Cuphead is a 2017 run and gun video game developed and published by Studio MDHR. The game was inspired by the rubber hose style of animation used in cartoons from the golden age of American animation, such as the work of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Fleischer Studios, and sought to emulate their subversive and surrealist qualities.
Cuphead features one or two players taking control of its titular protagonist and his brother Mugman to fight through several levels, that culminate in boss fights, in order to repay their debt to the devil. The game was praised for its art style, gameplay, soundtrack and difficulty. It was both a critical and commercial success, winning several awards and selling over six million copies within three years. An animated series based on the game is in production by Netflix.
Gameplay of Cuphead
Cuphead’s gameplay is centered around continual boss fights, interspersed with run-and-gun levels. Each of these boss fights and run-and-gun levels is housed in one of four different worlds, with the fourth world containing the final fight against the Devil himself.
Each boss fight includes a simple, normal, and expert difficulty mode (with the exception of the final two bosses, which lack a simple mode). Defeating every boss on normal mode is required to complete the game, while expert mode is unlocked upon completion. While most boss battles take place on land, several bosses are instead fought in aeroplanes in levels which play like side-scrolling shoot ’em ups.
The game also includes role-playing elements and a branching level sequence. Player characters have infinite lives, maintaining all equipment between deaths. Equippable weapons and special abilities known as Charms can be purchased from Porkrind’s Emporium, an in-game shop, using coins found in levels and the overworld.
Player characters can use a slapping “parry” attack on objects marked in pink to various effects, the most important of them being increasing a “super meter” that enables more powerful attacks. The super meter is represented by a row of five playing cards, all of which must be filled in order to use one of the three strongest attacks (“Super Arts”) in the player’s inventory.
A less powerful strike can be executed at the cost of one card, its particular form determined by the currently equipped weapon. The Super Arts must be earned by entering three mausoleums, one in each of the first three worlds, and parrying a group of invading ghosts to stop them from reaching an urn at the center of the screen.
After completing a level, the player is ranked with a grade based on their performance, based on factors such as the time taken to complete the level, damage avoided, and number of parried attacks. The levels are accessible through a top-down perspective overworld with its own secret areas. The game also has a two-player local cooperative mode, in which either player character can return to the game after being killed if the other one parries his soul before it rises off the screen.
On the Inkwell Isle, Cuphead and his brother, Mugman, are two fun-loving cups who live under the watchful eye of the Elder Kettle. Against his warnings, the brothers wander off, enter the Devil’s Casino and begin playing craps. When they go on a winning streak, the Devil himself appears and offers to raise the stakes: If Cuphead and Mugman can win one more roll, they will receive all the money in the casino; if not, the Devil will take their souls. Cuphead loses by rolling snake eyes, and he and Mugman beg for mercy.
The Devil makes a deal with them: If the two can collect the “soul contracts” from his runaway debtors by midnight the next day, he might spare them. They visit the Elder Kettle, who gives them a potion that allows them to fire blasts of energy from their fingers to aid in their quest, but also warns them that the debtors may not turn in their soul contracts easily.
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Cuphead on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/268910/Cuphead/