Okay, I just spent a bunch of paragraphs trying to justify why a pretty naff game has made it onto my top ten games of the year list. So from here on out it should be all gold right… Well we’ll see won’t we… If anyone reading this knows me or has spent any time reading my stuff on here over the past few years I can think of one game coming up you’re already expecting a rant about. But we’re not there yet… or are we.
Seeing as I just waffle in these early paragraphs, I’m going to use the space to shout out a game that didn’t make my list this year, but I still recommend people go out and play if they can: Little Nightmares is a weird little indie game from Tarsier Studios in Sweden. It’s a very creepy game I’ve talked about before. My main reason for not including it on my list was how short it was. If I’d gone back and played it more than once, it might have found its way on here, but as of right now Little Nightmares was a one and done game for this year, as much as I still think about that creepy ass thing.
Back to the list though:
Played on Xbox One | Released 29th September | Developed by StudioMDHR
It finally happened guys. Cuphead actually came out! This is a game everyone saw during a sizzle reel at E3 some three or four years ago and had us all double take. Straight away Cuphead stood out from the crowd for its really unique art style. A game that had been on my radar for a long time, but always eluded me whenever I went to live events as Microsoft never felt the need to have more than a single system playing it, and like me, everyone wanted to get their hands on this thing.
Cuphead is a hell of a thing. Starting out life as a boss rush game, fan feedback caused the developers to pull back and add more Contra style run ’n’ gun stages to the mix. The vast majority of stages are single screens on which a boss battle takes place. The degree of animation that takes place to make these things animate the way they do is astounding.
The game takes obvious inspiration from the 1030s era of cartoons, back when cartoons weren’t nesseserity for kids. Those cartoons were dark, they were surreal and flat out trippy in a lot of cases. And let me tell you, Cuphead isn’t made for kids either because this game is Hard. Beating bosses requires you to go through, sometimes infuriating, trial and error with them. Banging your head against them until you do.
I’d be tempted to call Cuphead a game in the bullet hell genre at times as the amount of stuff on screen you need to pay attention to can be mind numbing. While some people have criticised the game for being difficult and not allowing you see the beautifully animated stages, it’s difficulty feels like it fits.
It’s not just a throwback to the days of rubber hose animation, but of action games of the early 16-bit era. When games were balls hard almost to the point of being unfair. I don’t feel like Cuphead is unfair though, your input is basic and every boss is well designed, with loops and tells to allow you to eventually beat them without taking a hit.
I haven’t even finished Cuphead yet, I’m right at the end. But it’s a great looking game, one of the best looking games all year from an artistic standpoint and while it certainly won’t be for everyone, nobody can deny when Cuphead has achieved here.