Video Game Review: Cuphead!!

Hello, everyone! Once again, I apologize for being away for so long. I’m a bit late on this review, but I’m so in love with this game, I just have to rant about it to you!

Therefore, I bring to you. . . my Cuphead review!!

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Released at the end of September 2017, Cuphead is created by StudioMDHR and is available on XBOX one, Steam, and Microsoft Windows. Cuphead has received extremely positive reviews from pretty much everywhere, ranking 10/10 on Steam, 88 on Metacritic, and 4.5/5 on Microsoft.

The Story

When Cuphead (left) and his friend Mugman (right) lose a gambling bet with the Devil, they are presented with two options: either give up their souls, or collect the souls of runaway debtors. By game default, you go with the second option. . . otherwise there would be no game! Thus begins an incredibly difficult journey around Inkwell Isle.

Gameplay 

You play as Cuphead, and can have a buddy co-op play as Mugman. It’s a run n’ gun styled game, in which you shoot glowing bullets from your fingers. Most stages are boss battles (the bosses being the runaway debtors), though there are a few platformer levels where you collect coins to spend on weapon/ability upgrades. As with all games, these upgrades are crucial to your success – having the right bullets for a particular boss can really make or break your battle.

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DID I MENTION THIS GAME IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT??

Sure, the controls are really simple, but the stages are ridiculously tricky! For starters, you only have 3 HP (certain abilities can boost this, if you choose to purchase them), making each life extremely valuable, especially with so much stuff falling and launching toward you. While the difficulty can be frustrating, I find myself laughing more than anything when I die. It’s challenging, but in a good way. It’s all fair, a very possible to beat with patience and skill. Timing is everything. Don’t expect to beat a level on the first try. Especially since each boss undergoes multiple transformations, it’s hard to know what to expect until it literally hits you. Luckily, the game is pretty fast-paced, so it doesn’t take much motivation to keep trying, and it’s SO satisfying to finally win!

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If you are doing co-op, your buddy can revive each other by parrying your ghost before you float away, but that’s easier said than done. Risking your own lives to save your friend can bring more harm than good – plus they only come back with 1 HP. It’s difficult to say whether co-op makes the game easier or harder, at least from my experiences. Having double the bullets makes it harder to focus and see what’s going on, but it’s nice to have an extra hand on deck. It’s also nice to have someone to suffer along with you.

This video sums up my Cuphead experience quite accurately: https://www.facebook.com/JustMeBeingACircle/videos/1491688894249876/

Style

The game’s 1930s cartoon aesthetic is what initially drew me to the game trailers. Drawn in the “rubber hose” style used by Walt Disney and Fleischer Studios, and heavily inspired by their themes, Cuphead feels like it’s right out of their era. Complete with a fitting jazz soundtrack and beautiful hand drawn art, Cuphead’s style alone earns the game an A+. The fact that the artists and animators used the same techniques as the artists back in the 30s shows serious dedication to vintage authenticity. Many of the character designs are inspired by popular cartoon and pop culture icons of the decade, including jazz singer Cab Calloway inspired King Dice.

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At a glance, Cuphead looks like a lighthearted, upbeat game. In a sense, this is true, but the surreal themes of hell, soul stealing, devil, gambling, etc. are fairly dark – though not surprising. StudioMDHR noted the Fleischer brothers as a big inspiration, especially their short “Swing, you Sinners!” To summarize: When Bimbo the dog is caught stealing a chicken by the police, he escapes into a nearby cemetery. There, things get freaky when the tombstones and ghosts sing an eerie (yet catchy) tune, punishing him for his crimes. Every second gets progressively creepier, leading up to the ghouls basically chasing him into Hell. It seems a bit overkill,  torturing a dog for chasing women and stealing chickens, but what do I know? That being said, the Fleischer brothers have created some dark, creepy toons in general throughout their career.

