Length of play session: 3 hours
Fun level (-10 to 10): 9
Cuphead is a newly released indie run-and-gun sidescrolling game from StudioMDHR Entertainment. The game features a 1930’s cartoon-inspired visual aesthetic that seamlessly blends the surreal with cute, funny, and quirky. The gameplay is similar to the Contra series, though Cuphead’s focus is that of a boss-rush, with most “stages” being boss battles.
My mood before starting the game was that of excitement. I had been awaiting Cuphead’s release for several years before September 29th, 2017. The depressive and lethargic feelings I had due to some real life situations were shattered in the face of this game’s release. That excitement did not fade away as I played the game.
First, I have to mention that Cuphead controls very tightly. These types of 2D, side-scrolling, run-and-gun shooters cannot have relaxed controls. The excitement that these types of games promise is only available when the controls are tight and snappy. Dodging and parrying attacks is quick and intensely satisfying, which keeps tension high. Tension is, indeed, the name of the game. Boss after boss, my adrenaline was pumping, and I was being pushed to perform better than the previous boss (or, more often, the previous life).
It’s not just the gameplay that battles my depression for me. The graphics are a masterwork in style. Each moment is beautiful enough to take, frame, and hang on a wall (if you’re a fan of cartoons). It is irresistibly charming. If the graphics weren’t absolutely perfect, the sound would match that charm. The next-to-frenetic jazz, swing, and big band soundtrack was designed to get me grooving along. The characters and story are hilarious, and twisted in the way that only cartoon stories and characters are.
The game also happens to have local multiplayer, so I was able to play it with my friend. Despite the slight annoyance at playing a difficult game with a much less skilled player, this was a net benefit to my emotions. Lots of shit-talking and laughs were had on both sides. While playing the game improved my mood as I was engaged in it, playing with my friend improved my mood after we were done.
In many respects, this is a game that made me happy, and I look forward to playing it again. The only issue I foresee with this is that mustering up the energy to play a game which will undoubtedly kick my ass can be a problem. The ability to play the game with a friend should help ease that problem.
An accounting exam prevented me from playing as many games as I usually do this week. I am glad that Cuphead was the one game I did sit down and spend time playing.
Contra. Konami. 1987. Video game.
Cuphead. StudioMDHR Entertainment. 2017. Video game.