Cuphead is not the game I thought it was. Whether that’s because I had only been partly paying attention to its pre-release videos and trailer, or because I had just misinterpreted them, the game I got to try and EGX is very different from the game I thought I’d be playing. This isn’t a bad thing, the twenty-minutes I got to play Cuphead was awesome. And as someone who writes a blog dedicated to the coverage of video games, it’s always a fantastic feeling to be genuinely surprised by a game.

When I put my hands on the controller to begin my Cuphead demo I thought I’d be playing a 2D platformer of some kind. I was wrong. Cuphead is similar to something like Titan Souls. In the demo I played there was an “overworld” area to be explored, and this area led to four bosses.

I’m not sure I can adequately convey the four boss fights I engaged in while playing Cuphead. Each boss takes its cues from the 1920’s style cartoons that the games art style pays homage to. There was the bird in the bird house that you can see at the top of this post, who fired giant eggs at me while I flew along in a small bi-plane trying to shoot it down. There were the two giant frogs with boxing gloves that could combine to turn into a slot machine that fired gold coins at me.

The boss I remember most vividly, probably because it was the only boss I got the better of, was the giant carrot that fired smaller, homing carrots at me and shot rings of laser from its forehead when it got especially angry. Oh, and Bluto was there too.

While the gameplay elements were essentially the same from boss fight to boss fight, plane section not withstanding, the sheer variety of each encounter made some pretty vast and fundamental changes to the way those elements worked. In each boss fight you are essentially a living cup who shoots lasers out of his finger. Each boss, however, had vastly different attacks from one another, and forced you to play in a variety of different ways.

The controls themselves are fairly simple. Left stick moves, right stick aims, X shoots, A jumps. You can hold the right trigger to ground yourself in place, which allows you to aim in eight different directions. The right bumper dashes, the left bumper switches between standard laser and a scatter shot attack, and B unleashes a super attack.

In the carrot boss fight I had to make liberal use of the scatter shot attack to take care of the homing carrots that were being fired at me, while the frog brothers boss fight was more about staying agile and jumping/ducking to avoid a plethora of attacks hurled my way. All of the boss encounters were tough, but they were also a whole lot of fun to attempt. I could have lost a lot of time re-attempting each failed fight if I wasn’t acutely aware of the audience growing impatient behind me.

The boss fights also displayed a boundless, endless creativity, something that’s also shown in the brilliant 20’s cartoon art style that the game is built around. Cuphead isn’t just drawn that way, everything in the demo I played took its cue from those cartoons, from the excellent character designs to the bonkers ways in which enemies would try to attack me. Friend of the site Matt likened playing Cuphead to a trip, and after getting a go at it myself, I can’t disagree.

Cuphead is due for release in 2016 on Xbox One and Windows 10.

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