One of the great mysteries at E3 was Cuphead. During Microsoft’s obligatory “WE <3 INDIES” montage they flashed a gauntlet of smaller, artist-driven games: FRU, Hyper Light Drifter, Roundabout, Threes!, and so on. Refreshingly enough, a lot of these games were playable, often alongside the devs themselves, on the show floor.
But Cuphead, a 1930s-era animation stunner that drew big applause from the crowd, and that stole the internet’s heart a few months back, was nowhere to be found. I know this because I personally demanded that every Kill Screen affiliate in attendance swarm the floor like a Rainbow Six task-force to find more information about the game, and all they came back to me with were hangovers and jokes about the MGS5 demo. Thanks, team.
Turns out, brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer were just quietly working on the game from their homes in Toronto and Saskatchewan, respectively. We’ll have a fuller feature on their story up soon, but for people who, like me, have found themselves equally enchanted by the look of the game and mystified by what it might eventually be, I wanted to offer some specifics. (Some of these details have popped up elsewhere, but not all in one place.)
* It’s a game of the classic run and gun style, positioned somewhere between Contra 3 and Gunstar Heroes in terms of the actual design of the levels. Instead of just running right and shooting until you hit the boss, the game is built around just boss battles. The Moldenhauers are obsessed with the minutiae of the genre: animations and exploits and hitboxes.
* These bosses will be accessible via an old-timey, top-down action-RPG-style world map. Imagine an old Zelda game with a 1930s flair, and Link with a cup for his head. There is talk of secrets and side-quests on this world map.
* They’re about 40% done with the game’s art, and, because they design mechanics from art, they’ve got slightly less than that done design-wise. The game got started in 2010. So. Hold tight, is what I'm getting at.
* But it will ultimately be a trilogy, of sorts! Moldenhauer was just spitballing, but he envisions a set of expansion packs which build on the weapons and elements introduced in the first game, sorta like the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge re-made earlier Sonic games. It's like a trilogy of games that will build Cuphead into its fullest possible Cuphead.
In the mean-time, you can take a gander at this (elliptical, brief) trailer.