Well, Cuphead and his pal Mugman, They like to roll the dice.
By chance they came ‘pon Devil’s game, And gosh they paid the price,
And now they’re fighting for their lives On a mission fraught with dread,
And if they proceed but don’t succeed, Well, the Devil will take their heads!
-Cuphead’s opening theme
The 2017 video game Cuphead has proven to be hugely popular, due in large part to its completely unique and beautiful art-style. Here are 40 facts about this amazingly hectic, hand-drawn, run-and-gun video game:
40. Unity Engine
Cuphead was developed in the Unity game engine, which has been used to create hundreds of the most popular games in the world, from Hearthstone to Crossy Road to Assassin’s Creed Identity.
39. Xbox One and PC
Cuphead is available exclusively on the Xbox One and PC—sorry PS4 and Switch owners.
38. Released September 27, 2017
After years of highly anticipated development, Cuphead was finally released on September 29, 2017 at a price of $19.99 USD.
37. Rated E10+
Though the cartoon art style might make it look like the game is for children, the game is in fact rated E10+ for mild cartoon violence and alcohol and tobacco references.
36. The Moldenhauer Brothers
Cuphead was conceived of by Canadian brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer.
35. All In
In order to fund their game, the Moldenhauer Brothers both remortgaged their houses.
34. Part Time
Though creating Cuphead took a massive amount of work, even four years into development both Chad and Jared Moldenhauer still had to work part-time at their old jobs.
The Moldenhauers created the video game company StudioMDHR (MDHR=Moldenhauer), and Cuphead is their first and so far only release.
32. A Joint Canadian/American Game
The Moldenhauer brothers hail from Saskatchewan, Canada, and members of the StudioMDHR team are from all over Canada and the US. Since StudioMDHR was very small and brand new when Cuphead began development, several of the team’s initial members were personal friends of the Moldenhauer brothers.
31. Good Things Take Time
Cuphead was originally thought up in 2010. Initially, the plan was to release it in 2014, but the game was delayed multiple times, and didn’t end up getting released until 2017, seven years after it began development.
30. Max Fleischer
Cuphead’s distinctive art style was inspired by many different cartoonists from the 1930s, but the work of Max Fleischer, who drew characters like Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor, was the most important to the developers. Fleischer’s work was always considered the “magnetic north” for the game’s art direction.
29. Swing and Mooch
The Moldenhauer brothers have said that the Fleischer’s cartoons Swing You Sinners and Minnie the Moocher were both specifically influential when it came to deciding on the style for Cuphead.
28. Give Thanks to Super Meat Boy
The Moldenhauers had wanted to develop a game like Cuphead for many years, but weren’t sure it would be possible or worthwhile. But after they saw how successful the game Super Meat Boy was in 2010, they decided to give it a go.
27. Classic Gameplay Inspiration
Though its art is like no video game that’s ever been released before, inspiration for Cuphead’s gameplay came from classic games like Gunstar Heroes, Contra III, Super Mario World, the Thunderforce series, and Street Fighter III.
25. Why Cuphead?
The idea for a character like Cuphead came from an old piece of Japanese animation. In the short 1936 cartoon “Evil Mickey Attacks Japan,” there’s a character with a giant cup for a head that turns into a tank.
24. Turbo Super Mega?
Before settling the character of Cuphead, the working title for the game was Turbo Super Mega, a title meant to be an homage to the over-the-top game titles of the 1990s.
23. Originally About Children’s Art
While the art style of Cuphead is what stands out the most, the game wasn’t always going to look the way it does. The original concept was to have a game based around children’s art styles. It was to begin with simple, crude, kindergarten style art, before getting more advanced as the game went on.
22. Don’t Forget about Mugman
Though he’s the titular character, it’s not all about Cuphead. He’s also joined in the game by his not-so-different buddy, Mugman. If you can’t tell them apart, Cuphead is red and Mugman is blue.
21. Inkwell Isle
The setting for the game is on Inkwell Isle. It acts as the game’s overworld and it’s divided into four separate sections.
