CUPHEAD REVIEW FOR PS4. Cuphead might have been left on the stove for quite some time after its surprise E3 2014 appearance, but it came out at the perfect temperature when it finally released in 2017. The difficult bosses were satisfying to topple and the 1930s-esque art style never wore out its welcome. And after its venture to the Switch, it has finally made its way to the PS4, despite Studio MDHR adamantly stating the opposite a few years ago. The Cuphead PS4 version isn’t a grand new repackaging of the tough platformer, but is a faithful representation of it.
A familiar high class bout
Cuphead‘s gameplay and presentation — its two core tenets — are essentially untouched, but didn’t need any sort of upgrades in that department. Its Fleischer-inpsired art is built to withstand the test of time as it still looks fantastic almost a century later. Cuphead is obviously more colorful than those cartoons and has some of the most exaggerated and expressive animation when compared to its 2D peers.
Enemies are both wondrously creative and impeccably drawn and haven’t lost a bit of their charm since the game’s initial release. Even though some have tried (and failed), there was nothing like it then and there’s still nothing like it now as it remains an inventive mix of old animation and pure ingenuity. Foes bounce from one unexpected form to the next to maintain a healthy sense of visual and gameplay unpredictability — a facet that is further emphasized by the random patterns of many bosses. Pattern recognition can best a few of the big bads, but plenty of them change up their tactics each time and require that you master the mechanics and not absentmindedly fall into mundane grooves.
Cuphead is mainly made up of these boss rush stages where your only objective is to defeat that one giant enemy in front of you. Projectiles often fill the screen as you carefully weave through them to land blows of your own. Each takes a fair bit of skill and concentration to fell and many of them will make quick work of your porcelain ass if your finger twitches incorrectly or your mind wanders for a brief second. But the smooth and responsive controls mean that you’ll never get to blame the game, just your poor reflexes.
Quickly loading back in keeps frustration at a low and when combined with the fluid mechanics, Cuphead is a hard game and a hard game to put down especially as the catchy soundtrack wonderfully matches and heightens the game’s frenetic pace. Dodging through bullet-filled screens that would make Ikaruga blush is mentally taxing though, meaning that you’re more likely to stop playing out of exhaustion than out of rage. Hitting such a nexus of fair and challenging is admirable and one of the key reasons Cuphead doesn’t grow stale and remains immensely gratifying throughout. It pushes you to work harder and rewards you intrinsically for coming out on top.
The same ol’ hot cup of tea
Cuphead isn’t stale even though it is identical to its predecessors. There’s no new content and the game still doesn’t support any sort of crossplay or online multiplayer. It’s a mere port with the faster load times of the patched Xbox One original that still outshine the Switch installment (although every platform outperforms the game’s 2017 launch load times). While that Switch installment was portable and an impressive translation, the newer PS4 counterpart doesn’t have anything to add since it is just another way to play the game.
While another extras-focused update is planned (however, it’s unclear if it is coming to non-Xbox platforms), it would have been ideal if this launch fixed some of the game’s small but persistent issues. The run-and-gun levels do change up the pacing, but are still underwhelming as they feel like mods that put the mechanics in situations they aren’t as equipped to handle. More flexible aiming would also help both the run-and-gun and regular boss levels as being locked to specific angles can be frustrating. And even though its difficulty is part of the charm, it still lacks decent accessibility options. None of these problems rob Cuphead of its prestige status, but addressing these would benefit every version and better welcome in this new port.
Cuphead PS4 Review | The final verdict
Cuphead is likely to be an unforgettable experience no matter what is played on. There’s a fundamental charm to the game that still remains unique as it goes from platform to platform. Its boss fights and art style are consistent highlights and almost completely override some of its minute inconsistencies that are still present here. The Cuphead PS4 port may not bring anything new to the table, but it’s still the prettiest chalice on it.
GameRevolution reviewed Cuphead on PS4. Code provided by the publisher.