Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course Review | Extra Tasty

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course Review

Back in 2017, Studio MDHR released their labor of love, Cuphead, into the world. Inspired by 1930’s animation, Cuphead is a run and gun shooter with an emphasis on beautifully over-the-top bosses, a loud and jazzy soundtrack, and a tough but fair level of difficulty. The game was praised by critics and fans alike for its well-crafted gameplay, jaw-dropping hand-painted backgrounds, and incredible animations. Cuphead went on to become a massive success, spawning an equally successful Netflix cartoon as well as being ported to Nintendo Switch and PlayStation after initially launching on Xbox and PC.

After many long delays, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is finally released. The Delicious Last Course (or DLC) is an expansion for Cuphead that takes Cuphead and Mugman to a mysterious new island full of bosses to fight and secrets to find. While the 5-year wait was long, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is an excellent expansion that is worth playing if you are a fan of the base game.

It’s important to set expectations appropriately with this one up front, The Delicious Last Course (referred to as DLC from this point forward) is an expansion to Cuphead, not a brand new game. The expansion adds one new island to explore, a number of new bosses to tackle, new weapons and charms to unlock, and the Legendary Ms. Chalice is now a playable character with some unique gameplay characteristics of her own. The expansion costs $7.99 USD (7.99 CAD, €7.99, £6.79) and took about 4-5 hours to explore the island and beat all the bosses. You will get more playtime out of DLC if you go for all the achievements which task you with things like getting A ranks on all the bosses.

While that may seem short, it’s a great example of the phrase “all killer no filler”. Let’s start with the music, because right as you open the game, the main menu now plays the new theme song for the expansion, the catchy bop that was performed on stage at the 2021 Game Awards. At the beginning of the linked video, Studio MDHR states that the soundtrack for the DLC features over 110 musicians, and that is definitely felt while playing the game. Every tune from the main theme, to the boss tracks, to the jolly island music is filled with such energy and emotion that it's hard not to tap your foot. I may be a little biased as I’m particularly fond of jazz and big band-style music, but I truly think this is one of the best soundtracks to be released this year so far.

Another big aspect of Cuphead and DLC is the visual presentation, and there are some moments of this expansion that surpass even the base game. The hand-painted watercolor backgrounds are stunning to behold, using a wide variety of colors and environments while still retaining that vintage look. Some backgrounds, like the one for The King of Games castle, are actually real physical models. The Cuphead Show had certain scenes that used real models as backgrounds and it creates a visually interesting look. The traditional 2D animation blending with real physical backgrounds creates this delightful contrast that not only injects some visual variety to the game as you play but also prompts the mind to wonder what a full game with this aesthetic would look like. All in all, the expansion is textured, highly detailed, and beautiful to behold.

Cuphead DLC Review

One of the big new additions is the new playable character Ms. Chalice. As the story goes, Ms. Chalice is trying to become a real person. She found the enigmatic Chef Saltbaker on the new island who enables her to temporarily come to life through a magic cookie, but if she wants to become real permanently, the cup gang needs to get a number of magic ingredients (held by all the major bosses naturally) for the chef to make a powerful new “wondertart” recipe.

The gameplay as Ms. Chalice needs to be approached differently than Cuphead and Mugman. For starters, in order to actually play as Ms. Chalice, you need to equip the magic cookie, which acts as a new charm in-game. Charms would give you various extra abilities like a teleport dash or an extra heart. So in order to play as Ms. Chalice, you are giving up getting one of those special abilities. To make up for this Ms. Chalice gets access to two new moves, a dodge roll, and a double jump. The dodge roll works like dodge rolls in many other games, if you dodge at the right time, you can pass through an incoming attack without taking any damage. Might not sound all that important but in a game like Cuphead where there is damage coming from all sides constantly, the new dodge roll ends up being a very helpful tool. Parrying also works a little differently for Ms. Chalice. In order to parry incoming pink objects with Cuphead and Mugman, they need to time a second press of the jump button to smack an incoming projectile. Rather than jumping, Ms. Chalice needs to dash into these pink projectiles. If you are used to using the double jump to parry, this change might cause a little bit of fumbling in the beginning, but for me, I was able to adjust fairly quickly. Outside of these changes, Ms. Chalice plays much like Cuphead or Mugman. I ended up playing most of the expansion with Ms. Chalice, mainly because of that powerful dodge roll, and she is also playable with all of the base game bosses which means you can return and approach some of those fights with a different strategy.

The D.L.C also adds a few new weapons and charms to Porkrind’s shop that can be unlocked and used in battle. The new weapons are Twist-up, Converge, and Crackshot. Twist-up shoots little gusts of wind in an upward arc, Converge is a 3-shot spread lightning attack that can have the spread tightened by using the lock-on button, and Crackshot has the ability to send out slightly weaker reflection shots that hone onto enemies. Each of these weapons also feature alternate EX attacks that you can use some of your special meter on and are decently viable, but none of them stand out as being any more or less powerful than anything that is available from the base game. But still nice to see more combat options added to the game. As for the new charms, there's The Astral Cookie (which lets you play as Ms. Chalice), The Heart Ring which restores hearts with every first, third, and sixth successful parry, and the Broken Relic, an item with seemingly no function that is involved with a mysterious side mission. While their influence may be smaller, it's still nice to see these new weapons and charms added in so that people can develop new strategies for taking on bosses both new and old.

