September 29th, 2017 marked the release of Cuphead, a run and gun action game heavily focused on boss battles and distinctly inspired by 1930’s cartoons. Cuphead has been a game in the public’s eye since summer of 2014 when it was announced. Over the past year the game has received the reputation of being “a comically difficult, if not cruel, experience.”As critics have gotten their hands on the game, however, they tend to disagree with this sentiment, describing it as “tough, [also] generous in how much say players are given in how they’ll fare.” It’s rare these days for a game to both build up high expectations and deliver on them .
In the wake of No Man’s Sky and Yooka-Laykee, three years of growing expectations might be seen as a warning sign. The initial disappointment of No Man’s Sky and the lesson it taught the gaming community about building expectations is one that is not going away anytime soon. Impressively, Cuphead bucks this trend, becoming greatly received by critics and players alike.
Cuphead is a game that aims to tap into the resource of nostalgia. It takes the nostalgic run and gun gameplay of Megaman and focuses it on hard boss fights. The game succeeds in emulating the nostalgia of an older era while using modern techniques to make a game that is fun to play in 2017. The best example of this is how it treats boss fights. The fights are hard but short, and if the player dies (which they will) a progress bar of their completion of the fight is displayed and they’ll quickly jump right back into the fight rather than having to complete an entire level. Creating a game that is both nostalgic, and cleanly designed with modern developing techniques is hard, yet games like Shovel Knight, Sonic Mania, and now Cuphead prove that it’s possible.