Booming bass rattles my eardrums, and waiters flit to and fro with platters of practically unidentifiable hors d’oeuvres as I stare intently, mouth nearly agape, at the beauty of Cuphead. Amidst the noisy, over-crowded event space Microsoft has chosen for their annual E3 Showcase – a space I’m assured is quite “hip” – the very existence of Studio MDHR’s old-timey side-scrolling arcade shooter seems impossible. And yet, there it is, with a perpetual crowd hunched over it while pairs of strangers play, die, and play again, unwilling to give up their controllers. I can’t blame them. Heck, I was one of them.
Cuphead has a look that makes pretty much any organized set of words seem trite and empty. One look at it will make you angry at yourself for every time you described a game as “a playable cartoon.” You wasted that phrase. I don’t care which game you said it about, you wasted it. The fully hand-drawn look perfectly apes 30’s era funnies (right down to the delightfully coarse film grain filter), and the animation is not only buttery smooth; it’s relentless. Nothing is static, nothing ever stands still.