When Cuphead first launched on Xbox in 2017, audiences quickly fell in love with its 1930s aesthetic, big band soundtrack, and slew of challenging but memorable bosses. Since then, Cuphead has made its way onto other platforms such as Switch and PS4, become a Netflix show, and most recently released its triumphant new DLC – The Delicious Last Course.
While bosses deserve all the praise they can get, Cuphead also contains a few platforming levels that are often overlooked. Inspired by classic racing and shooting games like Contra and Sunset Riders, these precarious levels require you to dodge obstacles and incoming enemies to reach the finish line. If you need a break between boss fights. The race and gun levels are a great palate cleanser – although some are certainly more fun to play than others.
6 Forest Madness
Forest Follies is probably the first run and gun stage you’ll encounter, and it’s definitely the easiest to beat. It almost feels like a tutorial for these platforming levels, teaching you what to look for, while also foreshadowing some of the challenges ahead.
The main thing to watch out for when playing Forest Follies is the overwhelming amount of enemies you can see on screen at all times. Deadly Daisies can spawn anywhere – including above you – and Toothy Terrors are unbeatable enemies that make jumping over gaps even more terrifying. Luckily, pink-tipped bulbs are also found everywhere and can help you quickly build your super meter.
5 Sturdy crest
While Forest Follies ranks last for simplicity and simple design, Rugged Ridge is almost the complete opposite. Rugged Ridge is perhaps Cuphead’s most frustrating run and weapon level, and it often feels overloaded with ideas that might have worked better as entirely separate stages.
The first part of the level has you sneaking past invincible pyro heads while dodging mountain lions trying to knock you off the stage. You will then have to survive an elevator ride filled with Clay Golems and Grim Jr. before eventually arriving at the most difficult platforming section in the entire game. Rugged Ridge is perhaps the only stage that makes you want to quit and face a boss instead.
4 perilous docks
Perilous Piers is on the same island as Rugged Ridge and is a more focused and refined level. It’s eerily reminiscent of the scene from Super Mario Bros. where Mario must cross a series of bridges while Cheep-Cheeps flies at him in all directions. Cuphead takes this idea and expands it to create a thrilling seaside adventure.
After dodging the Fishy Flyers in the opening section of the level, you’ll come up against a host of other aquatic creatures such as crabs with platforms on their backs, as well as the infamous Kaptain Krustacean. The giant lobster swims towards you, occasionally shooting lightning bolts from its claws to keep you on your toes. Perilous Piers is a challenging level, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and full of fascinating ideas.
3 tree crown disorder
After clearing the relatively straightforward Forest Follies, you might think that every run and gun-running stage in Cuphead will be an easy undertaking. Treetop Trouble wastes no time showing how difficult these steps can be and can easily send you to a screen game within the first thirty seconds. Luckily, many of the skills and tricks needed to clear this stage will be essential for later battles, and Treetop Trouble does a great job of teaching you what it takes to survive.
Tight platforming sections, a plethora of intimidating enemies, and a mini-boss might seem like a lot, but Treetop Trouble also provides a few quiet areas to catch your breath. One of the main lessons this step teaches you is how to gauge the distance of your dash attacks. You’ve probably dashed to escape enemy attacks, but Treetop Trouble will improve your reflex time and show you how to dash short and long distances.
2 Fairground fever
Both running and gun stages on Inkwell Isle Two are inspired by circuses and contain colorful and creative areas and enemies. Funfair Fever specifically has everything you’d expect to see at a carnival, including clowns, balloons and, of course, a sentient hot dog that throws ketchup and mustard at you. Wait, didn’t that happen to you when you were a kid?
The whole aesthetic of Funfair Fever is reminiscent of Dumbo’s circus, while an incredibly upbeat melody plays in the background. As Cuphead navigates through the circus tent, he’ll traverse five distinct sections, each with their own enemies and obstacles. While five seems like a lot, each one isn’t too difficult, and the variety of actions you’ll need to perform in each one keeps one section from feeling outdated or boring.
1 Funhouse Frazzle
There are a multitude of reasons why people enjoy going to local fairs and carnivals. Incredible entertainment and delicious snacks may be motivation for some, but one thing that has been a staple in the industry since the early 1900s is the funhouse. Whether it’s a hall of mirrors or spinning tunnels, these short adventures are meant to disorient you, and Funhouse Frazzle replicates them perfectly.
Of all the run and gun stages, Funhouse Frazzle offers the most creative and unique mechanics, which makes it stand out from the rest. You’ll need to effectively manipulate gravity by parrying pink cards to protect yourself from onslaught of projectiles and enemies. The bright colors and multitude of background animations can be a little distracting, but there’s no better feeling than stepping out of a funhouse after you’ve managed to see through all of its tricks and traps.
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