An incredibly divisive topic, DLC for games has been much more common in recent years, ranging from costume variants to full blown expansion packs for beloved titles. While some people identify DLC as nothing more than a cash-grab (and in some cases this has credence), there is merit in a studio lovingly producing a piece of additional content that not only feels like it belonged to the original game, but elongates the time people can enjoy the game. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course feels like it was always a part of the game, and expands on every lovable part of the already established Cuphead world and characters.
What makes Cuphead: The DLC so special is how much love and effort has gone into meticulously crafting a side story that doesn’t interfere with the main plot and allows the player to experience something new entirely without going off the critical path. Using an already established character in Ms. Chalice, The DLC looks to expand on her character and bring her back to life. With a magic cookie that allows her to switch places with either Cuphead or Mugman, Ms. Chalice takes on a litany of new bosses in order to get ingredients for a pie that will bring back her corporeal form. What many other games falter with in creating additional content is bringing new experiences and ways of playing to the table. Sure there can be an added boss fight or two and they might have a single new gimmick, but there’s nothing more than that. Cuphead: The DLC creates entirely new experiences that are not unfamiliar to the player, but have an interesting amount of new mechanics and a difficulty curve very similar to the normal gameplay bosses. This is the magic that allows The DLC to feel so close to the base game; if you’ve played the normal story you’ll fit right in with the new bosses. The mechanics range from slightly familiar to “oh wait, that’s how this works?” The difficulty curve of Cuphead has always come from memorizing boss patterns and mechanics and developing a strategy to best deal with them, and the new boss layouts and mechanics in The DLC add a bit of spice to that formula. Of particular interest were the Moonshine Mob and The Howling Aces, as they both introduced new ways of playing that were either absent or not expanded upon in the base game. The Moonshine Mob is a three layer stage with obstacles spawning in at random while needing to fight the bosses, as well as a feint soundwave attack that needs to be avoided properly by either jumping or dodging at the right time. The Howling Aces fight at a glance seems to be an airplane level, but instead has the player standing on a plane and maneuvering around the stage by leaning on the wings. Both of these stages were more cerebral than expected, and proved to be a considerable challenge when used to the normal jumping and dodging in the other boss fights. That being said, these stages are a lot more maneuverable and manageable with Ms. Chalice as a playable character. Ms. Chalice has an entirely unique moveset and way of parrying, as well as new specials and a dodge roll. While this seems bloated, Ms. Chalice only feels like an alternate playstyle that would have been present in the base game, not something to make many stages easier. Even with all her changes, she requires a different playstyle and positioning compared to Cuphead and Mugman, and this breathes life into older stages as well.
Cuphead: The DLC has incredible art direction as well, from the music to the character designs and stages. While everything encapsulates not only the rubberhose animation style but the distinctly “Cuphead” style, there are certain areas and boss thematics that feel so fresh and new. The first that comes to mind is the King’s palace, with every fight there being pacifistic and based on a puzzle mechanic. The King and his subjects are based on chess pieces, and the rotating background that is his castle is actually 3D, which is beautifully juxtaposed with the rest of the cartoonish foreground. The new characters feel right at home with the rest of the cast, and each boss theme is beautifully orchestrated just like in the base game. Again, the Moonshine Mob stole the show with this one, having a cabaret-esque cover of the normal music that adds a singer when the later phases of the fight introduce the gramophone. The art direction is as stellar in The DLC as it is in normal Cuphead, and for that Studio MDHR should be lauded. The amount of effort that goes into producing a product like this is nothing short of tremendous, and there is not an ounce of love that missed its mark here.
All in all there are very few available DLCs that reach this level of completeness that only adds to an already good product. A bad DLC can take away from a decent base game, and a good DLC can aid a game that did not perform well on launch or in the opening months. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is a very rare occurrence that shows the amount of effort and pride Studio MDHR put into an amazing product. A labor of love that hit its mark, The Delicious Last Course feels almost necessary for Cuphead fans that want to extend the best parts of their adventure.
Score: 10 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC