Though we may not recognize it now, American animation during the dawn of the 20th century dramatically changed how people across the world view entertainment forever. Anthropomorphic object and exaggerated facial expressions were by no means new to the world of cartoons, but were given new life through frame-by-frame animated shorts by studios like Fleischer Studios. Many of these cartoons would later influence Japanese anime, upon which many modern video games draw for their own visual stylings.
Yet the earlier heydays of cartoonery are rarely explored by contemporary video games (save, perhaps, for Peacock from Lab Zero’s Skullgirls). Studio MDHR plans to do just that, though, with their upcoming run-and-gun platformer, Cuphead in Don’t Deal With the Devil. The project, which began in 2010, blends the surrealism of 1930s animation and the mayhem of classic arcade platformers like Metal Slug to create a game that stands out from the rest of the indie pack.
Cuphead’s premise is simple: the titular Cuphead and his friend Mugman lose a bet with the Devil. They must pay off that debt by giving the game’s bosses the ol’ one-two. The game focuses mainly around these boss fights, as well as platforming sections, swarms of regular enemies, a weapons and ultimate ability mechanic, and secret area exploration.
As for those boss fights, Studio MDHR has stated that they plan to implement over 30 of them. If they reach that number, Cuphead will have surpassed Treasure’s Alien Soldier for the Guiness record of “most boss fights in a run-and-gun game.” Niche record, sure, but notable nonetheless.
Cuphead footage from E3 (via YouTube user Etalyx) gives us a glimpse into one of those boss fights, as well as some of its regular gameplay:
Studio MDHR is also committed to keeping the core fundamentals of both retro animation and retro gaming close to Cuphead’s heart. The Mouldenhauer brothers of Studio MDHR have imbued Cuphead with the mechanical nuances and system esoterica that give old arcade games their rich texture. The game’s animations and music, meanwhile, attempt to replicate the same meticulous processes practiced by animators and composers nearly 100 years ago.