A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cuphead is an action platformer available for download on the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game is based on the surreal cartoons of the 1930s, and casts players as two young kids with cups for heads that have to collect souls for the Devil after losing their own in a Casino. While the focus of the game is violence against other figures in this animated world, it's all shown to be the silly cartoon variety with no blood or gore shown. There are some scenes of gambling and mild references to alcohol and smoking. Players should also know that the game is incredibly difficult, which could frustrate players. Even in the "easiest" setting, players will find their skills highly challenged by the split second timing required to survive some stages.
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What's it about?
CUPHEAD stars a mischievous kid (with a cup for a head) living in a place called Inkwell Isle. He foolishly enters the Devil's Casino where he finds out -- as most gamblers do -- that the House always wins. He can't pay, so the Devil demands his soul in payment; he also says he'll let the kid off if he can collect the souls of other Inkwell Isle residents. This sets the stage for a series of shooter-style, multiphase boss battles interspersed with a few run-and-gun sequences. Successfully clearing the latter earns you gold, which you can use to buy useful weapon and skill upgrades.
Is it any good?
This is, visually speaking, the most unique game made in years. Done in a graphic style that emulates the hand-drawn animation of the Max Fleischer studio of the 1930s, Cuphead is far and away one of the most beautiful games you'll ever lay eyes on. It's also one of the most maddening. Developer StudioMDHR Entertainment said they meant for it to be a challenge, and boy, did they succeed. Hearkening back to classic arcade run-and-gun action games, Cuphead is a string of merciless boss battles. Don't expect boring bosses here; you'll be fighting things like frogs, zeppelins, mermaids, boats, and candy houses, all to a swinging Jazz Age soundtrack. The fights, like everything else in the game, are packed with creativity and personality. It's a good thing, too, because without its stratospheric level of visual and audio appeal, Cuphead would alienate all but the most determined players. Impressively, the Switch version has been optimized to run just as well as the Xbox One and Windows PC versions, which is an amazing technical feat. In fact, some levels load as fast or slightly faster on the Switch than the more powerful systems.
Winning fights takes near endless patience, not to mention savant-level reflexes. And if you're thinking two-player co-op makes things easier, you're wrong. Two players on screen only doubles the chaos. Still, the most skilled and patient gamers get the glory, the unlockable color modes (two-tone and black-&-white) and the right to say they beat the game. The rest of us, well ... we get a taste of cool retro fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in games. Is the impact of the violence in Cuphead affected by the cartoonish visuals that don't have any blood or gore? Why is this kind of action OK compared to other games? Would the violence be intensified if the visuals or gameplay were more realistic?
What era does Cuphead hearken back to? Would you prefer if more animated games or cartoons looked like this instead of how they look today?
Do you enjoy a challenge? Does the difficulty of Cuphead appeal to you or would it keep you from playing the game? Why?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc.
- Release date: April 17, 2019
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
- Last updated: May 2, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.