What Is – Cuphead

The Modern Cautionary Tale

Oh, Cuphead.

When Cuphead originally released for PC and Xbox One in September of 2017, to say I was excited would be an understatement. Soon as I saw the art, heard the music, I was all in. Shortly after the game released, I found out what the premise of the game’s story is: brothers, Cuphead & Mugman, run off to a casino to gamble. They start winning so much that the casino’s owner, The Devil, makes a deal with them that, if they win, would net them the casino. However, if they lose, then The Devil would get their souls. Blinded by greed, Cuphead rolls the dice… and loses. In a desperate attempt to keep their souls, the brothers beg for an alternative which comes in the form of collecting debts for The Devil (with no certain guarantee that their debt will be forgiven).

While this isn’t a new story (musics and tv shows have told similar stories), the premise is an unsettling one. Cautionary tales are designed that way; they show us the result of someone’s poor decisions in an attempt to warn others from making those same decisions. Usually, these stories have a redemptive arc and it’s for those reasons that I decided to pick up Cuphead for the Nintendo Switch.

With the time I have spent with Cuphead thus far, I can attest to it’s high level of difficulty. The first few areas start off easy-enough; offering a minimal level of challenge. The first true spike in difficulty I encountered is showcased in the video above. The flower boss really tested both skill and patience. So much so that what I can say of Cuphead is this:

Cuphead is not a game for everyone.

If you’re familiar with classic side-scrollers such as Mega Man, then you know what you’re getting yourself into. But if you have not played games similar to that, and are interested in Cuphead, the game does allow a Simple difficulty setting. Keep in mind that you will need to beat the bosses on Regular in order to actually finish the game. I have not played the game on Simple so I do not know how big of a difference it makes.

Cuphead is a game that, despite it’s difficult gameplay, I greatly enjoy. The satisfactory pay-off of defeating a boss that had previously put up a difficult fight is enthralling. This may sound similar to how people describe what they like about Dark Souls and I cannot deny that it doesn’t. Again, Cuphead is not a game for everyone. However, I think it is one worth checking out, even if just to see how long your patience lasts.