I didn’t quite love Cuphead as much as I wanted to when it launched in 2017 — you could say it wasn’t my cup of tea, if you must. I loved its old-timey cartoon art style, but its crushing difficulty made it hard to love. I just wanted to admire all the gorgeous hand-drawn animations, but the skill barrier made me bounce off the game before I got to the end.
Five years later, Studio MDHR has rectified some of my original critiques with Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course. The light DLC package brings a bit of new content to the game, including a new island featuring fresh bosses. While that’ll likely be the selling point for longtime players, it’s actually not the most significant update that comes with the $8 upgrade.
The real draw of Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is the new character, plus some new badges, that it brings to the overall game. They act as general quality of life changes that make the main adventure much more manageable for those who couldn’t get through the game the first time around.
When players install the new DLC, they’ll gain access to a small island traversable by boat (unlocked after beating the base game’s first mausoleum stage). A few things happen once they get there. For one, we immediately meet Ms. Chalice, the game’s third playable character. After that, there’s a quick conversation setting up the DLC’s “story.” The cup-headed trio needs to defeat five bosses on the island (there are no new run-and-gun stages) and collect ingredients for a chef. It’s a simple excuse to wallop some more intricately animated bosses.
Those bosses are about what you’ve come to expect from Cuphead at this point. They’re incredibly creative fights that require lots of pattern recognition. In the Snow Cult Scuffle stage, I start by fighting an ice wizard that creates little ice druids I need to blast away. In phase 2, he summons a snow yeti that can turn into a refrigerator and shoot popsicles and ice cubes at me. As always, the charm of Cuphead simply comes from watching bosses transform in delightful ways.
The new fights are strong across the board — and surprisingly not as difficult as you might expect. I finished off the new suite of bosses in under three hours with no fight taking me more than 30 minutes. Rather than focusing on intense timing challenges, the fights are more about paying attention to several moving parts at once.
In one of my favorite fights, I’m on the wings of a small airplane, which I can move across the screen by stepping on the wings on each side. My opponent is a bunch of dogs flying a much bigger plane overhead. A big dog pilots the ship in phase 1, jumping out of the cockpit to toss bones and yarn balls (delivered via cat). While I’m dodging those attacks, smaller dogs pop out of the wings and rain tennis balls down on me. I need to dodge both of those attacks at once, all while piloting my platform. And that’s all before getting into phase 3, where my plane rotates around the screen, inverting my controls.
Each new boss fight is a complex cartoon gauntlet, but they all feel way more manageable than the base game. Though that might have less to do with the boss design itself and more to do with the DLC’s actual selling point.
The newly playable Ms. Chalice is more than a character skin. She has a few new moves that completely change the game. For instance, she has a dodge roll and the ability to double jump. Plus, she has four HP instead of three, making her more resilient than the original heroes. The one catch is that the only way to use Ms. Chalice is to equip a specific badge, which means you’ll have to forgo using another perk.
If you’re thinking that Ms. Chalice is a clever way to sneak in an easy (or at least less hard) mode, you’re right. With her extra health and increased mobility, I found that I rarely ever hit a rage wall while playing as her. If I could make it to a boss’ final phase with three or four hit points, I could always win. It just became a question of mastering the first few phases well enough to offer me that late fight flexibility.
It’s not just Ms. Chalice that makes the whole game more manageable. Some of the new charms included in the package act as quality of life improvements. For instance, I had always wished that the parry mechanic in the original release was more impactful, perhaps granting a point of health back. One new item does exactly that, giving health back on your first, third, and sixth parry.
Tools like that go a long way toward making the base game more enjoyable. They let players better customize their challenge level, which is a better solution than the game’s underwhelming “simple” mode. I could see myself restarting from the top with Ms. Chalice and finding a new appreciation for fights that initially blinded me with rage.
At just $8, The Delicious Last Course is a no-brainer purchase for Cuphead fans. But I’d also recommend it to people who didn’t fully click with the game the first time around. Its new features might just be enough to get you over that hump.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is available today.
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