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Cuphead - The Delicious Last Course (NS)

By Evan Norris 13th Jul 2022 | 1,650 views 

A meal fit for a king.

It's been almost five years since Cuphead first launched, but its standing is as strong as ever. Indeed, how could anyone who has played it ever forget its ravishing 1930s cartoon aesthetic, its bold big band music, or its punishing level of difficulty? Easy on the eyes and hard on the spirit, Cuphead was and still is one of the great run-and-gun action games. Now, half a decade later, the legendary adventure is finally complete, thanks to The Delicious Last Course, a DLC campaign focused on a character who's a bit of a legend herself.

The Delicious Last Course takes place on the previously unknown Inkwell Isle, to which brothers Cuphead and Mugman have been summoned. Their summoner is none other than Ms. Chalice — known in the base game as the Legendary Chalice — who needs support transferring her ghostly spirit to a corporeal form. The helpful chef Saltbaker has promised to whip up a special meal to achieve the transformation, but the secret ingredients are guarded by an assortment of dastardly bosses...

The story of Ms. Chalice's quest fits in beautifully with the original Cuphead campaign. It functions as both an epilogue of sorts for those who've already bested the main adventure, and as a fun early-game diversion for first-time players. Moreover, it shines a brighter light on the clever Ms. Chalice and introduces a brand new island full of villains, NPCs, and landmarks, all of which make sense within the larger mythology.

Just as the DLC meshes well with the base game logistically and thematically, it serves as a logical extension of Cuphead's mechanics. Ultimately, this add-on is more of the same — great news for fans of the original, bad news for those for whom Cuphead is not their cup of tea. That means 2D run-and-gun gameplay, tight controls, carefully-calibrated hit boxes, and an overworld populated with NPCs, secrets, and, of course, multiple daunting bosses.

Boss battles are, unsurprisingly, the bread and butter of this scrumptious DLC. They are, in a word, spectacular. Studio MDHR already demonstrated its mastery over run-and-gun boss fights in Cuphead, but here the developer is back to show off. Each main battle is a clever multi-stage marathon with a screen-filling baddie where careful timing, quick reflexes, and patience are the keys to survival. The care, thoughtfulness, and wacky energy that MDHR invested into these fights is simply extraordinary. One of the many highlights is an airborne battle with Esther Winchester, an enormous cow sheriff who operates out of a saloon on wheels. The fight’s final phase, which sees the heroes moving in and out of criss-crossing hazards, is particularly devilish.

Devilish is a word that can be applied to almost all of the boss encounters in The Delicious Last Course, for better or worse. This is a demanding, draining DLC that, at times, can feel frustrating or even unfair. Just as with the base game, each fight is based around trial and error. Don't expect checkpoints, enemy health bars, or even telegraphed attacks. This is an experience where you try, fail, dust yourself off, and try again. If you're not looking for a title where most of your playtime is spent dying, learning, and making incremental progress toward the goal, then this is not the game for you. If you can tough it out, though, the satisfaction of toppling a boss in this DLC is truly exhilarating. 

One thing unique to the DLC that contributes to the overall difficulty is the vast number of distractions on screen. Studio MDHR has gone above and beyond with the production design of each major boss battle, adding more characters, projectiles, animations, and transformations, plus increased depth due to detailed backgrounds and foregrounds. As a result, every showdown is more of a work of art, but also more visually confusing. In the "Gnome Way Out" fight with Glumstone the Giant, for example, you have to contend not only with the gesticulating giant, but a flock of geese flying across the top half of the screen and tiny gnomes either emerging from the ground or climbing pillars of stone — not to mention the falling snow and drifting background clouds that set the mountaintop scene. The resulting visual chaos can be overwhelming.

In addition to some nefarious boss battles, The Delicious Last Course features several new weapons and magical charms, plus a few overworld secrets, and five special side battles inspired by chess pieces. These strip you of any special charms and buffs and force you to parry your way to victory. They're easier and more straightforward than the bigger boss fights, and serve as a nice palate cleanser between courses. Finally, the DLC introduces Ms. Chalice as a playable character, both on Inkwell Isle and back in the main adventure. Ms. Chalice has several interesting, unique moves, including a double jump, dash parry, and invincible dodge roll. Overall, she's a very welcome addition to the Cuphead family. Plus, she provides an excuse to revisit previously-beaten bosses back in the main game.

In order to see the end credits for The Delicious Last Course, you'll have to invest approximately three hours — the majority of that time trying and retrying each boss battle. If you want to seek out every secret, beat each "expert" version of the main bosses, try for high ranks, and experiment with a friend in local co-op you can probably triple that number. Note: like the original game, this add-on does not support online multiplayer.

In terms of art direction, The Delicious Last Course is simply astonishing. The DLC features the same "rubber hose" animation style as Cuphead, but adds more sophisticated animations, extra details, and deeper, more detailed backgrounds. It also boasts some eye-catching stop-motion animation courtesy of Screen Novelties. At times it's hard not to marvel at the technical wizardry on display, even though a fraction of a second of inattention means a lost hit point. Studio MDHR's Executive Producer and Studio Director Maja Moldenhauer called The Delicious Last Course "a labor of love", and it's easy to see why.

Then there's the soundtrack, filled with exceptional songs performed by over 110 musicians. It's a brilliant mixture of jazz, big band, and swing music. "High-Noon Hoopla", with its horse-like clops and yodeling, is one of the finest individual tracks.

The Delicious Last Course is a wonderful five-year birthday gift for Cuphead. It takes what was already one of the industry’s best run-and-gun games and makes it even better, thanks to reliable controls and mechanics carried over from the base campaign, plus a new playable character, a handful of uniquely challenging bosses, gorgeous visuals, and delightful music. It's hard as nails, yes, but worth the pain. It will be exciting to see what other morsels MDHR has in store for us, now that Cuphead has its cherry on top.


VGChartz Verdict


8.5
Great

This review is based on a digital copy of Cuphead - The Delicious Last Course for the NS, provided by the publisher.


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