Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is DLC worth savouring

Sweet and spicy — just the way I like it

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is an incredible expansion for fans of the base game.

When Canadian developer Studio MDHR first showed footage of Cuphead back in 2014, it immediately grabbed headlines for its unique presentation. Today, Cuphead is widely considered one of the best games of the decade. Fans have been waiting years to get their hands on the final DLC, and I’m happy to say that it lives up to the hype.

The irony of The Delicious Last Course‘s name (DLC) is that calling it “downloadable content” feels like a disservice. This is a true expansion to the base game. It features a new story, new upgrades, and new bosses, all done with the same level of passion and polish we’ve come to expect. It may not surpass the original game in terms of difficulty — something that has come to define the game for many people — but when it comes to animation, design, and inventiveness, the content here is some of the best yet.

Sweet and spicy in equal measure

DLC doesn’t waste any time getting you back into the action. If you haven’t played Cuphead in a while, I highly recommend playing through one of the early bosses again to refamiliarize yourself with all of the abilities. Even the earliest boss fights will put all of your skills to the test.  You won’t just be relying on your parry for high scores — you’ll need it to survive. It feels as if the developers know that you’ve already mastered the basics, so they aren’t afraid to throw new challenges at you right off the bat.

The boss evolutions in DLC are a thing of beauty. Some of my favourite boss fights in Cuphead were the ones that would entirely change the style of play in the middle of the fight. Memorizing and perfecting an attack pattern only to die to the next one is the name of the game. And the new bosses have ways to push your pattern recognition and reflexes to the limit in ways that the first game never attempted.

If you’d like to avoid about mechanical spoilers, I’d recommend skipping down to the next section. I’ll be covering a few mechanics that the game introduces that really elevate DLC to the pantheon of the best game expansions, so if you’d like to go in blind, jump to Ms. Chalice.

The first game had several levels that harkened back to the earliest bullet-hell shooters by putting Cuphead and Mugman in planes while avoiding objects that flooded the screen. In DLC, you can expect more of that, but you’ll also be balancing on top of your plane, fighting off dog-fighters as you try not to fall to your death. And if that wasn’t enough, get ready to keep your footing as the plane flips 90- and 180-degrees with the controls reversed. It’s fast-paced, chaotic, and difficult. And that’s exactly what I wanted.

Ms. Chalice is anything but a miss

Time and again, DLC manages to create immediately memorable bosses and characters through their designs and hand-drawn animation. As the fights evolve, the animations, music, and backgrounds evolve, too. One of the early bosses, in particular, blew me away with how many creatures were on screen, all working in tandem to bring about your death. If I wasn’t running for my life the entire time, I would’ve stopped to admire each character.

If there’s anything about DLC that’s going to be a point of contention in the Cuphead community, though, I imagine it will be Ms. Chalice. I don’t think anyone can take issue with her design or writing — okay, that might be wishful thinking — but I’m certain her abilities will generate a lot of discussion.

Having replayed the original game from start to finish before diving into DLC, it’s especially clear how powerful Ms. Chalice is compared to the original protagonists, Cuphead and Mugman. Not only does Ms. Chalice have a double jump, but she also has an extra point of health and a rolling dodge that makes her invincible. Some may see this as a detractor, but in my mind, it’s actually a good thing.

Ms. Chalice is an equippable item, so you’ll need to give up one of your abilities to use her. While she comes with three highly effective abilities, if there’s a loadout you’re comfortable with, you may not want to change it for her kit.

More than anything, though, she’s a great way to get less experienced players playing the game. Much like with Funky Kong in the Switch version of Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, Ms. Chalice gives players a slight helping hand without removing the challenge. And for those looking to get the most difficult experience possible, there’s still the option to play as Cuphead or Mugman. It’s all up to the player.

Using Ms. Chalice, I did find that DLC was easier than most of the later stages in Cuphead, but switching back to the other characters immediately absolved me of any positive feelings about my skill level. And that’s not to say that there aren’t any difficult stages. I beat my head against a wall for one boss fight in particular for the better part of an hour, even with Ms. Chalice equipped. Just don’t go in expecting any boss fights akin to The Devil or Dr. Kahl’s Robot in terms of outright challenge.

Putting the ‘core’ in ‘encore’

Studio MDHR is truly a world-class developer. Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is an experience unlike anything else out there thanks to top-notch animation, writing, and controls. I also want to give a special shoutout to Canadian composer, Kristofer Maddigan, and the team at Sweet Justice for creating another stellar audio experience. Everything from the smallest sound effects to the most explosive songs combine to create a wholly original setting.

The developers understand what their audience is looking for and they’ve crafted an experience that delivers on all fronts. They’ve created new plane levels that demand all of your attention, boss fights that surprise and punish in equal measure, and a story that’s as memorable as anything in the original game. This is a game targeted at their core audience, while also opening the experience up to new players.

There are some nice twists on the formula that I don’t want to spoil here, but rest assured, you’re in for some surprises that make The Delicious Last Course a must-play for fans of the original game.

Now bring on the speedruns!

You can play Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch.

Image credit: Studio MDHR

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