Cuphead: A Cartoon Conundrum

Submitted by Will Cozine on Wed, 01/10/2018 - 00:00 - 0 Comments
Mr. King Dice looms over Cuphead at the beginning of the game's penultimate level.

A new game got released that has sold over a million copies in its first two weeks. No, not an EA or 2K Sports game. It’s not another shooter. I’m talking of course about Cuphead, an indie run-and-gun game inspired by the art of 1930’s cartoonists.


The game centers around Cuphead and his brother Mugman who have foolishly pushed their luck and been forced to make a deal with the devil. Cuphead and Mugman now have to conquer three separate isles defeating numerous bosses and other miscellaneous levels to fulfill their contract. 


Each boss has their own unique artwork and theme song which brings the player a sense of wonder and nostalgia for old cartoons such as “Tom and Jerry” and “Looney Tunes. These bosses include Goopy La Grande, Baroness Von Bon Bon, and my personal favorite: Mr. King Dice.


Goopy is a blue slime ball that evolves each time you defeat him. As he bounces around the player must be careful to avoid the falling blob and his punches. The Baroness isn’t a fan of fighting so she sends her various candy minions after the player to do her dirty work. The player must defeat a flying chocolate bar, an angry jaw-breaker and an unpredictably moving candy corn before challenging the Baroness herself. The sinister Mr. King Dice is the devil’s right hand man and has an enchanting theme song to accompany him. Before challenging him, Cuphead must roll the roulette wheel and defeat several casino mini-bosses, each with their own unique twists and theme songs. Only after defeating King Dice can the player challenge the devil himself. 


The game was produced by indie games developer StudioMDHR Entertainment which consists of two brothers, Jake and Chad Moldenhauer. They enlisted help from various musicians and developers to assist them on what would be a long journey of creating Cuphead. They began producing Cuphead in 2010 and worked on it for seven years until its release this past September. With a limited staff and limited resources, the finishing of the final product took incredible patience and loyalty from the entire staff. 


The inspiration for the Cuphead character comes from a 1936 Japanese animated propaganda film where a man with a teacup head morphs into a tank. Before deciding on the charming cup that has endeared so many fans, the brothers created over 150 character designs to see which one worked the best. 


The game was developed with the intention of recreating the pure joy and excitement that cartoons brought us as kids and it has been a booming success winning Best Visual Design and Xbox Game of the Year at London’s Golden Joystick Awards.


The music of Cuphead is something that has never been seen in the gaming world before. The jazz-based soundtrack is soothing and captivating. The Moldenhauers had all of the music recorded using the same technology that was used in the 1930’s to enhance the game’s authenticity. Each level has its own unique song that is fitting to the characters; my personal favorite is the song belonging to Mr. King Dice: “Die House.”


The game has two difficulties, simple and regular, that roughly translate to very hard and impossible. The game embodies a trial and error concept that has the player attempting levels time and again learning more tricks and nuances throughout until that breakthrough moment where you finally beat it. 


There are countless patterns that players can pick up on to guide them through seemingly impossible levels. It is a rewarding experience comparing the hopelessness of when you first attempted the level to the time when you can beat it with ease… until you look and see that you got a C- grade for the level because you didn’t parry on all of the pink objects. 


The game has unlimited replayability because players can always find new ways to challenge themselves. An example of this is the pacifist challenge. The game’s ultimate gauntlet, the player must defeat each Run ‘n Gun level without using weapons. Completing this allows players to experience the game in black and white mode: a fun way to enjoy the amazing cartoons. 


Cuphead is only available on PC and Xbox One which means that Playstation players are out of luck. The game costs $20 which is only a third of what most new games sell for. It’s a great deal for the game of the year that will give you an unforgettable experience.


About the Author

Will Cozine's picture

Writer and editor who loves to watch and talk about sports. Dedicated to making Beyond the Flock a credible and influential magazine, member of the class of 2019.