At the end of June, Studio MDHR will no longer be haunted.
That’s when the studio finally releases its Cuphead downloadable content expansion, Delicious Last Course. First announced in 2018, the DLC started out as a series of ideas that didn’t make it to the original game; things like homages to classic games and cartoons, or inspirations like the ghostly Cuphead character known as the Legendary Cup. As studio director and executive producer Maja Moldenhauer explained, these were ideas developers simply couldn’t let go of — even if it took five years to realize them.
“Na verdade, não havia nada no chão da sala de corte [when Cuphead was completed]”, Moldenhauer said of the DLC, in an interview with GameSpot at Summer Game Fest. “When we made the main game, every piece of paper [used for animation] made it up. Were things that were in the back of our minds [that made up the DLC]as homages to the designs we loved or the moves we loved, whether it was like an abominable snowman or a cowgirl or something, we thought, ‘We’d love a boss like that.
“It was all in our heads and haunting us,” she said. “I don’t think we would have been able to close this chapter without releasing them. The ideas were too good to pass up and move on.”
We spent some time experimenting with these ideas during Summer Game Fest, where Studio MDHR had one of the DLC boss fights available to play, using Ms. Chalice, the living version of the ghost from Legendary Chalice and the new character in Delicious Last Course. Play as Ms. Chalice looks very different from the original Cuphead and Mugman characters, however.
Where the original characters only have one jump but can get more air using a defense skill on certain types of projectiles, Ms. Chalice comes with a double jump from, uh, jump. Her parrying ability is a horizontal trait, which is perhaps more reliable than jumping parry, but doesn’t offer any additional moves as a reward for its execution.
Moldenhauer said that Ms. Chalice was an element the team wanted to do more with in the main game – and in a very real way, Studio MDHR realized that ambition, thanks to the fact that you can replay Cuphead with Ms. Cup. With the new mechanics, though, the idea was not to create a character that was easier to use than Cuphead and Mugman, Moldenhauer said.
“What we were doing was just trying to make it complementary,” she explained. “So if someone doesn’t have a good fast-twitch double jump for time trimming, they have this dodge trait. Vice versa, though, for me, I like to play Ms. Chalice, but that’s a component. which I don’t like. I don’t like the aftereffect when you dodge and what happens to it – I’m not very good with it. So I’d rather play a heavy level with Cuphead.
In practice, playing with Ms. Chalice requires something of a rewiring in regards to the way you think about a Cuphead boss fight. The double jump of Mrs. Chalice makes it a little easier to use in terms of dodging large enemy attacks that required careful timing with Cuphead and Mugman. Parrying, however, is a big part of a Cuphead fight: not only does it allow you to instantly disable an enemy attack, opening up screen space you sometimes need, but it also helps you charge up special abilities and EX attacks that allow you to stop. deal massive damage to enemies. Where parrying Cuphead has traditionally been enough to put him out of harm’s way for a moment, thanks to the way the jump parry propels him into the air, Ms. Chalice works as if you absorb the attack completely. This can often leave you open-ended and means you may ignore more defensive opportunities or find them more dangerous than you would with Cuphead or Mugman.
Ms. Chalice has a few other character-specific features that can give you an edge, but require trade-offs. To access Ms. Chalice, you must equip a specific Charm, one of the special items you can earn in Cuphead that gives your character useful benefits. The Charm you receive in the DLC swaps Cuphead or Mugman’s place with Ms. Chalice – she comes alive while one of them becomes a ghost. So using Ms. Chalice costs you this charm slot when you are playing. In addition to Ms. Chalice, the result is that while Cuphead and Mugman have three life, Ms. Chalice has four, making her use a little more forgiving.
She also has a dodge ability that is unique among characters, giving you a brief window of invincibility when you use her. The movement can be much useful in the right circumstances to avoid damage in a squeeze, but it is also highly situation-dependent. In tight fights without much maneuverability or requiring precise positioning of your character, like the boss fight we played, the dodge roll wasn’t all that useful. Like all of Ms. Chalice, she will be suitable for some battles in the game and not others.
Our practice session gave us the chance to fight a boss named Mortimer Freeze in the Snow Cult Scuffle level, which GameSpot previously saw as part of a Delicious Last Course practice preview. The mage Mortimer starts floating around the boss arena, tormenting you with deadly tarot cards and drops of jellyfish that march after you like soldiers. Damage him enough and he transforms into a giant, abominable snowman that also transforms into a fridge, doling out angry popsicles at you like flying monkeys and bombarding you with mortars in the form of explosive ice cubes. Finally, you climb above the arena to stand on some rotating platforms, where you fight Mortimer in the form of a giant, magical snowflake. The snowflake shape spits snow cones at you and likes to pop its own eye, which flies around, blasting lightning across the battlefield. It’s actually a little disgusting.
Like the other Cuphead battles, Mortimer Freeze is no easy feat – there are three total stages you have to fight through, each with its own set of mechanics. Staying alive in the fight is often a matter of careful placement, such as when the snowman summons icy swords from the ground beneath his feet, or when his ice cubes hit the ground and shatter into smaller cubes above. Play with Mrs. Chalice took some getting used to and looks significantly different from the base game characters. She excels in some areas, such as jumping over the snowman when he transforms into a giant snowball and comes towards her, but isn’t necessarily perfect for fighting thanks to her dodge dodge. Playing the character suggests that you might want to switch between Ms. Chalice and the original characters depending on the battle – although playing with her throughout the main game definitely offers a new challenge.
Moldenhauer said creating this new challenge with Ms. Chalice was also the most difficult part of Delicious Last Course’s development.
“It was easier to develop her with the new bosses that came out because we still hadn’t defined what the gameplay would be like, versus retroactively making her fit and work with the existing bosses because we didn’t want to touch them the same, and she had to. work with them too,” said Moldenhauer. “That was definitely one of the most challenging components of it all. Defining and creating different concepts and different bosses and boss fights and things like that, that comes very naturally because there are so many gameplay homages that we want to play, or reference art that we’re looking at. .”
There are some new references influencing what you’ll see in Delicious Last Course too, although Moldenhauer said the team has ensured the DLC doesn’t look drastically different from the base game, although it’s getting hints from some new sources. Influences are still coming from 1930s animation, although Moldenhauer has said that Studio MDHR drew on works that emerged in the late 1930s, such as Fantasia, as well as the cartoons that inspired the base game. Because the two parts were so closely linked from the start, they are still visually very similar to each other.
With Delicious Last Course closing the book on this Cuphead chapter, Studio MDHR may be looking to the future – but Moldenhauer wouldn’t let too much slip away about what the developers are thinking of doing next.
“There’s no shortage of ideas in our heads. We’re full of weird and quirky things that we want to eventually get to,” she said. “We love 2D animation, we love pencil on paper and the magic it brings in the digital age, so you can definitely expect that from us. We’re very open to different genres of gameplay. This was the first gate, and we’ll have to see for where you go.”
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