If you’re willing to dive into Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, you probably already have a good idea of what to expect. Top-notch animation, incredible enemy design, and a challenge that will have you grinding your teeth into submission.
Sewn into the core adventure of Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course our ceramic companions are accompanied by the previously featured, but first-time playable, Ms Chalice. The little goblet – who looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth – tricks the old cuppa into temporarily swapping places with her and dumping him into the astral world. After a brief plot-related chat with a smirking salt shaker chef, we soon learn that Ms Chalice can only be summoned as a playable character if Cuphead equips an astral cookie as a charm.
When in control, Ms Chalice has quite a different move set from what Cuphead and Mugman are usually accustomed to. Her ability to parry pink stuff is now allocated to her air dash, rather than Cuphead’s second press of the jump button, and her double jump can aid a little more control in aerial dodging. She also has an extra hit point as compensation for not being able to equip a charm of her own. While she sounds like the easier option, there is still a learning curve to master that can be tricky to adapt to if Cuphead and Mugman’s move set has already been burned into the old noggin.
There’s a total of three new charms and three new weapons available in the DLC which can be paid for by earning in-game coins similarly to the main campaign. However, rather than the run-and-gun segments that were once shoe-horned in, coins can now be earned by completing parry challenges against chess-themed bosses set up by the King of Games.
The parry trials themselves turn out to be one of the highlight segments that Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course has to offer by creating an addictive challenge that does away with the ability to shoot. The animation on the battle with the Knight alone, as he slams his sword against his shield before fumbling his feet around like Goofy doing the Ali shuffle, keeps well aligned with the visuals and charm of both Cuphead as a franchise in its own right, and the rubber-hose animation style that it depicts so well.
The quality of the animation only ups the ante with the game’s main focus of the boss fights, as does the learning curve set in place in which to beat them. The game’s notorious demand to reward the players’ hard work by revealing more gorgeous quality art with added punishment is too brave a choice not to respect. After all, it’s the key hook outside its animation that has aided such a faithful following. However, it is hard not to help but feel that a wider audience should be able to appreciate every frame of Cuphead glory at their own level.
Just as in the original campaign, there is an easier mode available that restricts the player from experiencing all the different phases of each encounter. Take the Moonshine Mob as a prime example. Those who opt for the easier mode won’t get to see the screen-filling Anteater, nor the little sucker-punch surprise that will no doubt take the player off-guard.
The new weapons and charms can somewhat alleviate some of the pressure, assuming that the player can utilise their parry skills to earn enough coins. One such weapon arrives in the form of the Crackshot, a narrow shooter that has light homing capabilities with an added EX ability that plants pink planet-shaped orbs that can be parried and directed towards the enemy for decent damage. There’s also a handy charm that will grant the player extra HP when a certain amount of pink objects have been parried in battle.
The boss fights themselves are somewhat traditional by Cuphead’s bizarre standards. A Giant willing to tear their own beard off, a literal dogfight against three little pugs and a pilot bulldog, and even an Adventure Time-style ice wizard bloke that summons a bloomin’ snowman. There is also an aerial shmup encounter. Soaring the skies in a little pop jet has Cuphead facing off against a moo cow that starts off in pursuit within a mobile western saloon to suddenly transform into a bundle of sausages. The ideas are genius and so wonderful to glimpse at when attempting to digest all the madness and moving parts decorating the screen at once.
Its six bosses, six purchasable aids and five special challenges make Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course a digit shy of being pure evil. Just like the main game, patterns of boss fights must be mastered, and can only be overcome with the right frame of mind.
I usually prefer my Cuphead in small portions. A victory feels like a satisfying accomplishment that requires a well-deserved break between each serving. Too much Cuphead in one sitting only ever gives me a belly ache and a bad mood.
As for Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, it is a serving that was well worth the long wait. For the price of a meal deal at a tacky fast-food restaurant, you are getting a gourmet dish that is unlikely to leave you feeling bloated.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by StudioMDHR