Okay, a little story about today: I got to a part of the endgame that pretty much borrows the whole dice palace bit from Gunstar Heroes. It was long. It was tedious. It ended with a difficult boss fight—the fourth in a row (at best)—that ensured that the long, tedious bit leading up to that had to replayed over and over again. That’s when I decided that I was done with the game and wrote out a large block of text detailing why, but decided to keep playing and only post it if I didn’t finish Cuphead before my normal posting time came around. Then I managed to squeak past this bit of BS and get to the final boss fight, which I steamrolled without much of a problem. Kind of weird. Then I went around and found all of the coins hidden on the overworld map, which was enough to buy everything from the store. All of this is a relief; not only am I now free to never revisit the game (unless I want to play one of the stages I actually liked), but beating the game is a handy shield against those so desperate for non-patronizing games that they’re willing to overlook major design flaws and ascribe any criticism of their new favorite thing to an inability to handle the difficulty.
Not only did I beat Cuphead, but I did it while it was stuttering like crazy, completely unable to retain a consistent frame rate. Which is to say that power cycling my Xbox One didn’t work. I also beat it while contending with numerous new and exciting bugs that increased the difficulty by doing things like disabling buttons for short periods when certain weapons were used. Come at me, Cuphead apologists.
A reminder of what good difficulty looks like
I did pretty good on the earlier genie flight level, but I think this might be the first flight stage that I actually enjoyed. It’s difficult and can get complex, but it’s also short and creative. She can eventually hit you with a Medusa eye beam that turns you to stone, which is gimmicky, but not so gimmicky that it ruins things. There are also foreground objects, but they’re rare and move fast enough that they don’t become too much of a problem. I died a fair number of times on this stage, and yet each death was entirely avoidable and ultimately my fault. That’s good difficulty.
And now, the opposite of that
The dice palace bit requires you to parry the die in order to stop it, and then you move that many spaces right on his little board. You don’t have a full die’s number’s available, though: only 1, 2, and 3, which means that the minimum number of fights you can get into leading up to the actual boss fight is 3. What’s frustrating is that when I was still getting used to the timing of the die (you just have to remember the number that shows up after the number of spaces you want to move and jump when that shows up again, parrying on the way down to get the one you want), I managed to land on the space that forces you to start over from the beginning. That’s stupid and ridiculous. This whole process is tedious enough already without that possibility.
I could consistently get through stages 2, 4, and 7, and worked out the die timing (using the method I just described) to where I consistently landed on those stages. The fights that give you an extra hit point beforehand are randomized, but it’s generally best to stick with your best stages regardless of whether they give you health or not because you’re bound to take more than one hit from one you suck at. Even being able to consistently get to the boss, though, it took 4 minutes to do so (assuming no mistakes), and the hit boxes on the cards you have to parry to get through the actual boss fight aren’t great. Also, the game ate my parry input at around 4:30, but I’ll get to that when I start talking about bugs. The dice guy’s hands aren’t vulnerable, so you can’t get on the other side of his hands and attack him that way. No, you have to parry the marching cards he sends out and hope that the spacing isn’t too far, and screwing up means starting the dice palace BS and going through at least 3 fights all over again to actually get to the real boss fight.
Over and over and over and over and over and over again. 4 minutes each time.
The freezing in the video above isn’t a bug or slowdown. That just happens when I open the Xbox menu to take screenshots, and I was desperately trying to capture the ridiculous foreground objects in this particular dice palace fight. If you screw up the die parry and get this one (or the incredibly lame and buggy matching one), prepare for annoyance. The are no legitimate reasons for including foreground objects like this. None whatsoever. Difficulty arising from bad design is cheap.
And of course, bugs
I just mentioned a buggy matching fight, so I guess I’ll start with that. Basically, there’s this fight where there’s an invincible cymbal monkey and a bunch of cards, and you have to parry the cards to make matches. That’s the only way to make the boss vulnerable. I died in the hyperlinked video because the first time I went through this fight, the boss wandered off to the left of the screen and instantly died after I made a certain match. When I made that match in the video, I was expecting the fight to be over. Instead, it went on and on and on. It’s insane that such issues were so prevalent that bugs and deliberate design decisions became indistinguishable.
Then there’s the video above where my charged shot was blocked by something invisible. It happens 15 second in, and I wasn’t even mad. It was just another bug in a veritable pile of them, and I’ve come to expect such things. That’s hardly the only problem with the charge attack, either, because I’ve noticed on multiple occasions that both the dash and parry moves sometimes fail to register when using it. This doesn’t happen a ton, but even once is more than enough, and these problems tend to happen at the worst of times. I’m also not entirely convinced that I should have taken damage at the end of my dash at the in the video (did I actually touch her?), but that’s one I’m willing to let go because my timing was admittedly off.
There are two endings
The first ending is obtained by giving the devil all of the soul contracts you’ve collected. Obviously it’s the bad ending. Then there’s the one where you fight him. Obviously I had to do both in order to be sure that there was nothing reasonable left undone that could potentially OCD-compel me to pick up the game again.
The good ending where you beat the devil lets you speed up the credits a bit, which causes that “sped up audio” effect. That’s kind of a neat little feature.
The credits after you get the bad ending, on the other hand, play a different (*cough better cough*) song, and speeding them up doesn’t cause any special effect. Huh.
Thus endeth one of the buggiest, most inconsistent games I’ve played in recent memory. Thanks for nothing, Cuphead. I’d refund you in a heartbeat if I could.