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While on the topic of 1930s cartoons, I feel it’s necessary I do bring up the controversial elements this style brought to Cuphead. Yup, you guessed it:

Racism in 1930s cartoons, and how it applies today

I won’t dive too deep into this, since I believe this topic alone is worthy of its own post, but I feel it’d be wrong to completely brush it off. The creators of Cuphead are Canadian, and when asked about the racist connotations, claimed to be unaware of them. It’s not like they are literally or intentionally spewing racist dialogue. I believe they didn’t mean any harm, especially since people outside of the United States are sometimes less aware of our racist history.

For starters, cartoons in the 1920s/30s came about when vaudeville shows were popular and were heavily inspired by them – including the minstrel aspect. The black body/white glove style donned by Cuphead – and Mickey Mouse – is based off the stereotypical minstrel costume. Characters drawn like this, such as Bimbo, are often portrayed as little troublemakers, who endure endless slapstick punishment with seemingly no physical consequences, mimicking the dehumanizing violent “humor” toward minstrels. Themes such as gambling and punishment were common (like in “Swing, you Sinners!”). Though I appreciate old cartoons for what they’re worth, watching a cartoon character get basically tortured makes me a little uneasy, I’m pretty sure this was seen as comedic back in the day. It kind of has this, “Ha, serves them right!” attitude about it. Since StudioMDHR wanted to be true to the 1930s cartoons, it’s no surprise they chose a theme and plot similar to something the Fleischer brothers might’ve created – and it’s a great story nonetheless – but I believe it’s important to know why these themes were so popular back then.

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While most people stand by their positive reviews of Cuphead, many people were disturbed by the imagery and themes and refused to support the game. With characters like Mickey Mouse still prominent, I think it’s difficult to completely remove the old styles from current media. That’s why it’s so important to discuss these tropes, recognize our history, and find ways to rise above it. For example, rapper Jay-Z does an excellent job using 1930s cartoons to depict America’s racism in his music video for his song “The Story of OJ.” Just like the lead character in the video does, it’s important to look back in time and comment on the issues rather than ignore them, no matter how disturbing they may be.

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Conclusion

Cuphead is truly a well-made game in every aspect. While I do recommend it, I do stress the importance of remembering the past.

Thank you for reading my review! 🙂 I hope to stay more consistent with my postings.

Have you ever played Cuphead? What are your thoughts on the game? Feel free to drop a comment!

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TOP 9 Pokemon Games

With only one month until Pokemon Sun & Moon are released, the hype is pretty strong among Pokemon fans! Trailers have been showing so several new mechanics and hinting at interesting story lines, and many fans have already formed strong opinions on the game and its new Pokemon. As difficult as it may be, I’d like to break away from the latest news, just for a moment, and look back at all the great (and maybe not so great) elements of the previous Pokemon games, and see how far we’ve come in the past two decades. If you have time to cram in a game you haven’t played yet, here is my personal list of worst-to-best, that hopefully can provide some aid or strike up an interesting debate!

*This list contains only the main games for Pokemon. N64, Gamecube, Mystery Dungeon Series, etc. are not included.

9. Black/White/Black 2/White 2 (DS)

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I’ll be honest, I really didn’t like Black/White. Everything about it really didn’t jive with me. I wasn’t a fan of the new Pokemon designs, the graphics looked clunky, your friends in the game are kind of annoying, the story wasn’t that great, and it honestly just wasn’t that great as a whole. The seasons thing could have been cool, but it wasn’t. It happened way too quickly for me to really enjoy. I have yet to personally meet someone who actually liked Black/White, but I guess they were liked enough to actually receive direct sequels.

8. Diamond/Pearl/Platinum (DS)

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Honestly, I found these to be a little too similar vibe-wise to R/S/E, if that makes sense. Wireless/wifi trading – and having internet connection in general – was groundbreaking, I’ll give them that, because struggling to keep connection with the gamelink was troublesome, but I found the games to be a little. . .boring. It really just felt like another Pokemon game. Catching Pokemon, battling through gyms, defeating some sort of enemy team – you can only do it so many times. D/P/P weren’t horrible, but there really wasn’t anything there to make them better than the earlier games.

