In 2017, StudioMDHR released the run-and-gun indie videogame hit, Cuphead. You may have heard of it. It’s the one that looks like Steamboat Willie took LSD in the back of a Jeep and drove through the 80s.
I only started playing this game a few months ago, but I’ve since given up on any misguided idea of myself as “a gamer” whatsoever. Every Riddler trophy I ever found in the Arkham games. Any street cred I thought I had as an MDK guy. All of it, out the window.
That’s because, hidden behind Cuphead’s seemingly cute exterior is a game that is equal parts Wonderboy, Contra, and 37 bricks lobbed at your face in rapid succession. It is brutally hard and completely unforgiving and why am I telling you any of this? The game’s been out for two years, and you know everything there is to know about it.
Or do you?
Why A “Cuphead”?
At first glance, the Cuphead character seems a little…random. A Mickey Mouse body with a large cup and sippy straw with a face for a head.
But, as tailor quirky as the character design seems, it’s actually based on some historical influences. The Cuphead character design was inspired by World War II Japanese propaganda cartoons. In particular, one called “Evil Mickey attacks Japan,” from 1936. The animation features a giant cup man turning into a tank, a concept which served as inspiration for Cuphead Art Director, Chad Moldenhauer.
At its core, Cuphead obviously seems like a pretty simple concept, especially in this modern climate of shooters, looters, and kick-you-in-the-gluters. But it’s actually a love letter to more than a few old school video games from the days of the gaming giants.
- Super Mario World
- Contra III
- Street Fighter III
- Gunstar Heroes (Seven Force!)
- Contra Hard Corps
Now, many of these games have begun to show their age over the years, but if you’re Jonesing for more of that sweet Cuphead gameplay, you’ll find it all right here in this list. You’re welcome.
It Was ACTUALLY HAND DRAWN
Every last piece of animation in Cuphead was physically drawn with a pencil and paper. This might not seem like such a big deal, but it really is, because this game is stunning to look at. And not stunning in the “Look how far technology has come, we can 3D animate a lifelike cat so you can shoot it” sense of the word.
But stunning in a really nostalgic kind of way. It’s authentic. Nothing in the game feels done on a template. Real human hands belonging to dedicated artists make character and boss movement, attacka and other interactions feel vibrant and interesting. And you may not have known you missed it, but you did.
It Was A Risk
In 2015, StudioMDHR owners and Cuphead co-creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer made the bold decision to quit their jobs, remortgage their houses to push the development of the game to be its best. While this is a decision many up and coming businesses have to make once they decide to “go legit”, for a business making a 2D scroller in a 3D world, it was ballsy, to say the least.
A Few Statistics
As a breakout indie smash, Cuphead’s performance is a big part of its story. Here are a few choice numbers to show you what we mean:
- It sold 1 million copies in 2 weeks
- It’s sold more than 3 million copies, total
- It features 60 thousand hand-drawn frames
- It took 7 years to develop, from day 1 to release
- The game is 25% levels and 75% bosses – and it works!
Cuphead is by no means the Summer’s hottest release. But I’ve fallen in love with it nonetheless, even if I have absolutely no hope of beating it ever in my lifetime. Check it out on Xbox One and PC today for a relentless beating and sound off in the comments if you loved this game two years ago when you played it when it came out.