Is Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course Hard

Now’s a perfect time to discuss the bosses. There are a total of 6 main boss fights, 1 secret boss fight, and 5 other “boss-like” encounters I will get into shortly. As one would expect, these main bosses all have multiple phases which drastically change not only their attacks but also their appearances and even the arena in some cases. One boss that’s a good example is Mortimer Freeze, the boss they showed prior to release. The fight begins as a wizard flies above spawning minions from their cloak that burrow and walk across the ground. They can also slam a giant whale onto the arena in an attempt to crush you. For phase 2, Mortimer summons an abominable snowman that can also shift form into a refrigerator that has a number of ice-themed attacks. Once you get to phase 3, the arena begins to rise into the air. Mortimer shifts once more into a giant snowflake that you must now battle while hopping between moving platforms. 

One of the most surprising fights is with a boss called “The Howling Aces”. This fight takes place in the air as you are being chased by the titular Howling Aces in their airplanes. The fight begins with your character on a small floating platform that you actually get to control, based on where you stand on the platform it will move to the left or right side of the screen. This will be important for dodging certain attacks. Phase 2 is fairly easy, it's just about dodging some slow-moving projectiles while your targets move clockwise around your platform. Phase 3 was a shock. You have to dodge lasers that spawn above you and try to snipe you. But after you successfully dodge the first 3, the arena shifts 90 degrees putting you on the right side of the screen, then upside down, then left screen, until you return to the bottom of the screen. Each of the bosses in the DLC has unique mechanics like this that need to be learned and mastered if you want to come out on top. All of the bosses visually are splendid to witness as they peel back their layers. Additionally, they offer the right amount of difficulty without feeling too unfair. Two fights in the expansion generate some annoyance by the number of projectiles and obstacles that are on screen at once, but ultimately with patience and time, you will be able to overcome these obstacles like any others.

I mentioned 5 “boss-like” encounters above, these battles are experienced in The King of Games castle. These fights aren’t like the other bosses because you are unable to use your weapons or charms. You may be wondering “how do you beat the boss if you can’t use your weapons?”. The answer is by parrying. These fights play out similarly to the mausoleum levels in the base game, where Cuphead had to parry pink ghosts while dodging normal ones in order to unlock new special abilities. Each fight in the King’s castle is based on a chess piece and has a unique way to battle it involving parrying. For the knight, it's a battle of perception, reading incoming attacks, and exploiting openings. However, you need to stay pretty close to the boss, because it won’t attack if you are too far away. Another fight with the rook involves blowing out candles by jumping into them and then parrying the face that's floating around the room. As I mentioned, these fights feel similar to the mausoleums, but with much more personality. Each of the mausoleums in the base game used the same or similar rooms and didn’t really feel different from each other whereas all of these fights in the King’s Castle feel like a cross between the mausoleums and a more traditional boss fight. It also serves to add some gameplay variety in that you need to approach these fights in a completely different way from all the other more traditional fights. 

The overworld map for the new island also has some fun interactive elements to be found within. Like the base game, coins are tucked away in hidden corners of the map. I mentioned there was a secret boss earlier and also hinted at an item called the Broken Relic, well once you purchase that item from the shop there is a little puzzle that needs to be solved in order to unlock this fight. Like some of the other fights, it's pretty tough but worth going through the minimal effort required to experience it. 

If there is one main criticism I would have of the expansion, it’s that there are no run and gun levels present. Run and gun levels from the base game playout like other 2D platform shooters like Contra where you move through level blasting enemies and jumping over obstacles to get to the end. Initially, Cuphead was going to be a boss rush style game until enough people said they wanted more traditional levels eventually leading to the game being significantly delayed but, ultimately it was a smart choice. While the new fights in the D.L.C are great and well worth the price of admission, I would have liked to see at least one or two run and gun levels to get another sense of exploring the new island as well as having another type of gameplay to break up the flow of moving from boss fight to boss fight. I mentioned earlier about some bosses having too many projectiles on screen at once, it annoyed me but that really is just a minor nitpick at best. Technically speaking the game runs very well, I ran into no obvious bugs, glitches, or crashes. 

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is a fantastic expansion to an already fantastic game. It offers more of what made the base game truly great while expanding on it in interesting ways. Bosses subvert expectations in fun and devious ways. Ms. Chalice and the new weapons and charms, along with a new batch of achievements, add a ton of replayability to the game as well as extending your time with the expansion beyond just getting to the end. The music and visuals just aren’t matched by anyone else in the industry. If you are a fan of Cuphead, the $8 asking price is honestly a steal.

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course | 9 | Excellent

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