7. Leaf Green/Fire Red (GBA)

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I think it might have been a little too early to remake the original games. Yeah, having updated graphics was nice, but they didn’t feel necessary to me, and the addition of the Sevii Islands wasn’t really enough to make a whole new experience, compared to ORAS’s Delta Episode. LG/FR weren’t bad games, they’re definitely worth checking out, but other than being able to trade with R/S/E, there really wasn’t much of a point for me. Now, if the original games could be remade for 3DS, I’d be stoked.

 

6. Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (GBA)

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So. Much. Surfing. It’s really no wonder how I found a shiny Tentacool. I think the coolest thing about R/S/E were the graphics. Yeah, it’s a given that they should improve over the Game Boy ones, but it was still neat to actually have full scenery and color in a Pokemon game. More cool new stuff was added, like contests, but we lost the day/night feature. With the addition of new teams, the game you got changed the story line a bit more drastically. That being said, some kind of story beyond “Hey, Team Rocket sucks, can you get rid of them for us?” was added, though I can’t stay the plot was really the game’s strong point. Having a new Pokemon game on a new system was cool, but it really did not match the excitement that G/S/C gave me. Also, after the additions Yellow and Crystal brought, Emerald didn’t really meet my “special edition” standards. On a side note, I knew braille for about a month from trying to catch the Regis, so I guess I learned something new from playing.

5. X/Y (3DS)

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After Black/White, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to attempt X/Y. Luckily, the 3DS Pokemon games were a huge step up. Though the 3D could have been neater and utilized more, the anime-ish graphics were aesthetically pleasing, as well as the game’s French-styled scenery as a whole. I’m also a sucker for Pokemon-amie. Though it was the most recent and high-tech game, it somehow had a back-to-basics feel. Plenty of beloved Kanto Pokemon appeared in the wild, plus the inclusion of the original starters and legendaries was a great way of bringing the past into the present. I’m still a little bummed that we never got a Z version. . .

4. Heart Gold/Soul Silver (DS)

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Fantastic remake of G/S! Everything I loved was there.  .  . So keep reading to find out why I thought G/S/C was so fantastic! I have HG/SS ranked a little lower though since it didn’t have the same excitement around it for me, and wasn’t as big of an advancement for the series as the original was. However, the first Pokemon in your party would follow you around and it was super cute! WHY did they take that feature out??

3. Red/Blue/Green(JP only)/Yellow (GBP/GBC)

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The games that started it all! When the Nintendo eShop released them for digital download, it was hilarious to hear the new reactions of people who were playing them for the first time. “Where is the Daycare to lay eggs? Why can’t my Eevee evolve into Sylveon? Why is Magnemite only electric? I WALK SO SLOW!” Sure, R/B/Y are pretty dated, but they are still excellent games that should be played by all Pokemon fans. Very basic game play, simple story line, but still pretty fun compared to some older games in different series. Even if the game is too simple for you, there are hundreds of crazy hacks and glitches you can do to entertain yourself, like catching Mew, multiplying your items, visiting Glitch City, and encountering Missingno. Yellow especially was neat since it loosely incorporated the anime’s story, so you had a Pikachu as your starter and it followed you around, eventually are given all 3 original starters, and you occasionally encountered Jessie and James. Plus, it was for Game Boy Color, while the originals were for Pocket, so every town had its own unique color scheme.

