Cuphead: A New Canadian Classic

Image result for cuphead

Chad and Jared Muldenhauer, two brothers from Oakville, Ontario, Canada (which is basically next door to the city I live) had a dream: make their own video game. In 2013, they set out to make their dream a reality by working on a new and original video game  that had the aesthetic and charm of a classic 1930’s cartoon. After a few delays to perfect the project, Cuphead was released in 2017 to rave reviews.

Like a lot of people, I was drawn to it by the design and style. It was so refreshing to see traditional hand drawn animation (and beautiful, well done animation for that matter) on a video game format, and the characters looked like a lot of fun. Finally, this year, for my birthday, I got it as a present. And after over a month, I have completed it! (On Normal of course, I’ll get to the expert mode soon.)

What are my thoughts?

Well, I will say that those delays paid off because there’s so much DETAIL in this game. Like the animation of course is a real gem, but the music is excellent and there’s all sorts of hidden achievements and surprises. You can tell Studio MDHR went all out on this game. There’s definitely enough things to keep you interested in playing.

While the gameplay is hard, it also helps you learn how to be a better player. You have to form strategies on how to beat the enemy and advance. Try this charm here, try this super there. The bosses are actually a lot of fun, and I would always throw up my arms and shout “YES!” whenever I beat them. And for the most part I didn’t find them TOO hard. The only boss that really and truly frustrated me, oddly enough, was Beppi the Clown. But even the toughest boss feels so rewarding when you are able to beat them. I was able to pass with the lowest grade of B- and was even able to get a few A+ grades!

The platforming/run n gun levels (where you collect coins) I found more difficult and less enjoyable to be honest. Mainly because even though they’re short, there is just so much stuff thrown at you. I was honestly stuck on the run n gun levels of Inkwell Isle Three for over a week, that was how bad it got (I was able to beat the infamous Dr. Kahl’s Robot before those levels). They’re less fun and rewarding than the bosses, that’s for sure.

Despite the platforming, the bosses, challenging but engaging gameplay, and overall beauty of the game kept me interested and makes it one of my faves. But most of all, as a fellow Canadian, I feel a great sense of pride that an independent studio from my country can achieve worldwide fame and acclaim.

If you are interested in this game, please buy it legally from Steam and the Windows store. The creators had to quit their jobs and remortgage their houses to make the game possible. Luckily it paid off since the game has sold over 2 million copies, but still, they’re not exactly a big conglomerate corporation that won’t hurt over a few pirates. (I find it interesting that they had to go that route. I’m sure they could have put it on a crowdfunding website and it would have had the same success, but then again, maybe they didn’t want to potentially screw people over if the game didn’t succeed. Either way, it’s a rare risk that paid off.)

Here are some tips I have to help you win the game:

  • Don’t be afraid to look for help. If you are stuck, you can look up tutorials on YouTube on how to get ahead/look for secrets. The game should be fun most of all.
  • Similarly, don’t be afraid if it takes you a long time to finish the game. Again, the game should be fun, and you should be able to finish it at your own pace. Take your time if you need to.
  • The P Sugar charm is your friend. Use it as much as you can, especially on levels that require a lot of parrying.
  • The Chaser weapon is a good weapon to get you started, but be warned, it does not do a lot of damage. I recommend the Roundabout since it has a wide range (can hit more targets) and does a great deal of damage. The Lobber weapon is great if you have to shoot down at a target; I used it to beat the Dragon boss, Grim Matchstick.
  • I recommend using the Heart and Twin Heart Charms for the airplane levels since there’s a LOT of stuff that will be thrown your way. I don’t recommend them for other levels because they decrease your attack power and will draw out the level.
  • When you do the Pacifist mode for the Run and Gun Levels the Smoke Bomb charm will help you a lot.
  • Otherwise, keep firing. Fire fire fire. Use the Supers to your heart’s content.
  • Maneuverability is a HUGE asset to the game. This is something I admittedly lack since I kept dying a lot in the game. If you need to, you can go on simple mode to practice before using regular.
  • When you’re on King Dice’s level, use the P Sugar charm to help you with the dice because there will definitely be some mini bosses you will not like. Carefully determine which bosses you can handle and try to land on their number. Remember, if you lose to a mini boss you have to start the level all over again.
  • Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP! You will beat the game, I promise. There were times when I thought I was going to be stuck for good but I got through it. You can do it too.

I’ll probably add some more when I beat the game on Expert, but overall, this should help you get started.

Finally, I should mention my fave characters. The bosses I found most fun to play were Werner Werman, Phantom Express, and Hilda Berg. The easiest were Goopy Le Grande and The Root Pack. In terms of characters I like on a personal or aesthetic level, my faves are Cagney Carnation (very original, I know), Baroness von Bon Bon, Cala Maria, and the Devil. I honestly love this game’s interpretation of the Devil. I love his overall design, the different forms he can shapeshift into, the attacks he can use, the animation on him, and how he’s just chilling on some random isle running his own casino. I also love the animation on King Dice.

Overall, this game was a blast and I’m really excited to see more adventures of these characters and more games from Studio MDHR.

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Author: Laura Alexander

My name is Laura, I use they/them pronouns, and I'm a college student with Asperger's currently enrolled at the Social Service Worker Program at Sheridan College. I have a passion for film and animation, social issues, and helping others, all of which will be featured on The Flying Red Robot blog. Please read the about page before commenting or following. "Big Hero 6" is my favourite movie.