, despite the effort of many an indie title. Cuphead is lightyears away from that, stylistically, but its gameplay adheres to many of the genre standards of the golden age of ‘schmups’ in the late eighties and early nineties.

It’s a tough game then, with the action coming thick and fast. Developer StudioMDHR has mixed things up so that enemies come in unpredictable patterns, so it’s not just a matter of learning by rote.There’s a selection of weapons, of which you can carry two at a time, plus a dash move and a super move to power up. It’s a satisfying little arsenal, and one that can be upgraded between levels, which are themselves spread across a world map.

The game may hail from twenty years ago, but it’s the eighty-year old art style that has really turned heads. The 1930s animation doesn’t take any modern shortcuts either, with every character and element drawn and inked by hand, before being scanned into the game. You begin to understand why development has taken so long.

It’s even clearer when you play it, as we were startled by the the sheer variety of settings and enemies. 

Across three levels we never saw any elements reused apart from our co-op characters themselves, the eponymous Cuphead and his companion Mugman.

Cuphead is distinctive-looking enough to sell beyond the usual genre aficionados. Plus with three difficulty levels it should be able to please both newcomers and hard-bitten veterans of the genre.

You can read all our Gamescom highlights in our MCV@gamescom daily issues

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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