2. Gold/Silver/Crystal (GBC)

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If the game battery didn’t die so freaking fast, it would be perfect, especially for its time. Having a new region and group of Pokemon was super exciting for those who played or watched through the first region. At the time, we had no idea there would be more than 151 Pokemon, so having a sequel game was a really big deal. G/S/C really set the pace for every game after it. Pokemon were gendered, they could hold items, lay eggs, more types and evolutions were added, you had some sort of gadget with neat apps. As annoying as some of the phone calls were, it was still a cool feature that I wish stayed in the later games, along with the radio. Crystal was also the first game to give you the option to play as a female, which was especially appreciated among little girls like me. Though the graphics were still subpar (as they seem to always be), it was the first in the series to be in more than one color, and the Pokemon battle sprites in Crystal could move, so it was definitely a step up. Being able to play through the Kanto region was awesome, and it would be cool to be able to play through old regions more, but I suppose cramming now 7 other regions into one game may be a bit of a hassle. More than anything, the day/night feature was stellar, despite the toll it took on the battery (and the amount of times my mom yelled at me for playing past my bed time). I really hope to see Sun and Moon bring this back, given the game titles.

1. Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (3DS) 

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It almost feels taboo to put the latest game as my number 1, but I was blown away by the 3DS remakes of Ruby and Sapphire. Tech-wise, it had the same features as X/Y, plus the Pokemon radar system, which made finding Pokemon SO much easier! The story was presented so well, I wish the actual anime was like this – maybe I would have kept watching it! Lots of the cut scenes were really cute, exciting, and even a little emotional, and the delta episode provided plenty of post-game fun. Flying with Latias and Latios was an incredible new experience. My only complaint is that if you don’t look at an online guide, finding all the legendaries may be a struggle, but in this day and age, that isn’t too hard to do. Even if you weren’t a fan of the original Ruby/Sapphire, ORAS is definitely worth checking out.

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So, how does your personal list match up with mine? Are there any games that you loved or disliked? How are you feeling about Sun and Moon so far? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

Pokemon 20th Anniversary!

Happy 20th anniversary, Pokemon!

I remember like it was yesterday where I was when I first learned about Pokemon. I was 3 years old when it first came to the US. My neighbor was showing me his new game he got for his GameBoy called Pokemon Blue. He was showing me how to look for Pokemon by walking through grass and surfing in water. It just blew my mind. I honestly don’t know why because I didn’t understand how to play really, but I knew I NEEDED that game.

Shortly after, my mom bought me Red version. I couldn’t read, so I didn’t really know what to do. I knew you could catch pokemon and battle (I knew numbers, so I knew about leveling up), but I didn’t know what the names of the pokemon were or how to save. I would play for hours on end, just so I could make it past Veridian City. The farthest I ever got was to Rock Tunnel in one sitting. I had the game guide – which is now a torn-up mess than not even tape can save, but it didn’t help since I COULDN’T READ. But I liked the pictures and it came with stickers, which I made a pretty picture with. It wasn’t until one of my 4 yr old friends (who could read) taught me how to save that my love for pokemon exploded into something uncontrollable and amazing.

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Soon, everyone I knew was obsessed with Pokemon. It seemed like the entire world had fallen in love with its charm. I had a plush Pikachu that I carried around with me. I even shared my Happy Meals with him. I watched the TV show all the time, and when my mom gave me and my sister the first tape, we watched it every day until she got us more. I continued to get more games, cards, toys, clothing, comics, even bed sheets – I was a walking embodiment of Pokemania. From cereal to underwear, Pokemon was everywhere, and I had to own it all.

I never stopped loving Pokemon. I still play the games religiously. I don’t watch the new episodes, but I still rewatch my tapes. I hardcore fangirled when I met Veronica Taylor, the voice of Ash Ketchum, last year at Emerald City Comicon. I don’t think it’s possible for me to ever stop loving Pokemon. With Pokemon Sun and Moon soon to be released, I look forward to many more years filled with my favorite series of all time.

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Also, for old-time’s sake. . .who remembers this classic ad?

How long have you been playing Pokemon? Do you have any Pokemon memories you’d like to share? Are you doing anything special to celebrate the 20th anniversary? Comment below! Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

 

Video Game Review: Catherine

Don’t judge a book by its cover – in this case, video game. I remember when I first saw the video game Catherine. I was in my local GameStop with my boyfriend when he spotted the game and told me, “I own this game. It’s really cool!”

