Cuphead‘s arrival on Nintendo Switch means a large swath of people will get to experience the exhilarating pain that is Grim Matchstick. Xbox One and PC users who have played Cuphead know that Grim Matchstick is the start of the seriously challenging final stretch. The fire breathing dragon holds court in a towering spiral castle in Inkwell Isle Two. Though you still have more than a handful of bosses remaining after you fell Grim Matchstick, “Fiery Frolic” might just be the hardest fight in the game outside of the pair of final bosses.
To beat Grim Matchstick, you’ll need to have an expert grasp on dashing and the ability to think ahead. Our Cuphead Grim Matchstick guide has tips for each of the dragon’s three phases. Thankfully, like all Cuphead levels, the art style and sound design makes each crushing defeat an oddly joyous experience.
Let’s get this out of the way. It may take you more than a few tries just to get comfortable with the first phase. You may die early on, because this fight is unlike any other that you’ve played up until this point.
Cuphead doesn’t have solid ground to stand on. Instead, you have to jump across small clouds that constantly move across the screen. Think of it like one of the Super Mario levels that keeps moving, pushing you forward unless you want to die. The clouds aren’t organized in a neat pattern either. Sometimes you merely have to step off of one to land on another; other times you have to jump then dash to safely land. If you fall off a cloud, you’ll lose a hit point and you’ll only have a couple seconds to reposition Cuphead safely on another cloud before the next hit point goes.
The dragon is quite large so as long as you’re facing him, you can keep piling shots into his frame. Grim will, of course, try to stop you by unleashing a few tricky attacks of his own.
When Grim arches upright and his eyes start swirling, he’s about to shoot laser rings at you. At first, it’s three rings. Later on in the phase, he’ll shoot four. The final ring is always pink, which means you can parry it if you’d like. The important thing to know about his laser attack is that he always directs the lasers to wherever you were at when they first started to form in his eyes. If you’re quick enough, you can avoid them altogether, without even having to jump and dash over them. The worst place to be when he does the laser rings is at eye level, simply because your vision will be obscured when jumping over them.
Grim also shoots fireballs from his mouth. He will puff out his chest and take a deep breath in before unleashing one or two fireballs. The fireballs move in a predictable zigzagging pattern, up and down the screen. The best way to avoid the lone fireball is to dash past it as it’s going down. The best way to avoid the dual fireballs is to dash over the top one before it moves towards the top of the screen. Alternatively, you can dash between the two fireballs, but this requires better timing.
What makes Grim’s first phase so tricky isn’t the fireballs and laser rings themselves, but his tail attack. Two or three times throughout the phase, you’ll hear a “wiggle” and see the end of Grim’s tail swaying at the bottom of the screen. This is your cue to move — quickly. In just a moment, the tail will ram upwards and make a vertical blockade across the sky. If you make contact with the tail, you lose a hit point. The tail attack is one you simply have to get a feel for. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if the tail is on the right half of the screen, move to the left half, and vice versa. Because the clouds constantly move. You can get caught in an inescapable situation if you aren’t careful.
Luckily, this phase only takes around 30 seconds if you consistently shoot Grim. So jump and dash and avoid his three attacks.
We will say that it might be best to simply restart the fight if you take any damage in the first phase. You’ll likely need some spare health later on in this fight.
Grim’s second phase is the easiest of the three once you figure out the pattern. In this phase, Grim repositions himself on the left side of the screen, expels his tongue, and has a marching band of little fire dudes run across his tongue. The main thing you need to avoid is the fire dudes. Some of them will stop in their tracks, crouch down, and then jump across the screen in an upwards cannonball motion. This move is telegraphed to where you can tell if they’re heading left or right.
The best way to avoid these attacks is to stay on the highest cloud on screen. If you’re up high, the most you’ll have to do to avoid getting hit is jump and land safely on the same cloud. The smoke from Grim’s nostrils will periodically turn into flames, too. So you can’s get too close.
Because the movement of the clouds drags you closer to Grim at all times, we highly recommend using the Chaser or Roundabout weapon, which have the power to hit a target while not facing in their direction. This phase is very awkward if you have to face Grim while shooting, simply because you’ll have to keep moving away from him.
As we said with the first phase, if you take damage here, you may just want to restart.
Grim’s final phase is easily one of the hardest segments of the whole game. Grim has three heads now, each of which shoots out small fire orbs that gravitate towards you in a weird, hard-to-dodge motion. While we said the Chaser is a great weapon for the second phase, you don’t want to use it at all while he’s spitting fire orbs at you. Hitting a fire orb with a shot breaks it open and sends a small bit of fire north, south, east, and west. These can be very hard to dodge while jumping across the clouds.
The trick here is to avoid the fire orbs but never make contact with them while shooting. It takes a bit of practice, and it’s likely you’ll make a mistake or two (hence the need for full health going in).
Grim’s second attack here is to turn one of his heads into a flamethrower. The large flame covers the midsection of the screen. You either have to be on a low or high cloud when the attack begins to avoid getting hit. In our experience, going high is the best idea as you have more space to work with during the attack. This also gives you an opportunity to get off a bunch of shots without fear of getting hit by fire orbs. You can switch back to the Chaser here to make sure you’re hitting him repeatedly.
Grim will repeat this cycle until he’s finally knocked out for good.
For weapons, we recommend using the standard Peashooter and either the Chaser or Roundabout. Use the standard Peashooter for phase one, the Chaser or Roundabout for phase two, and a combination of both for phase three.
As for Charms, the extra Heart is the most helpful here, especially if you can get to the last phase without taking damage. If you’re having trouble with the attacks in the first or second phase, though, you may want to try the Smoke Bomb. The Smoke Bomb allows you to avoid damage while dashing.
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