Good, Strong: Cuphead Overflows With 1930s Cartoon Style

By Graham Smith on February 4th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.

The game *actually* *looks* *like* *this*.

Cuphead splits me right down the middle. It’s a run-and-gun game about one-on-one fights, which means it’s about learning attack patterns, dodging enemies, and striking back through multiple waves to eventually destroy them. It’s inspired by the likes of Contra and Mega Man, games which aren’t really my thing.

It’s also using hand-drawn cel animation, watercolour backgrounds and live jazz recordings to mimic the style of early, 1930s cartoons. In its videos, it looks like a controllable, early Mickey Mouse cartoon with a lot more fighting. It’s exactly my kind of thing.


To continue the theme of animated GIFs selling me on games, check out Cuphead’s Steamboat Willie-style idle animation:

I’m in love.

That Cuphead video is from October last year, and a post from November on the developer’s blog goes into more detail about what kind of game they’re making:

Cuphead is a classic run and gun that centers around 1-on-1 fights (2-on-1 in two player mode).

With Cuphead, we aim to evolve the genre by adding new features such as: super arts, infinite lives, a playable world map and hidden secrets. In addition to that, we will have refined controls, additional boss patterns on harder modes and balanced weapons to equip (that you don’t lose!). We plan to release 10-15 bosses per episode and end up with over 30 bosses.

They mean “super arts” in the fighting game sense, but they could also be talking about their animation. Which is super. And art…

Look at that GIF! There are more videos over at the Cuphead site, and the game is due for release later this year.

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36 Comments »

  1. Stevostin says:

    Lovely indeed.

  2. Jason Moyer says:

    Oh wow, that’s gorgeous. Have there ever actually been any games that managed to capture the cel-animated classic cartoon feel?

    • geldonyetich says:

      I suppose if I mentioned Dragon’s Lair, that would be cheating.

      I’ve played some games that felt like they were right out of a cartoon, but something about the presentation in CupHead feels like a whole other level. It’s probably those 1930s-style animations, whose nostalgia somehow transcends whether or not you’ve ever seen a 1930s cartoon.

    • oyog says:

      Toonstruck was, I think, more inspired by Tex Avery than Disney but it was still very much a game about cartoons.

      • LionsPhil says:

        It was, and it was good, but I’m not sure it entirely “captured the cel-animated feel”. It was still pretty ’90s-adventure-game-sprites, outside of its FMV Who-Framed-Roger-Rabbit-y cutscenes.

  3. Gerbick says:

    That looks thoroughly charming.

  4. DeepQantas says:

    I’m not an expert in the history of animation, but… scanlines? Wouldn’t those film splotches be more approppri… wait, they got those in there too? So confused.

    • Cheese Wold says:

      Looks like they’ve also got some chromatic aberration slapped on there too.

      It’s clearly supposed to be an early animation on degraded film, played through a 1970′s television set, recorded with a 1990′s digital camera and then played on your modern monitor.

      A little lens flare would really be the icing on the cake.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Maybe get some digital blocking errors in there too.

        Ooh, and a Bokeh DoF filter. Gotta have one of those for the 2D animation.

      • crinkles esq. says:

        Yes, the graphical effects really hurt my eyes. At one point it almost looked like watching an old red-blue 3D movie without 3D glasses on. They should just settle on using aged film reel effects and stop at that.

        I’ll also be pedantic and say that the jazz music being played is not really the kind of “hot jazz” that was played back then.

      • JFS says:

        Lens flares have been replaced by tilt-shift, didn’t you hear? I wonder how they’re gonna put that in such a game, though.

    • darkChozo says:

      I imagine they’re going for the aesthetic of an old cartoon as many people would have experienced them — recorded on film and watched on an old CRT.

    • StudioMDHR says:

      Don’t fret any longer! We are adding the option to turn scanlines off (this way it also doesn’t interfere with people who are playing the game on a CRT). The other effects are part of our artistic vision, so they will have to stay! :)

  5. aliksy says:

    I am interested!

  6. Skabooga says:

    Alright, damn, Graham, I Cupheard you the first time.

