Named after its founding members, Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, StudioMDHR is the small team responsible for developing and publishing their debut offering, Cuphead. After a shaky start plagued with delays, Cuphead met with a great response from both gaming and art communities. A subsequent partnership with Microsoft ultimately led them to be able to complete the vision they had to its full potential.

EZ boss, EZ life

Cuphead is a run’n’gun action game focused on boss battles. You play as the titular character Cuphead (and his brother Mugman in local 2 player co-op) as you try to repay your debt to the devil.  The first thing players will notice is the unique art style and sound, heavily inspired by the cartoons of the 1930’s and the vintage hand drawn animation styles of Fleischer studios and Disney.

A particularly annoying boss, the first three stages are randomised sugary sub-bosses

Everything has been meticulously constructed to absolutely nail the vibe of the era and audio has been given the same amount of attention. There is over two and a half hours of music composed specifically for Cuphead, using 13 piece big bands among others to ensure that the score matches the visuals in terms of excitement and authenticity with its attention to detail.

Tough But Fair

In the words of the developers, “Our aim is tough but fair. We want to inspire players to master the variety of gameplay techniques available in Cuphead, so the challenge level becomes a means to an end.”

it’s not up to Dark Souls level of punishing frustration, with the game finding the perfect balance of difficulty making it both challenging and rewarding

Platforming and run’gun sections are a distraction from boss-whooping that some will not appreciate

Having its roots in the old school arcade games, Cuphead is by no means an easy game. Mercifully though, it’s not up to Dark Souls level of punishing frustration. Cuphead finds the perfect balance of difficulty making it both challenging and rewarding. While I found myself pressing Retry a lot to start again, I never felt cheated or robbed by something that was unfair.

He did always tell me that smoking would kill me

Spread about amongst the few small explorable islands are hidden bonus levels to acquire new weapons and powers. All the boss battles are surprisingly unique with a large amount of variation between each of the encounters. Each boss had their own styles and changing attacks which constantly keep the player moving and adjusting. All of this makes beating every level more satisfying, making the grade you receive at the end feel like an A+ every time.

Souls Saved

Cuphead review

Overall, Cuphead is a very simple game that really rewards the player for their time. The audio and visuals are incredibly done, Cuphead is a very fun experience that never bordered on frustrating. While this type of game isn’t to everyone’s taste, it’s a fine addition to any gamer’s collection.

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