So when my boyfriend showed me the game cover, I was a bit turned off by the cover art…

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I totally thought it was a sex game. Who could blame me?

Well, I trusted my boyfriend’s taste in video games, so I played through Catherine. I am happy to say that it is NOT a sex game. Yes, it is definitely an adult themed game, but still not a sex game.

Created and published by Atlus, the masterminds behind the Persona series, Catherine is a puzzle-platformer adventure game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Not a sex game.

You play as a 32 year old man named Vincent, who is honestly kind of a deadbeat and spends his evenings drinking the night away in a bar with his equally-deadbeat friends. He is carefree, enjoys living alocne, and has no ambitions as far as romance goes. This frustrates his girlfriend Katherine, who is his polar opposite. Stern, business oriented, and always planning for the future, Katherine is eager to marry Vincent and start a family.

I guess opposites attract, right?

Anyways, one night at the bar, Vincent meets a hot little blonde number named Catherine, gets really drunk, wakes up with her in his bed the next morning. After meeting her, Vincent can’t go a night without disturbing nightmares where he must climb a tower of crumbling blocks in a hellish dimension inhabited by sheep. These sheep are actually other people sharing Vincent’s nightmares, sentenced to climb to the top of the tower to atone for their sins.

That’s where the puzzle portion of the game kicks in. You must push and pull the blocks to reach the top of the tower. Your goal is to ultimately keep climbing so you can reach the cathedral and be saved from your sins – and all the climbing.

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The puzzles get progressively harder by adding in trick blocks that crumble, shoot spikes, explode, etc. Sheep will occasionally try to push you off the blocks. The boss fights become more terrifying, in which a disturbing  monster will chase you up the tower. Overall, just finding the right path becomes harder. Luckily, between stages, you are able to share climbing techniques with other sheep.

You get to choose your difficulty for the stages. I am honestly not that great at puzzles, so I set it to easy, but it was still actually really hard. Prepare to be frustrated.

And if you bought the game because you thought it’d be a sex game, you’ll be really, really, really frustrated.

If this game sounds really annoying to you, don’t worry – I haven’t even explained the best parts yet.

When you’re NOT having a disturbing nightmare, you are balancing between Katherine and Catherine. I’m generally not a huge romance fan, but the tension between Vincent and the two girls in the cut scenes is extremely engaging. As Vincent continues to cheat, things only become more intense. His relationship with Katherine progresses, yet Catherine continues to show up in his room.

My favorite thing about Catherine is it’s one of those games where your actions determine the outcome of the game. Will you choose the sexy, carefree Catherine? Will you start a family with Katherine? Maybe choose neither?

The interactive portion of the game mainly takes place in the bar. You are able to chat with your friends and the other customers, who will give you hints about the plot and pass time. Don’t forget to drink a ton – getting drunk increases your climbing speed in your nightmares.

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While at the bar, Catherine and Katherine will text you, generally about how you are doing or about something that happened earlier in the cut scenes. The game offers a selection of preset texts for you to choose from. However you respond will affect the outcome of the game. To see where you’re at in case you have a preferred option, a meter will appear at the bottom of the screen. If the arrow is pointing in the red, you are leaning towards Catherine. If it’s blue, you’re leaning towards Katherine.

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Before each stage, you are asked a moral question (ex: “Is it okay to lie?”) and are given two answers to pick from. Your choice will also affect the meter.

As annoying as the puzzles are, the nerve-wracking interactions between Vincent and the girls make it all worth it. It forces you to face some uncomfortable, tempting, and sadly realistic situations for those experiencing dishonesty in a relationship. The game brings a fresh outlook on relationship drama with a horror spin – if you cheat on your girlfriend, prepare to pay the consequences.

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Have you ever played Catherine? What did you think? Comment below!