  7. InnerPartisan says:

    Good Lord, this game looks gorgeous. As someone who basically grew up on 30s-50s Disney&WB cartoons (not because I’m that old, but because my grandmother had dozens of VHS tapes full of them, which I watched religiously) this appeals to me very, very much indeed.
    I share the skepticism about the genre – I’ve never been a fan of Contra/Mega Man-style SHMUPs; but at least I’m not completely averse to it, and some of the ideas sound kinda neat. And honestly, with those graphics, the game could be a microtransaction-based facebook app, and I’d probably still give it a try at least.

  8. CookPassBabtridge says:

    CUPHEAD PLUSHIES
    Just after the HORACE PLUSHIES

  9. Aardvarkk says:

    I’m all in, this looks delightful.

  10. Arglebargle says:

    Great art, great concept. Except, for me, the game part. Oh well, hope they go gangbusters!

  11. leumas12 says:

    That looks fantastic. Keep us updated!

  12. Deinonychus says:

    Colors? Aw man they messed up.

    • Caiman says:

      Following the 70s fashion of colorizing everything b&w, perhaps. However, I bet there is a b&w option

    • InnerPartisan says:

      No, they didn’t:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Band_Concert

      It’s not at all anachronistic to have a game that’s explicitly “in the style of 1930′s cartoons” to be in color, because from the mid-30s onward, basically all animated shorts from WB and Disney (i.e., by far the most popular ones) were in color.

  13. Biscuitry says:

    That “teaser” trailer had more gameplay in it than the last five “full” trailers I saw combined.

  14. Pich says:

    Crossover with Skullgirls when

    • Uboa Noticed You says:

      Peacock as a DLC boss sounds like it could actually work

      Not that I suspect that it would actually happen but hey

  15. BurningPet says:

    I loved every bit from that teaser!

  16. darkChozo says:

    Bleh, not sure why, but that art style clashes horribly with the gameplay to me. I think it might be that the player character moves in a way that doesn’t match how old cartoon characters move at all. That, and the shoot spam.

  17. one2fwee says:

    Coool!
    Although er scanlines and deconvergence? what? Silly.

    The animation looks really good until you get to 24 seconds and it has the run and gun bit and the fluid movement animation completely goes out the window, in favour of standard game stiffness. So that kind of sucks :/ But then if they wanted fluid animation there it would probably affect the gameplay, so it’s hard. Still think the animation in that part could be brought up to the level with the rest.

    In fact i think it’s little things like “instantly turning” and stuff – no momentum. Sure, you would have to change the gameplay around it but so what, that would give it a bit of depth.

    Looks nice anyway though.

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah, it seems to lack dedication a bit, stylistically. Which is a shame, since that seems to be the major selling point.

    • StudioMDHR says:

      The scanlines will be an option!

      As for the game subtle details, there is still some love that is missing (turnarounds on the ground, in the air, etc.), but they won’t fully fix the “game look” that you are seeing. We easily could make a game that plays like ‘Out of This World’, where the focus is on the animation before gameplay, but we won’t! We are striving to have as much transition animation as we can without changing any of the games mechanics. We are trying to emulate the amount of detail that Street Fighter III had for all the small transitions.

  18. Shadrach says:

    I always get sucked in by awesome art style and music on these kinds of games, plus a lot of it is some kind of nostalgia for old-school games. Then I find out what’ve always known – I suck at these kinds of games, and always have, even when I was 12 years old…

    Boss-fights, tricky jumps, spikes and attack patterns are just not for me,

    If it has an “Too Friggin’ Old for Platformers” mode, I’be happy to buy it though, just to enjoy the art :)

  19. PopeRatzo says:

    I’ve wanted to be in a Max Fleischer cartoon all my life. This might be my best chance, so please don’t mess it up.

    But a developer’s blog is not a game.

    I wonder, are there blogs that focus on paintings-in-progress?

  20. twaitsfan says:

    The other day we got a mickey mouse dvd from the library; my daughter thought it was the new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Needless to say, she was terrified at the 30′s version. I however thought it was delightful. Sign me up for cuphead.

  21. Shooop says:

    The art, the animations, the music… It’s pure joy. He even makes a finger-gun with his hand when shooting! It’s like a less demented Alien Homind.

    Hopefully they’re not keeping the scanlines.

  22. Wowbagger says:

    Red panties and white gloves? I smell a lawsuit from the overlords.