Cuphead Switch Review
Studio MDHR’s highly praised, tough as nails title Cuphead has finally landed on the Switch, and it pleases me immensely to see that the transition went off without a hitch. Featuring the same tight platforming, fantastic bosses, and jazzy big band soundtrack as the original version, the Switch version may even arguably be the definitive way to experience the game, thanks to the grab ‘n go nature of the Switch. There’s a lot to delve into, so let’s spill the tea (or coffee or milk or whatever you may drink out of a cup or mug. I won’t judge you.)
The plot for Cuphead feels like it was ripped right out of one of the Fleischer Studio cartoons it draws so heavily from. Cuphead features the titular protagonist and his brother Mugman wandering into the Devil’s Casino, where their luck conveniently runs out right as the getting is good. The duo are about to lose their souls, but the Devil instead gives them a proposal; track down the other debtors, give them a proper walloping, and the porcelain-headed pair would be off the hook. A simple premise, but it stands on its own two legs without any issue, thanks in part to the gorgeous animation and tight, responsive game-play. Emulating an animation style known as “rubber hose”, each and every aspect of the game is animated in this fashion. Screenshots honestly do not do the game justice, and it is an absolute treat to see it in motion. Bosses are lively, multi-phase encounters with each phase having new attacks and even grander transformations. They are also accompanied with their own beautiful backdrops and snappy music tracks that are catchy enough to stick in your head long after the credits roll. I really cannot stress just how freaking beautiful Cuphead is from an artistic standpoint, and it’s always nice to see that games don’t have to have photo-realistic graphics in order to stand out. Thankfully, Cuphead isn’t just a pretty face as there’s a seriously challenging game underneath this 1930’s-esque exterior.
Cuphead is as gorgeous as it is difficult. Harkening back to old school shooters like Contra, Studio MDHR made it their mission to create a game that captured that old school feel, while also giving it that snazzy coat of paint. The Run ‘N Gun stages are a nice callback to these sort of games, without feeling too difficult, but the bosses could be seen as a little unfair due to how each phase’s attacks do have a degree of randomness to them, but each boss really boils down to how well you can recognize the patterns and adapt to their attacks. The Run ‘n Gun stages are a little tame by comparison, but they are still challenging and a welcome break from each of the bosses who are easily the star of the show. Each island has a number of bosses to challenge, and while they vary in difficulty pretty wildly each island feels like a smooth progression for the most part, culminating in a few bosses that are easily some of the most creative challenges in the game.
No Cracks In This Mug
I must say, this is one hell of a port. Unity is a little notorious for being used to create games that are a little unoptimized, but Studio MDHR did a fantastic job with the port/overhauling of the game. They not only managed to reduce the game’s original file-size from a beefy 11GB to a neat and tidy 3GB, but the game runs like a dream on the Switch. At no point did I experience frame drops, so I was able to seamlessly get my ass kicked by Dr. Kahl’s Robot (seriously, screw that boss) and get right back into the action with little delay. The only real difference I’d seen was a bit of a longer load time than the PC version which I initially played, but we’re talking a mere seconds difference in this case; it’s not a deterrent in anyway whatsoever. It’s easy to get back into a Run ‘n Gun stage or a boss battle, because there’s a good chance you’ll be doing it more than once. This version also brings some fresh content in the way of new character animations, fully animated cutscenes, and even some additional secret boss routes. These routes aren’t aren’t anything world-changing, but they provide some pretty notable differences and are worth experiencing at least once to see how things get mixed up. It would be nice to see all of the bosses get this treatment, but it appears only a few got these new routes from what I was able to find.
It may be two years old at this point, but that doesn’t change how good of a game it is. Studio MDHR worked themselves to the bone to make this dream a reality since the reveal back in 2014 when it was first teased and to see it not only be successful but to flourish is a heartwarming story in this massive industry. We definitely haven’t seen the last of this plucky pair, as DLC is on the way, but for the time being Cuphead will take you a bit of time to finish. If you’re a fan of old-school animation or like to be challenged, or even both, then check out this one of a kind gem.
**Switch Review code provided by publisher**
- Stunning in motion
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Wildly creative bosses
- Rock-solid port
- Challenge may turn some off
- Some bosses particularly brutal