As you may have guessed, we love single-player games. We share our love every day through the work that we do, but the pace of this industry means that we rarely get the opportunity to stop and look back.
Join us this week as we celebrate the best that single-player gaming has to offer as part of Single-Player Appreciation Week.
Cuphead was released more than two years ago, on September 17, 2017, and has maintained its same charm ever since.
Some games came before Cuphead, such as Bastion, and after, such as GRIS, that captivated players not first by their gameplay and mechanics, but instead by their look and feel—narration, soundtrack, atmosphere. While the run-and-gun gameplay in Cuphead is a joy, everything else is what caused so many to first fall in love with the game.
Cuphead‘s beautiful art style was inspired by rubber hose animation, commonly used by Disney in the 1930s. Rubber hose typically features characters with arms and legs drawn as flowing curves, without wrists or elbows.
Cuphead was not the first game to feature this wacky style of animation—it can be found throughout the Kingdom Hearts series, Epic Mickey, and Skullgirls, among others. However, Cuphead is the first game to offer a full rubber-hose cartoon experience, using its art, music, visual effects, and every other element about the game.
Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that has held true in the video game industry. Karate Champ, a Japanese arcade game from 1984, is often credited as the first player vs. player fighting game. Street Fighter came out in 1987, and Mortal Kombat followed in 1992. Today, dozens of games are just like these.
However, rarely do we see rifts in the gaming community where fans will accuse one fighting game of copying another. Each series has its own unique twist, such as how Marvel vs. Capcom opened the door for the tag-team fighter genre, but a foundation exists in almost every fighting game: a character selection screen, combo mechanics, meters and gauges, special or finishing moves, and more.
Although Cuphead can not be credited with creating an entirely new genre, in terms of gameplay, no one can question that it sets itself apart from other games in very distinctive ways. For more than two years, no game has been compared to Cuphead—until earlier this month.
With the announcement of Enchanted Portals, social media was spun into a frenzy. During the week Enchanted Portals’s trailer was uploaded to YouTube, Cuphead began trending on Twitter. At the time, the overwhelming sentiment was that Enchanted Portals is merely a Cuphead copy. This seems to have since toned down since then—its once 80% disliked ratio on YouTube has now nearly evened out.
One should have little doubt that Enchanted Portals takes inspiration from Cuphead, at the very least. While each game’s story and characters are different, Enchanted Portals’s art style, gameplay, and big-band jazz soundtrack are dripping with Cuphead influence.
While if Enchanted Portals’s similarities to Cuphead are excusable is up for debate, the existence of its trailer has brought attention back to the 2017 classic. What some fans are harshly criticizing as a cheap imitation may actually turn out to be the catalyst that helps everyone reappreciate and more finely examine Cuphead as one of the most gorgeous masterpieces of this era.
Enchanted Portals’s success will ultimately hinge on whether fans are able to accept it as a game created by a developer passionate about Cuphead and rubber hose. The alternative is that the game is written off as a quick cash grab, attempting to benefit from everything Studio MDHR created years before it.
No other game in recent history may be quite as charismatic as Cuphead, and now is about time that we saw a true Cuphead copycat. Rather than shouting Enchanted Portals down, let us watch and see where it goes. If Enchanted Portals finds its own style, it could turn out to be a great game; if it does not, it becomes a reason for everyone to talk about Cuphead again. Both are big wins for video games.