“I’ve prepared y’all a tomb… right inside my vacuum
” -- Esther Winchester
I won’t presume your level of skill going into Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
, the long-gestating DLC add-on for the now seminal bullet-hell platformer, Cuphead. That’s for you and your God to reconcile. It doesn’t matter to me
that you finished the base game largely conquering each island’s Simple
option, level to level. Nor that, in finishing the vanilla release in as simple a manner as you could muster, you shelved it actually thankful Studio MDHR
studied its school of design and release strategy adjacent to Blizzard
, allowing for some form of palpatorial reprieve.
No, I’m not here to judge, only to support.
And so it’s my sworn duty as a member of Review Guild of Australia for Enlightening Punters of a Desperate Challenge in Waiting™
to inform you that the Cuphead: TDLC DLC is a nightmare of an experience. More difficult, I reckon, by half, and certainly presenting almost exclusively as a fair-weather experience for those with, you know, actual skill. For the rest of us, it’s a mighty uphill battle, if that hill were being pummelled with lasers, that were on fire, but also had bombs, but the bombs were made of angry crows malisciously wiedling sharpened pickaxes. And also, the hill was alive and was trying to eat you.
And for all of the above, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, remains glorious.
Sure, that might sound like Stockholm Syndrome
, or as if an oversized cartoon gun were pointed at my head to say, but the truth is this is a die and retry thriller and its gated design, which teases progress, is simple and elegant and totally absorbing. It’s as Esther proclaims in that quote that opens this review, only Esther is Studio MDHR and we’re being buried by them at every opportunity for challenge, yet sucked back into the experience again and again. Beat this scene on Simple and open up the island a little more, but you can’t
fulfil your actual goal here unless
you beat it on Regular. That’s it, them’s the brakes, now go get good.
There’s a story in TDLC that requires our beverage vessels to collect ingredients to bake cookies. You don’t need to know more than that because the stories in Cuphead aren’t contemporary masterpieces. They’re throwback setups to feature an aeroplane chasing a wagon being driven by a gun-tottin’ cow. That’s all you need to care about, really. But the purpose of the cookie is relevant because it’s with this that the game’s third playable character, Ms. Chalice
, is unlocked and while activating her takes away your abilities-arming opportunity (she’s kind of an all-encompassing, living, breathing ability), I’d argue that doesn’t really matter, mostly because she’s a default badass.
As far as TDLC’s makeup goes, it’s a bit different to the base game in that there’s no quick Run ‘n’ Gun
option to gain coins (these are now gained in a series of unique challenges), which is perhaps its biggest flaw, while its early levels each kick off with an alarmingly difficult boss battle. This plays to the presumption by Studio MDHR that you’re familiar enough with how the game plays, that being able to reach The Delicious Last Course should mean you’re a capable firecracker. But with so long between drinks, this is a poor presumption from the developer and as mentioned above exemplifies the new content’s biggest flaw. It’s not that it’s too hard, the game is designed for that very purpose, it’s that it doesn’t ease you into its higher level of challenge and instead plonks you there, right after the jetty.
"I’d happily argue The Delicious Last Course elevates everything we experienced in the base game, despite its relative shortness in length, to lofty new heights...”
Still, seasoned players won’t have a problem with this, it’s just more an impediment for stragglers to the animated phenomenon or those who haven’t picked up the game in awhile. What you get with perseverance though is what has made Cuphead a household name in the first place -- presentation, charm and a delivery on theme so on song, it’s utterly breathtaking at times. Especially when you consider the interactivity of it all. I’d happily argue The Delicious Last Course elevates everything we experienced in the base game, despite its relative shortness in length, to lofty new heights and hopefully teases to a growth within the studio that should paint a picture of gimme, gimme, gimme for whatever it does next.
In short, because it’s short, you get a more bite-sized piece of the whole Cuphead experience, but its upped challenge sort of makes up for that. I definitely found myself banging my head against the wall, which was to be expected, I just hadn’t wanted to be getting that headache so early on in the piece. It didn’t stop me from keeping on going though, which should give you an idea of the draw and pull here. Part tantalisation, part revenge, all in good fun. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course has certainly sated my hunger and I only hope that while this is meant to be the last service here, that the kitchen isn’t closed for good.