Tag Archives: Steam

REVIEW: Cuphead

REVIEW: CUPHEAD

Platform: PC/Steam/Xbox One

Developer: Studio MDHR

Hours Played to Finish: 7 ½

Cuphead start screen

“Cuphead” is a 2D run and gun video game that utilizes an art style which harkens back to cartoon animation from nearly 90 years ago. Mimicking 1930’s-era cartoons, (Looney Tunes, Mickey Mouse) “Cuphead” wears its inspiration on its sleeve; however, it provides enough reasons beyond its gorgeous visuals to warrant a purchase and see what this long-awaited indie game has to offer.

Cuphead drawing

Since its worldwide reveal in June 2014, “Cuphead” has garnered a respectable amount of press in video games media. Fans have been looking forward to playing the game for years, and with the impressive visual style nailed, it feels good to say that the game offers more than just pretty graphics. Running at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, direct control of the action feels good from the get-go. The player’s basic abilities are to jump, shoot, and air-dash to the goal. There are some unique abilities thrown into the mix, such as the ‘parry slap’ which offers a defensive maneuver against certain enemy projectiles, but for the most part, the gameplay sticks to traditional run-and-gun action. Purchasing new types of blasters at the in-game store offers some variety to experiment with different play styles, which is always appreciated. Holding the right bumper allows the player to remain still and fire in any pointed direction without moving, which is a very welcome mechanic in any 2D run-and-gun game, “Cuphead” included.

Cuphead cake boss

“Cuphead” is a punishing game, offering zero checkpoints in any of its levels, boss fights included. This will turn certain players away, but thankfully the game offers two different difficulty modes to play around with. There is also a co-operative element in the game, giving two players the ability to play together throughout the entire experience.

Cuphead wallpaper

The player controls the aptly-named Cuphead as he and his pal Mugman go on an adventure to collect souls for the Devil, in an effort to preserve their own souls from his control. It’s a wacky introduction that feels right at home with the classic cartoons that the game looks fondly upon. While the storytelling throughout the adventure is bare-bones, the framework is strong enough to keep the player motivated to press forward in the quest to save Cuphead and Mugman.

Cuphead medusa boss

The majority of levels in “Cuphead” are boss fights, with the remaining levels consisting of run-and-gun stages in the vein of classic Mega Man or Contra games. The boss fights are the best part of the game, showcasing hectic action that forces the player to rethink their strategy multiple times during a single battle. Boss fights progress in phases as they take damage, changing up their appearance and arsenal. For example, there is one level that has Cuphead chasing a runaway train overtaken by ghosts, with the giant boss ghost throwing his never-ending arsenal of eyeballs at the player as they jump out of harm’s way. When the boss ghost takes enough damage, he transforms into a large skeleton, forcing the player to adapt to the skeleton’s new battle tactics to win. It’s wacky, silly, and feels just right in the game’s world. That isn’t even the craziest boss fight in the game, but it’s one that stands out.

 

Unfortunately, the remaining levels that aren’t boss fights are a letdown. These levels involve the player running from point A to point B, defeating small enemies and sometimes facing mini-bosses along the way. Most of the environments these levels take place in feel uninspired, with forgettable enemies and some frustrating areas that become tedious due to a total lack of checkpoints. A lack of checkpoints doesn’t ruin the experience, but having a single mid-level save would be appreciated. While these levels aren’t necessarily bad, they pale in comparison to the stellar boss battles, and it’s obvious that these levels weren’t the development team’s primary focus. A soundtrack that will be described as passable is also present, feeling true to the time period that is being paid homage, but not offering a memorable tune that sticks after the finale.

Cuphead title banner

After numerous delays and years of extended development, the developers at Studio MDHR have managed to make “Cuphead” the game that they always wanted to create. It’s been said many times before, but the visual style that the game boasts is breathtaking and one of the most unique graphical styles that has been seen in many years. The platforming levels may be disappointing, but the experience as a whole oozes with personality and flavor. Offering dozens of stellar boss battles, a charming cast, and simply breathtaking visuals that rival the best looking games of this console generation, “Cuphead” isn’t an experience I’ll be forgetting anytime soon.

 

Thanks for reading, guys. I’m looking forward to writing more game reviews for my University, as it’ll help me gain a stronger writing style. Hope you all have a great week.

  • Matt

 

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Update: Somewhat-Exciting News & Incoming Review

Cuphead title banner.png
Hey folks, Matt here. I just wanted to share a bit of news that I’m excited about. The University I currently attend has an online, student-run newspaper, and I’ll be contributing to it! My first review will be, you guessed it, a game review, and it’ll release there early next week, probably on Tuesday. My first review will be on Cuphead, the long-awaited PC and Xbox 2D platformer that was initially shown off fifteen years ago. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite fifteen years, maybe three years ago, but it feels like longer than that! Anyway, I’ll be publishing my review on here per usual, but I’ve also got it coming to a different website as well. This isn’t the first time I’ve written articles for an ‘official’ paper, as I used to write for my previous University’s student-managed newspaper – but this is still a fun venture that I’m excited to be part of. Reaching the goal takes one step at a time, and this is another step that will help me reach my dream job.

