We can say without fear of denial that the history of video games is divided into a before and after Cuphead, at least within the fantastic microcosm of the independent scene. The Moldenhauer brothers’ passion for playful culture and 1930s aesthetics turned into a timid attempt in 2014, later became a wicked and mad ambition when Microsoft decides to bet everything on them. The talented Canadians quit their stable job, mortgage the house and dedicate themselves body and soul to that concept that they will turn into a priceless diamond three years later, following the example of the visionary developers who preceded them and inspiring thousands more with their dedication ( find here three more stories of indie passion, love and sacrifice).
Cuphead is nailed in our memory with the image of a cup with a mocking smile, and no one will be able to take it out of our heads as long as the memory of a 2D platform-shooter nothing short of peculiar remains vivid in us (here our review of Cuphead). In the face of so much playful, artistic and imaginative splendor, a very simple but nonetheless plot could have passed on the sly unique in being cheeky and unfiltered: with the advent of the tastiest DLC you can remember, and with an animated series that has already gone down in history, isn’t this the best time to retrace the exploits of Cuphead and Mugman?
Once upon a time there was the Devil’s casino
Life is an interminable game for the brothers Cuphead and Mugman, who have fun with little on the island Calamaio while their beloved grandfather watches them with the lively attention of those who usually sleep in the least opportune moments and in the most disparate places.
During one of Nonno Bricco’s usual naps, the butterflies were chasing they lead the two little brothers to get lost in the woods, and – despite the numerous warnings of the container that looks after them – they end up on the wrong side of the tracks (understood in the literal sense, since they find themselves just beyond the Ghost Express). In front of them stands an imposing casino with extravagant colors, and if not even the most thoughtful adults can resist the lure of gambling, what are the possibilities of two cups that still do not know the world and its dangers? Having entered the place of perdition, the little protagonists ring an amazing streak of dice game wins, with their blatant luck gaining the attention of the casino owner, the Devil himself. The Satanassus proposes to the inexperienced cups to risk everything for everything, pronouncing these words: “Win once again and all the gold in my casino will be yours but if you lose I take your soul!”. Mugman is the only one who understands the extent of the danger they are running but his pleas are useless, because Cuphead lets himself be blinded by dreams of wealth and rolls the dice once again.
“Snake eyes!” she laughs the Devil exclaims, “You have lost!”. The brothers tremble before the evil lord and pray for the salvation of their livesand here is that the Satanassus pulls out a list of names: each of them owes his soul to the master of hell, if the two protagonists manage to obtain them and deliver them to him by midnight of the following day, the Devil will be able to consider the matter closed. and will let them keep their spirit.
Ready, set, WALLOP!
Terror must have the power to clear minds, as Cuphead and his brother manage to find their way home in a heartbeat once they crash out of the casino. Grandpa Bricco doesn’t seem so surprised by the problem his grandchildren have run into, and he even allows himself a few big laughs before handing him over. a potion that will allow them to fire bullets of energy from their fingers. For the moment the only viable solution seems to be to collect the bounties of the Devil but the elderly recipient warns the two protagonists that the debtors will not dispose of their souls with a light heart, even if initially they may appear friendly.
Cuphead and Mugman then set off in a desperate search for those who have signed a contract with the Devil, challenging them in epic boss fights between jumps, dodges and counterattacks, until they get their sparkling soul. The stunning personality of each enemy is reflected in a unique and unforgettable appearance, combined with the aesthetics of 1930s animation and phenomenal hand-drawn boards, starting with vegetables with psychic powers to arrive at a train possessed by ghosts, passing for mermaids, dragons, pirates, bees and even a hateful bird trapped in his little house. Between one epic battle and another, our heroes also find time to visit the three different mausoleums scattered on the island Calamaio, juggling the parry jumps to save the ethereal Legendary Chalice.
The ghost cup, saved from the attacks of the ghosts and finally freed from the urn that imprisoned it, rewards the two brothers by granting them the use of super arts, and will return as the playable protagonist of the upcoming DLC thanks to the use of a magical cookie , as we told you in our preview of Cuphead The Delicious Last Course. Brothers accumulate the souls of debtors and grow stronger and stronger, enough to surprise King Dado himselfwho in the meantime watches them advance in the different areas of the Calamaio island, while Nonno Bricco intercepts them on a boat to remind them to do the right thing once they arrive in the presence of the Devil.
The journey to Hell
Back on the wrong side of the tracks for the umpteenth time, Cuphead and Mugman must also face the thugs of King Dado, who had bet with the Devil that the two protagonists would not be able to bring his souls back to him, and for this reason he launches himself for one last attempt at victory.
The enemies to be faced in the casino halls symbolize the vices that make the fortunes of these places, including tobacco, alcohol and gambling, underlining once again how the title is not suitable for the little ones despite its childish graphics ( considering also the level of challenge that, at this point in history, will have made even the most experienced of veterans shed a few tears). Once the Devil’s right arm is defeated, the player has the opportunity to make a choice: deliver the souls obtained to the lord of the underworld, officially becoming his puppets, or do the right thing and follow Nonno Bricco’s advice. Refusing to comply with the early game pact, Cuphead and Mugman defeat the Satanass in the flames of his mansion, forcing him to an indecent surrender. At this point the two brothers tear and burn the contracts recovered during the adventure, thus freeing the debtors from the mortgage signed on their souls.
The cups then launch at full speed towards home and gather the inhabitants of the island, announcing that the Devil will no longer be a problem and that they are all free from their obligations towards him, kicking off a party involving old enemies, finally becoming friendly and smiling companions. Cuphead and Mugman make their grandfather proud, and promise never to get in trouble again … until next time, of course, because on June 30th yet another prank will lead them to face exciting new bosses in the upcoming Delicious Last Course.