Cuphead is a run and gun plat-former indie video game by Canadian brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer operating as Studio MDHR, drawn in the style of 1930s cartoons. As Cuphead, the player fights a series of bosses to repay a debt to the devil. The game was inspired by the works of 1930s cartoonists such as Max Fleischer’s Fleischer Studios and sought to keep the works’ subversive and surrealist qualities. Cuphead looked to be one of the most unusual console games in a while.
Cuphead’s level structure sees our little crockery hero explore a hand-drawn world that’s littered with level options. Each level takes place in a different area across the map, such as the vegetable garden, beach or even a pirate ship. Complementing the uniqueness of Cuphead himself, the enemies too are colorful characters. For example, there is a giant potato with a nasty penchant for releasing missiles, a carrot who releases waves of airstrikes made up of tiny carrot bombs, a Bluto-esque pirate with a mean streak, and a tentacle-spinning, side-scrolling octopus who shoots as well as spins.
The game was inspired by 1930s cartoons such as that of Fleischer Studios, Disney, and cartoonists Ub Iwerks, Grim Natwick, and Willard Bowsky, particularly their most “subversive and surrealist” elements. Chad Moldenhauer called Fleischer Studios “the magnetic north of his art style”. Kill Screen described Max Fleischer’s studio as having short films, such as “Swing You Sinners!” The Moldenhauers watched 30s cartoons in their youth, which Chad Moldenhauer describes as happenstance, based on gifts and VHS compilations. Among other siblings in their Regina, Saskatchewan childhood home, the two shared aesthetic taste and interest in gameplay. They attempted a game in the style of Cuphead in 2000, but lacked the tools to continue.
The brothers decided to try again following the success of indie video game Super Meat Boy in 2010. The character that became Cuphead descended from a 1936 Japanese propaganda animated film where a man with a teacup for a head morphs into a tank. The Moldenhauer emulated the animation because they found it strange, and “right away it stuck”. The brothers had previously tried a kappa in a tophat, characters with a plate or fork for a head, and about 150 different designs.
Cuphead has a parry ability and parrying various color coded objects will fill up a special meter that will enable Cuphead to perform a special move. The levels are accessible through an action RPG-style world map with its own secret areas. The game has a two-player cooperative mode that adds another human player to the single-player boss battles playing as Mugman.
The art style works wonderfully well in HD and combined with the appealing and colorful cast, this is going to be one you are addicted to for weeks after launch. And Cuphead was scheduled to be released in 2016 on Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.