Cuphead: The Importance of Stylization and Presentation

Clark English, Social Media


Originally announced at E3 of 2014 and promised to be released the following year, “Cuphead: Don’t Deal with the Devil,” actually released just last month. Cuphead is an indie platformer type game that is at its’ core, a series of levels that are just boss battles with little exception. In a largely oversaturated and highly competitive market such as video games, there are only a select few options to confidently release a new title.

First Option: Create a spiritual successor for an already established intellectual property and hope the fan base follows.

Second Option: Wait and remaster/release a sequel for an award-winning game. (“No really, buy Skyrim again for the Switch, I dare you” – Todd Howard)

Third Option: Do something unique, put all your eggs into that one basket and hope they don’t break.

Cuphead opted for the third option, and the eggs hatched and all the chicks grew up into beautiful swans. The game’s gimmick is that all the graphics are hand drawn to look like an old 1930s cartoon. Alongside the visuals, the music of the game is done by a live orchestra performing jazz music, a barbershop quartet, and an R&B lounge singer. The game is so deep rooted into its’ style that it offers an option to turn off color, giving the ability to play in black and white.

The gameplay itself is subpar. It’s a classic platformer: there’s a jump button, a shoot button, and a dash button. The gameplay is nothing new. There are thousands of titles that play similarly and would never dream of selling over a million units like Cuphead has. In essence, the art and music of the game were the main selling point. Cuphead presented itself as a game released in the 1930’s and held itself to that standard. It’s a gorgeously unique game that looks like it came straight from the drawing table of a Disney animation room, contrasted only by its generic gameplay.

If you’ve got cash to burn and an itch for a good indie platformer, buy “A Hat in Time” instead. It plays well, looks great, and is honestly outright hilarious at times. It’s also an actual game and not just a gimmicky art piece disguising itself as one.