Title: Cuphead The Delicious Last Course
Developer: Studio MDHR
Release Date: June 30, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Studio MDHR
Genre: Action, Platformer
Cuphead is a superb 2D action platformer that has received well-deserved critical acclaim since its initial release almost five years ago. From the endearingly genuine classic presentation to the well-crafted boss battles, it was clearly instilled with countless hours of productive love. Now, the highly anticipated Delicious Last Course DLC has finally been released, and to avoid beating around the bush, it has managed to surpass my lofty expectations by providing some of the best-designed boss fights in video game history.
To access the DLC content, players must have cleared at least one of the base game’s Mausoleums, the areas where you complete parry challenges to receive Special skills from Miss Chalice. Afterward, a helmsman appears near the shores of each of the isles, allowing players to travel to the newly created Isle IV.
When reaching this new area, Cuphead and Mugman meet up with the aforementioned Miss Chalice, who is working with a new character to create a concoction that will somehow permanently bring herself back from the astral plane. Naturally, the bosses throughout this new isle have particular ingredients needed for achieving this goal, so the cast heads off to do their usual antics. However, thanks to a helpful food called the Astral Cookie, players are granted the ability to use Miss Chalice in gameplay.
While Isle IV looks relatively minuscule, it is easily the densest compared to the base game’s areas. Alongside an expected few NPCs and some secrets is an intriguing sidequest with an unexpected reward by its end. Parry challenges have also returned under the guise of a new locale called The King’s Leap. These are loosely akin to the Mausoleums in concept but are far more creative with pseudo-bosses of their own. Also comparable to the Mausoleums is their general lack of challenge. Still, they’re immensely satisfying to complete since parrying in Cuphead boasts sublime sound design that never gets old. Plus, the new foes you face here have stellar animation and telegraphs, which goes into the real meat and potatoes here; the boss fights.
The Delicious Last Course has a little over a handful of bosses to defeat, and while that quantity may seem meager, the quality here is off the charts. Not only are each boss’ animations seemingly more detailed and involved than the base game’s roster, but they also require far more attention to best. Like the base game’s bosses, the new ones in The Delicious Last Course are elementary to defeat when on Regular Mode, and the actual challenge initiates when attempting them on Expert, especially when going for S Ranks.
Even after spending dozens of hours in Cuphead, it’s still remarkably noteworthy how losses rarely personally equate to frustration. Each failure serves as a stepping stone toward improvement, no matter how slight, and the DLC bosses exemplify that general philosophy tenfold. I couldn’t stop smiling across each attempt since the cathartic delight felt from gradual gameplay improvements to eventual victory here is borderline unmatched in the medium. I’d rather not detail specifics of the bosses’ phases or techniques since that’s the primary selling point. Needless to say, every battle is undeniably masterful.
For those who enjoy intricately designed bosses with consistent patterns and telegraphs that adequately alert you of incoming threats, The Delicious Last Course is at the apex of that meal. Aside from the final boss, my favorite battle is probably Glumstone The Giant, since he initially seems wildly intimidating when going for an S Rank. That battle makes players think outside the box more than any other bout, to an extent where they’ll perform feats they did not believe were possible.
Mortimer Freeze is another fantastic one where players must approach the boss’s face to avoid a ranged maneuver. There are countless brilliantly-designed elements throughout each of these fights that provide far more depth than the ones in the base game.
The new playable character, Miss Chalice, also freshens things up. Unlike Cuphead and Mugman, she can double jump and dodge roll, with the latter having a brief period of invincibility. While that inclusion may sound overpowered, it’s, in fact, quite the opposite. Miss Chalice’s parries result from her dash as opposed to Cuphead’s and Mugman’s jump, meaning that the way one approaches parrying is innately different.
Horizontal acceleration is far more prominent when taking Miss Chalice’s playstyle into account since she can cover ground much more rapidly than her friends. The double jump can also be seen as a double-edged sword because although it boasts evident benefits, careless usage can easily result in otherwise avoidable damage.
Understanding the way bosses move is equally paramount to using Miss Chalice’s acrobatics to their collectively fullest extent. The dodge roll is also similarly notable, with its invincibility frames being inestimably valuable. Still, it requires acute timing when in near collision with contextual hazards. I have a feeling several newer players will forget the dodge roll even exists, so make sure to remember it’s in your arsenal.
Moreover, what makes Miss Chalice an even more unique character is the fact that the Specials work differently when playing as her. For instance, the second Special grants her a free hit that does not affect rankings. It necessitates a maxed skill bar, but it can be a handy tool for those having trouble earning S Ranks otherwise. I quickly grew impressed with Miss Chalice’s combative design, since a terrific balance is struck where she possesses some seemingly powerful tools that don’t simply act as win-buttons for beginners. Playing the base game as her also feels entirely fresh due to her standout moveset, further cementing this DLC’s value.
One facet I’ve neglected to discuss is the soundtrack, which to no one’s surprise, is absolutely magnificent. The boss themes simultaneously fit their respective ambiances while granting distinct sound-induced motivation to keep going. Additionally, the world map theme for Isle IV is amongst the best map themes I’ve heard, containing a simultaneously melancholic yet whimsical melody that gives the DLC an even more robust identity.
Cuphead The Delicious Last Course is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had, managing to serve as a primarily standalone accompaniment to an already masterful title. It’s emblematic of why I enjoy video games by providing challenges that demand continual and natural player growth, with unquestionably fair enemy design.
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