Cuphead (PC & Xbox One)
Developer: Studio MDHR
Publisher: Studio MDHR
Editor’s Note: GameReviewPad did not plan to have a site represented “Game of the Year” for 2017, but Cuphead was the game we both selected as our favorite. So for that reason, I am proud to announce Cuphead as GameReviewPad’s Game of the Year 2017.
After the launch of the Xbox One, with the exception of Killer Instinct, I found no reason to purchase Microsoft’s newest console just yet. In fact, I stated I would get one when they drop the Kinect and the price. Both were done, and the Xbox library started to branch out with a variety of games. Then at E3 2014, while showcasing their indie lineup, Cuphead was shown. At first I thought it was a cutscene they were showing, off only to learn that was gameplay footage. What made it messed up was the game was only shown for a short time, like a blink and you missed it trailer. I wanted to learn more about the game, since my love of hand drawn animation is a dying breed.
After three years and multiple delays, the game has arrived and I manage to spot a physical copy and my patience was well worth it. From the title screen I knew this would be a game I didn’t want to put down. You can tell the small studio put their souls into this game and I’m happy it paid off for them. While it feels weird to play a platform game on an Xbox console, the tight controls, jazzy soundtrack, among other esthetics give this game the experience of watching cartoons from the 1930s. As for the difficulty, I didn’t mind it, as it only got me to correct my mistakes. It also helps that I grew up in an era where all you had were three lives and maybe a continue. Because of all this, I am proud to have Cuphead as my favorite game of 2017.
A hyped game usually doesn’t meet the expectations of its promotion, but Cuphead is a standout that is an experience I have not had in a long time. While everything isn’t perfect. the total package is there still remains; great graphics and animation, gameplay, decent story, and an excellent soundtrack. Cuphead is mostly a ‘boss rush game’ that brought me back to the 1990s, when games weren’t a “walk in the park,” but not insurmountable and gave satisfaction when you beat stages. Studio MDHR managed to find the sweet spot of making the gameplay difficulty challenging, but still enjoyable and not off-putting.
I bought the PC version expecting my mediocre PC (i3/GeForce950) to have difficulty running the animations in levels, but to my surprise, Cuphead ran smooth as silk. Even smooth enough to run it over a WiFi connection via Steam Link and still be playable. I did not expect that level of optimization, and for that, I tip my hat. Studio MDHR made the smart and intelligent decision of keeping it single player and local co-op only. I can only imagine how bad the co-op Cuphead experience would be on a spotty connection. The delays and rumors of framerate issues made everyone including myself hold my breath, but Cuphead is a fine example of a game that knew when to come out and wasn’t rushed.
Cuphead is my favorite game of the year because in my many years of gaming I can’t recall ever playing a game like this or watching someone else play another game like this that delivered in every element. The animation quality can’t be overlooked because we may never ever see this type of animation quality intertwined within smooth gameplay like this ever again.