Posted September 20, 2017 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

Cuphead Hands-On Preview

At Xbox’s showcase event for the Xbox One X earlier this month, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with a game I’ve been trying to go hands-on with for years now – Cuphead. At every event I’ve seen it at, since it’s started to become available to play, it’s always been one of the indie titles that draws the largest crowd, with the longest waits. It’s not hard to see why, as the game’s art style is utterly unique, drawing up on 1930’s Fleischer-era cartoons. It’s been seven years in the making, and three years since it was initially released to eager audiences at Xbox’s press conference at E3 2014, and now it’ll finally arrive on 29 September.

There’s been a lot said recently about the difficulty of the game, and while I’m not an expert on run-and-gun shooters, I’m also certainly no slouch when it comes to them either (I think my skill level slides comfortably into mediocrity with these kinds of games). With that said, even playing in co-op, we both found Cuphead to be deliciously difficult, although it’s not unfairly so. Cuphead’s main mode of attack are pellets fired from his fingertip, which can be exchanged for a shotgun-esque wider blast (with a shorter range) at any time. While many smaller enemies can be taken out simply by dodging them and their projectiles and firing off a few shots of your own, Cuphead can also plant his feet to stop and aim with greater precision – which is absolutely vital for many enemies and bosses in the game. Much like Dark Souls it’s also important not to get greedy, as if you stop and fire for just a second too long at an enemy’s weak spot, you leave yourself wide open for attacks. For what it’s worth, Cuphead seems acutely aware of the Dark Souls comparisons, right down to its very familiar ‘YOU DIED’ screens.

While early tutorial stages are straightforward and don’t require too much effort or thought, the game’s challenge does rise significantly as you enter the fun house. As I mentioned, the game isn’t unfairly difficult, but rather challenging – it expects you to remember and adapt to enemy patterns, and ideally work with a partner in co-op as a unit to overcome them. Part of the fun-house has gravity flipping devices which stick Cuphead to the ceiling, necessary to avoid unstoppable trains of enemies which come at you from both the ceiling and the ground, as you also need jumping-precision to reach and activate the devices with your double jump. This mechanic is also how you revive your partner if they die – a ghost rapidly rises of their corpse, giving you a brief window to double jump into it and ‘activate’ it to bring them back to life.

I wasn’t able to get too far into the game to see how much further the difficulty increases, but I would say that the co-op experience is the definitive way to play the game. Being able to work out strategy with a partner and co-ordinate attacks, point-0ut weak points – it harkens back to days spent crowded around arcade cabinets at Timezone (in much the same way Cuphead stations have been crowded lately). If you’re a fan of run’n’gun platformers, you should definitely keep your eyes open for Cuphead when it’s released on 29 September.

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.