Cuphead is one of the most difficult games of the year. In lieu of participating in Movember, Liam Maguren decided to stream the game instead. Misery ensued.
I’ve always wanted to participate in Movember without doing the actual mo’ part (the world needn’t be cursed with a mouth resembling a sweaty armpit with teeth). I’ve also kept a loving eye on Cuphead, the boss-rush sidescroller that pays tribute to both the unique beauty of 1930s animation and the nails-through-the-thumbs difficulty of classic shoot-em-ups.
When the game released a month before November, my brother and I came up with a live-stream charity concept: play the game non-stop until the credits rolled. It was meant to be a slight, fun, silly display of Manliness™ intended to get strangers to hit the ‘donate’ button. But, like everything that stem from a fragile sense of manhood, it was a sad floundering of numbskullery that bared real physical consequences – namely a scraping pain on the roof of my eyes.
Taking a videogame holiday isn’t a new thing to me. Back in my pubescent youth, game-binging was a completely normal and economic lifestyle choice. You would hire a relic known as a “videogame disc” from the “movie rental store” next to an “Eagle Boys Pizza.” Rather than dropping a hundy on Splinter Cell or the new Jak n Daxter, eight bucks would give you the weekend to clock it.
For a jobless teenager, it was basically the same as owning the game, but only if you had skills, microwaveable foods, and no desire to see your friends for two days. That’s how you cheated the system.
I’ve strayed from that path. I no longer own a microwave, friendships are meaningful now, and my weekends are as precious as Pringles on a desert island. All that remains are my 1337 skillz and 2006 lingo, boiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.
I figured that’d be enough – I did 100% Super Meat Boy after all – and the nostalgia of revisiting a common practice from my early years excited me. And it’s not like game-binging is an odd thing to do today – hordes of people are willing to take sick leave when a new GTA arrives.
But all the games I used to binge only had a couple of difficult spots. With Cuphead, every level is a difficult spot.
The first boss made this hellraising fact immediately clear, a fight against a pair of slot-machine-morphing frogs that took close to half an hour and a bucket of death to complete. “This is fine,” I thought, unconsciously quoting the meme of the dog in a burning house.
Two hours later, we defeated a forest blob, an evil sunflower, and a zodiac star sign riding a unicycle. World 1 was done for. You’d think this would be a good thing but, like the sight of a lone seagull when lost at sea, this was the faint hope that prolonged the torture to come.
World 2 threw all fucks out the window. It’s bad enough to have a magical pond face tell you “You’ve died 127 times. Shame.” It’s worse when that number nearly doubles dogfighting an Egyptian genie. He was a monster.
Forty five minutes. That’s how long it took to pass the fifth level in the game. There were other bosses in this section, but they remain suppressed under the blur of that fucking genie.
At the 4.5 hour mark, powered on cold pizza and powdered coffee, World 3 opened up. There is no celebrating; there is only dread. This is the point where we started doing the maths. If it took 4.5 hours to beat the two “easy” worlds, how long would it take to beat World 3 and the ominously titled ‘Finale’? If they’re no harder and herald just as many levels, then 9 hours at the least, right? But what if World 3 is twice as hard as World 2? And what if the Finale was twice as hard as World 3?
This wasn’t fun anymore.
By the time I arrived to the possessed ghost train level, enjoyment was gone. Suffering was gone. My brother was gone. All that was left was my automated flesh vessel holding the controller and the last fragments of free will leaking out of my face like a stroke.
I was one with the game. I was a controller. I was Cuphead. Long live the new flesh.
The three Worlds had beat me into a cartoon killing machine. When I reached the finale, I was at peak performance, like a combination of Rocky and Drago. If I died, I died. Nothing else mattered. And it took me the running time of Rocky IV to defeat this devil.
I had successfully completed Cuphead in 9 hours. My expression is not one of a champion, but that of a shrivelled soul reclaiming his mortal coil.
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That night, my head throbbed. I could feel the roundness of my eyes. I kept waking up at random intervals and continuously made tiny stress burps that smelled like caffeinated pizza. My only reprieve from this pain and filth was knowing that I did this for charity.
…I should have grown a fucking moustache.
See our review of the notoriously and punishingly difficult Cuphead here.
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