Anyway, look out for that Cuphead review on the horizon. I’ll upload it here next week on Tuesday night. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

  • Matt

THOUGHTS ON: Gonner

Gonner title

Last week, I noticed some Twitter users that I follow voice their praise toward a recently-released Nintendo Switch game called Gonner. It’s been available on Steam since last October, but was made available for the Switch within the past couple of weeks. The game is a rogue-lite 2D platformer with shooting elements, and the art style was interesting enough for me to give it a look. Static images of the game do not do the art justice, so while I will post some pictures here to spruce up this piece, I recommend watching some gameplay of Gonner before passing judgement on the game. It looks good in motion! Anyway, here are my thoughts of the game after the first few hours.

 

I’m a big fan of randomized levels in video games. Among my favorite games of the past few years are rogue-lites such as Crypt of the Necrodancer and Enter the Gungeon, so when a new game in this genre is shown off, I’ll usually give it a look. Gonner stars a small blob-like creature that collects uniquely-shaped skulls to place on its head. It’s a cute character design that feels at home in the game’s world, despite some dark imagery that pops up during the adventure (one of the merchants between each game is called Death, portrayed as a white cloaked ghost). Every enemy you face against is shaded a crimson red, many of them sporting sharp teeth and a hunger for the player character. The decision to make every enemy the same color keeps the action on screen mostly understandable, so a common coloring scheme is appreciated.

Gonner shot

Similar to other rogue-lite titles, Gonner begins with a short tutorial of its core mechanics. There are no words used to describe these abilities, only a diagram of the player’s controller with buttons on the controller highlighted in accordance to certain actions. During the game’s introduction, the actions that can be performed by the player in the beginning are rather simplistic; jump, shoot, reload, wall-jump, and crouch are all that are provided. Upon completion of the tutorial, however, things get a little more interesting, with different weaponry and abilities to play around with.

 

Different skulls can be collected and equipped by the player to grant them unique abilities, which often aid in hectic combat scenarios. This is also true of the equipment found in the game, which grant the player a tactical edge. Some of these abilities include a time stop for all enemy movement, burst fire from your gun, or an extra jump for those treacherous leaps across chasms. The best part about collecting these items is not the abilities that they provide, but discovering how each of them works. Beyond teaching its basic control scheme, Gonner does not provide the player with an explanation for anything else; that’s up to you to figure out during your adventure. Each of the pick-ups is easily identifiable, and understanding each item’s usage is satisfying. I appreciate when games don’t teach every single mechanic to the player, instead opting to leave things up to experimentation and analysis.

 

The game’s sound design works well with its dimly-lit levels, opting for music that is a lower volume than most other rogue-lite games. The music that plays is punctuated with the strong sounds of firing bullets at your enemies until they explode, providing more ammunition and currency to use in mid-level shops. Enemies communicate their attack patterns well, and figuring these out to most effectively defeat them is crucial to success. Although it may sound odd at first, my favorite part of each level is at the very end. If every enemy in a level is cleared, the music that played throughout that entire level comes to a halt, with the player’s movement and shooting being the only audible in-game sounds. Each time I clear a room entirely of enemies, I feel a small sense of dread when the game’s music cuts out, almost making me feel like a monster. I don’t know if this is the game’s intent, as I have yet to finish it, but I like the style that is on display so far.

Gonner banner

I’m glad I gave Gonner a chance, because the platforming and shooting in this game is very satisfying. Featuring impressive sound mixing and a beautiful art style, I’m looking forward to playing more and seeing what happens during the later levels. If you are into platformers, rogue-lite games, or are just looking for something different on your Switch, definitely give this one a look.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Please feel free to provide constructive criticism of my writing in the comments below, as I’m always looking to improve. Have a great week, all!

 

  • Matt

Why I Love The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Binding of Isaac Rebirth

The Binding of Isaac is a game that first released on Steam in 2011. Back then, I was playing a ton of Super Meat Boy, and followed all future game developments that occurred by the folks at Team Meat. When I heard that Edmund McMillen was working on a rogue-like Zelda-inspired indie title, I was immediately interested. For the low price of $5, I purchased The Binding of Isaac, not knowing what exactly to expect from this game. 75+ hours later, it ended up being my favorite game of 2011. Each play-through of the game’s many dungeons was different than the rest, holding my interest throughout each run. Reading online about the game’s many item pickups and trinkets kept me entertained even when I wasn’t playing the game. Shout-out to the folks over at The Binding of Isaac wiki page who put together descriptions for each item in the game. The dark and foreboding nature of the game fascinated and disgusted me, with frequent references to religion, depression, and poop. Yep, there’s a lot of poop in this game.

Three years later, and The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, sequel to The Binding of Isaac is released as a free PlayStation Plus title for November. There was no question that I would download this game as soon as it hit the online store, but receiving it as part of the Instant Game Collection was the icing on the cake.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth_20141111224216

The random nature of item pickups and room layouts keeps me fascinated throughout each play-through, and the addition of saving and loading current runs is a much welcome feature. Rebirth has a ton of new item pickups in addition to the ones released as part of the original title, and the updated art style has me even more pleased with the game’s visuals. I was never a huge fan of the original game’s flash game-esque graphics, so I’m happy that Edmund and the team opted for a more retro, bit-based look for the release of Rebirth. I’ve been playing The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth since its release in November, and I can safely say I’ll be playing this one for many months to come.