Preview Cuphead at FanExpo Canada 2015

Written by Twisted Ideas

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FanExpo Canada just wrapped up this weekend and as with most years I wandered over to the gaming section. I did play several upcoming games like, Guitar Hero Live, Street Fighter V (no thanks to the beta), Call of Duty: Black Ops III (wasn’t playing to but there was an open station and I was asked to play), Mario Maker and a few more here and there. The only game in the Xbox area that I played and didn’t have long lines was Cuphead, the upcoming indie game that had a fairly sizable presence at Microsoft’s E3 press conference this year.

For the uninformed, Cuphead is a “run and gun game” whose gameplay mimics Contra and Gunstar Hero and whose art style is reminiscent of 1930’s – 40’s era Disney cartoons. Cuphead is an old school game with a new school feel. The movement is quick and fluid, the controls has everything you would want and hope for in modern gaming and the challenge is high but you’re always wanting to play more.

The demo featured seven boss fights in varying degrees of development and difficulty. Cuphead’s still in early development as the music is still absent. However, the gameplay shows a high level of quality despite its unfinished state. The bosses are very creative and has an “anything goes” approach going for them. There’s a flying bird stuck in a bird house yet still flying, there are two frogs that transform into a slot machine and there’s a pirate ship that transforms into a whale.

The gameplay is of a run and gun shooter. You shoot bullets through your fingertips at enemies but you can only take three hits before you die. You can lock your position in place to shoot, switch the type of bullets and build up meter for a heavy shot or a special attack. You can parry pink projectiles for a quick meter gain as well as avoiding some attacks. The bosses are intentionally long and on your first attempt and/or not knowing all the controls/patterns, they can last several minutes. Cuphead does feature two player couch co-op (the second controllers were only available on the Sunday).

I did have time to speak to a developer of the game who came on the Friday of the show. He mentioned a couple of facts about the game: The bosses weren’t all 100% finished (some patterns and phases where left out), there will be platforming levels so the game isn’t just boss fights and there is a new game plus mode as one of the bosses was set to and was a very long fight.

I was one of maybe two people who played Cuphead enough to beat all the bosses and beat them consistently. I played co-op with that second person on the Sunday and the combined skill involved made Cuphead look easier than either of us did on our own. You can revive your partner but it gets harder each time. I can see this reducing the difficulty of the game if some compensation isn’t in place to account for two people.

The controls feel somewhat hidden from the player. Myself and others didn’t see the tutorial screen at first and at all. Even after I pressed all the buttons I didn’t figure out how to use the super or parry until later. Others were aware of even less because the game looks very natural as the simple shooter despite having advance controls. This only concerns the demo because if you bought the game I can’t imagine players not being informed about all if not most of the mechanics.

Cuphead is looking great. The visuals use thick lines, classic visuals staples and a film grain that makes the game looks much older than it actually is. This is a very challenging game that will test your patience and awareness and who knows what else at this point. The demo had a few glitches (some game breaking and one hilariously helpful) but that should be dealt with way before release.

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