Cuphead review: come for the 1930s visuals, stay for the hard-earned thrills

This meticulously crafted title is more than just an ode to the golden age of animation – it’s a punishing yet moreish game that’s not for the faint-hearted

You may have heard that this game is hard. We can report, its difficulty has not been overstated – but punishment isn’t everything it has to offer. While Cuphead is decidedly painful, committed to beating you over the head with death after death in its 1930s-style animated world, it’s also meticulously crafted. It’s rich in tone, near pitch perfect in its balancing and it’s dedicated to teaching you the best way to succeed – all while you desperately sway between bashing your head against a wall and screaming in victorious elation.

Bosses are the central spectacle here – ultra-paced, wonderfully designed, concentrated encounters that punctuate its run-time – but the immediate appeal is its inimitable art style. As a homage to the early days of animated cartoons, Cuphead is about as authentic as you get. The film grain crackles and its watercolour backgrounds pop with an obsessive attention to detail that never lets up. Its characters, too, are a work of art, offering up some of the most visually distinct creatures you will see in video games. That unflinching authenticity seeps into every part of Cuphead, from its menus to its music; from its character names – shout out to Porkrind the shop keeper – to their voice work. It’s fantastic across the board.

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