Perhaps the most impressive looking game shown at this year’s E3, Cuphead, by Studio MDHR, is a run and gun sidescroller drawn in the style of cartoons from the 30s. The art style immediately evokes the animation of Max Fleischer, a king of the golden age of cartoons. Among his creations are Bimbo (pictured to the right of Cuphead), his bombshell girlfriend Betty Boop, and Popeye (who was originally a comic strip character whom Fleischer bought the rights for and launched to international stardom, briefly even eclipsing the popularity of Mickey Mouse). The visual style of Cuphead is an animation fan’s fantasy, and it’s looking to be a genuinely fun co-op gaming experience. Studio MDHR’s plans are ambitious to say the least:
“With Cuphead, we aim to evolve the genre by adding new features such as: super arts, infinite lives, a playable world map and hidden secrets. In addition to that, we will have refined controls, additional boss patterns on harder modes and balanced weapons to equip (that you don’t lose!). We plan to release 10-15 bosses per episode and end up with over 30 bosses. If all goes as planned, we will defeat the current “Guinness World Record for Most Boss Battles in a Run and Gun Game”[25 total]).”
As far as I’m concerned, the game already holds a world record for the number of ways it enters my heart. Not only is the cartoony nature of the game fantastic, but the devs are drawing their gameplay influences from pinnacles in the run and gun genre including Gunstar Heroes, Contra III, and Mega Man X. The animation in this game is looking super smooth, and the main characters, Cuphead and Mugman, zip through the stage with the omnipresent grin of the black and white cartoon character, and emote handsomely as they take damage or shoot pellets with a snap of their fingers. The enemies showcased are similarly impressive, sporting smoothly animated attacks and sinister grins. Studio MDHR promises variety in the types of boss fights you encounter, from a cranky sea captain to a rampaging flower, and variety in the strategies required to beat them. So far the footage shown of the game has been limited, but perhaps that’s for the best as if I saw more at this point I’d want a copy right now in my grubby little hands. The game’s release has been pushed back to 2015, and I’ll be waiting impatiently for its arrival.