Have you ever thought to yourself, “I bet if I made a deal with the devil I could have exactly what I want?” No? Well good for you! For the rest of us heathens, we need to learn our lessons the hard way. StudioMDHR has given us all Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil as a perfect teaching aid. Cuphead is an extremely, unforgiving 2D, run and gun, side-scroller that gives some of the hardest gameplay that has come to players for a long time. You’ll see a lot of people say, “It’s harder than Dark Souls!” However, that isn’t a fair assessment. To even put Cuphead in the same category is a crime against humanity. Although Cuphead had a lot of setbacks in coming out, many fans have been waiting since 2014 (when it was announced at E3). Now, after what felt like an eternity, we have a masterpiece.

Don’t Deal with the Devil

The story of Cuphead is simple enough. Cuphead and his brother, Mugman, live on Inkwell Isle. As two fun-loving kids, they go down to the local casino to try their luck at the craps table. The Devil’s Casino is run by King Dice, a sleazy gangster-type looking dice man (his head is actually a die) and after the two ‘boys’ are on a hot streak, King Dice calls in the manager, The Devil.

The Devil says he will raise the stakes and gives Cuphead and Mugman the deal of a lifetime, Win one more roll, and all the loot in my Casino is yours.” If they lost, however, he would take their souls. You can probably guess what happened. Stupidly, Cuphead grabs the dice and rolls Snake Eyes. They beg for mercy and the Devil makes them his death-inducing hitmen to collect the souls of other people that welched on bets with the Devil. So, to make sure Cuphead and Mugman don’t lose their souls you go on a head hunt.

Momma always told us not to make a bet with the Devil.

Don’t Brake That Controller

Cuphead is one of the hardest games you will play all year. Having said that, the game can also be easily maneuvered once you have memorized certain aspects. That doesn’t mean you won’t die consistently, over and over again. However, it does push you to try and try again. While it may be frustrating at times, it gets worse. The levels change and bosses may switch tactics, making some levels harder to memorize, but the game has such a charm to it that I never wanted to give up. This might be an older gamer thing. You see, the game reminds me of the unforgiving NES games that I would masochistically play until my fingers developed sores on them. Games like Contra come to mind, where they purposely put in a code to give you 99 lives because the game is impossibly hard otherwise.It becomes an obsession to finish and with much perseverance, you do.

Cuphead is comprised of three major worlds, and ‘finale’ world, all of which are filled with two main types of levels, Run & Gun and Boss Battles. As you walk through a monsterless overworld map, you must complete the titled challenges to progress to the next world. You have infinite lives but players can only be hit three times. While there is an item in Store, Porkrind’s Emporium, run by a pig with an eyepatch,  to permanently give you an extra hit, but it weakens your gun abilities.

That’s the one!

The store will actually give players a one up on the competition by giving you some sweet new powers. Some of which are gun abilities, which a player can equip two different kinds, and the other are charms, which you can equip one of. Don’t misunderstand me, it doesn’t make the game any easier, but it will give you better shooting abilities or certain perks to help you. Players can also find Super moves along the way by rescuing a spirit in random Moseliums in a world. These are amazing power moves that have definitely helped me out of a jam, so absolutely find these.

Run & Gun maps are the side-scrolling adventures where you collect coins to use at the above-mentioned store. They also unlock areas that you were previously not allowed to visit. So it is in your interest to try and get through these difficult levels. Run & Gun levels are all about memorization. If you learn the pitfalls, the baddies, and the surprise elements you’ll be fine. Some of these I managed in less than three tries, others took me fifteen or more. The Boss Battles are exactly that, they are the souls you have to collect in order to move to the next world. These are non-skippable and terribly difficult, however, you can do them in any order you please. If one is giving you too much gamer rage you can quit it, go to something else and always come back after you cool off. There are air and ground battles and, I need to repeat, the bosses are no joke. These Bosses have multiple parts to them which can be anything from transformations to different powers, all of which can change, every time you die and play again. However, if you learn how to get past section, the bosses (by the time you are ready to lose your sh*t) become much easier to defeat.

Devilish Good Looks

Cuphead is an amazing example of human art skills. The game is modeled after those 1930s cartoons that, if you ever watched them, are totally weird. Most of the cartoons back then had terrible saturation and the audio was loud and grainy with the sound of a projector wheel in the background. Cuphead has kept what made those great and completely improved on them. For example, when you load the game up, it gives you the projector sound and the grainy audio, however, once you start playing you don’t get that anymore and the game runs smooth as silk. You can put a setting in for the color saturation (which I did for aesthetic and childhood memory purposes) but you can play without them and the game looks incredible.

It’s clear from playing that the visuals and audio are 100% painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era. Cuphead was all drawn out in that traditional hand-drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds, and even original jazz recordings. It is wonderful to see animators keeping the old style alive with the silly, wobbly arm and legwork, the funny faces, and the amazing, and incredibly distracting backgrounds. The artwork alone makes this game worth every penny you buy it for. I remember when I first turned it on it was like being brought back to my childhood and watching the old Popeye, and, even older, Betty Boop cartoons with my parents Then the game started and it promptly slapped me across the face and said, “Pay attention you are dying too much!”

Overall

The amazingly cool animation will not save you from dying a lot. However, this game is one of the best I have played all year. It’s a fun, frustrating, beautifully animated, simply told, action-packed game that will kick your ass over and over, and you will come beg it for more. I absolutely encourage people to buy this game. It is inexpensive, and while you aren’t getting some AAA 40-hour game, you are getting a handsomely made indie game that will steal your heart with its artwork and rip it in two with its gameplay.

Cuphead: Don't Deal With The Devil Review
The Good
  • The Music is amazingly catchy
  • The Boss fights
  • The Simple Story, Yet Hours of Gameplay
The Better
  • The hand-drawn artwork
  • The unapologetic toughness
  • Cuphead and Mugman
10Overall Score
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About The Author

John D
Chief Operating Officer

An Action-Adventurer, RPGer, and FPS kind of gamer. Quick to play any game that has magic, swordplay, and/or stealthy elements. If you can customize a character I’m in it for the long haul. Or just give me your 2D platform and I’m a happy camper. What else do you expect from a gamer with a beard and a bow tie tattoo? seriously.