20. Working for the Devil
The initial trailer for the game had the subtitle “Don’t Deal with the Devil” because that’s just what Cuphead and Mugman have done: They made a bet with the devil and lost, and the game is spent gathering souls to pay off their debt.
19. Finger Guns
Cuphead is a run-and-gun game where most of your time is spent simply holding down the shoot button. But Cuphead and Mugman don’t have conventional guns. Instead, they just hold their hands in a gun shape to shoot projectiles. Pew pew!
18. Lots and Lots of Bosses
The majority of the gameplay in Cuphead involves boss fights. There are 19 unique bosses who players have to beat in the game.
17. Mixing it Up
Although most of Cuphead is spent fighting bosses, there are some short platforming sections as well to mix the gameplay up. The developers estimate the game is about 75% boss fights and 25% platforming.
The game’s art style might be the first thing to jump out at players, but its music is an amazing feat as well. The jazz-inspired soundtrack, also reminiscent 1930s cartoons, is almost 3 hours long, and was composed by Toronto based composer Kris Maddigan, a childhood friend of the Moldenhauers.
15. Solo or Multiplayer
You can play Cuphead alone, or you can have a friend jump in and play along with you.
14. Go Where You Want, When You Want
Cuphead features non-linear gameplay: Rather than making you play through levels in a particular order, players can try any level on a given overworld at any time.
13. Messing With the Formula
The Moldenhauer brothers wanted to make a game that strayed from the usual Mario-like formula of “save the princess in the castle.” That’s why they had the players play as characters who are technically working for the devil himself.
12. Beauty in its Simplicity
Though it can look incredibly hectic on screen, the gameplay of Cuphead is deceptively simple. Players can move, jump, shoot, parry, and dash, and that’s it, but that simplicity is part of what makes the game so difficult.
11. Take To the Air
There are a few levels in Cuphead where the characters jump in little planes and fight airborne enemies, adding a little more variety to the gameplay experience.
10. Get Hardcore
As if Cuphead wasn’t hard enough, once you’ve beaten the game, you unlock a hardcore mode that makes it even more difficult.
9. Keep it Simple
If you’re intimidated by how hard everyone says Cuphead is, don’t worry, there’s a “Simple Mode” that makes the game far more forgiving and easier to get through.
8. It’s as Good as it Looks
After so many years in development and a huge amount of hype, Cuphead did not disappoint. The game holds a score of 89 for the PC version and 87 for the Xbox One version on metacritic.com.
7. Platinum in Just Two Weeks
It’s not just critics who liked Cuphead: The game sold over a million copies within just two weeks of being released!
6. Not Quite Perfect
The release of Cuphead was wildly successful, but it wasn’t without its kinks. There was a bug in the PC version that could accidentally delete your saved file if you used alt-tab to exit the game, potentially losing hours of progress.
5. You Won’t Believe How Good Some People Are Already
Almost immediately after it was released, Cuphead became popular in the video-game speed running community. It can take most gamers an hour to get through just a single level in Cuphead, but as of writing, the world-record for completing the entire game stands at just 25 minutes, 24 seconds.
4. Completely Hand Drawn
The art-style of Cuphead looks like an old fashioned, hand drawn cartoon. Well, that’s because it is! Rather than creating the art on a computer, every single frame of animation in the entire game was drawn and inked by an artist on paper.
3. Digital Coloring
The only part of Cuphead’s art that was done digitally was the coloring. The developers tested both hand and digital coloring and found that they couldn’t tell the difference. They estimated that this choice saved them six years of development time.
2. Trial and Error
When trying to decide on a character for their game, the Moldenhauers tried out over 150 designs. Some of their ideas included a kappa (a Japanese frog/turtle/man) with a top hat and characters with a plate or a fork for a head.
1. A Lot of Drawing
How much drawing did the team behind Cuphead actually have to do? For a normal computer game, developers can just make a computer model and shape it in order to animate it. But the hand drawn style of Cuphead needs 24 separate frames of art for one second of animation. This goes for every single thing that moves throughout the entire game. No wonder it took so long!