Cuphead Overflows With Classic Cartoon Surrealism

Cuphead has arrived.

It’s been nearly four years since we started covering Cuphead on Cartoon Brew, so the release of the game yesterday had the potential of being anticlimactic. It’s anything but.

Cuphead delivers on its promise of letting anyone play a classic hand-drawn 1930s cartoon. I’ve watched more than a few of the walkthroughs and gameplay videos that have appeared on Youtube, and the sheer amount of joyful cartoon imagery in this project is beyond words.

The makers of Cuphead, led by creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer of Studio MDHR Entertainment, didn’t just use superficial elements of 1930s “rubber hose” cartoon design as a gimmick. The game is conceived from the ground-up in the spirit of a 1930s cartoon, packed with all of the outlandish surrealism and anything-can-happen possibilities of an actual cartoon from that era. It’s graphic overload to the max – some reviewers have even suggested that the sheer excess of visuals sometimes impedes the gameplay – but that visual exuberance keeps in spirit with the works of the Flesichers, Iwerks, and other classic animation studios to which Cuphead pays homage.

In the talk below, Jake Clark, an animator on the game, speaks about how they found specific inspiration from classic theatrical shorts and implemented those ideas into the game:

Everything about the production is pure class, including its music. Composer Kristofer Maddigan composed nearly three hours of era-appropriate music for the game’s soundtrack, an experience which he discusses in this interview.

A four-LP vinyl box set of Cuphead’s music is being released by IAm8Bit. Below, you can see clips from one of the recording sessions:

Cuphead is $19.99 and available for Xbox One (console exclusive) and PC (Windows 10 and Steam).

Cuphead. Cuphead. Cuphead. Cuphead.