Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course serves sweet redemption for GamesBeat

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course serves sweet redemption for GamesBeat

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Cuphead gets ready to release its big DLC ​​add-on, The Delicious Last Course, on June 30th. This $ 8 expansion will add new bosses, weapons and Miss Chalice, a new playable character that comes with unique abilities including a double jump.

For fans of Cuphead, there is a lot to expect. For GamesBeat, the thought of more Cuphead can feel a little intimidating. We have, um, something of a story with the original game.

So when I got the chance to play The Delicious Last Course during the Summer Game Fest Play Days event in Los Angeles last weekend, I was determined to do well and put some respect back on GamesBeat’s name.

And I did just that, and managed to beat the demo boss – a devilish ice magician who could turn into a fridge, a snow monster and a giant snowflake – after trying for a little less than 15 minutes. Now, I know, this may not seem like the greatest achievement in the world, but it still felt great.

Aside from my own narcissistic quest for glory, it’s easy to see that The Delicious Last Course will serve Cuphead fans well. It is more the boss-based animation chaos that made the original such a big hit. It’s just more, which is exactly what good DLC should offer.

While sunbathing in the light of my victory, I also had a chance to chat with Maja Moldenhauer, studio manager and executive producer at Studio MDHR. I had to ask her about the development of Cuphead’s big DLC, but first I had clumsily asked for recognition.

This is the boss I beat on the Summer Game Fest Play Days demo.
This is the boss I beat on the Summer Game Fest Play Days demo.

GamesBeat: Normally I would not ask this, but since we have a small reputation with Cuphead … you saw me play the demo. I want you to go to the minutes and tell people how I did it.

Moldenhauer: [laughs] Mike, you did phenomenal, and I enjoyed watching that knockout.

GamesBeat: Was DLC always in the cards for Cuphead?

Moldenhauer: The origin of it came after the launch of the game. Like many developers, there are some things you can not get due to time, budget, such limitations. We could not get them into the core game, but we could not let go of these things, get them out of our memories and thoughts. One thing is that we wanted to make Chalice part of the trio of heroes. Again, we could not get to that in the original game. And then there were tributes to the comics that we still wanted to pay tribute to. There were only things we could not let go of.

GamesBeat: Chalice is interesting. I did not realize she was dead, I guess, until a while ago.

Moldenhauer: Yes, the plot is that she is trapped in the astral plane, which is a kind of ghostly universe. She eats this magic cake that brings her back to life. Sorry, she does not. Mugman or Cuphead eat the cake and they change places. That character goes to the astral plane and Chalice becomes real. The whole story of DLC is that they are looking for some magical ingredients so that she can become permanently alive.

GamesBeat: Is it also a game thing? When you hit DLC, can you play like her without equipping the charm?

Moldenhauer: No, you always need the cake charms.

GamesBeat: How does it feel now that you have Cuphead as this multimedia franchise? You have the Netflix program, the goods. Is it more than you imagined before?

Moldenhauer: Absolutely. It’s been a while, you know, since the original game came out. The Netflix series has already closed season one. But it still does not really work for us. This was never even in our minds, that this would ever happen. It’s wild. It is not possible to put it into words.

GamesBeat: There’s a lot in this DLC, a lot of new bosses, the new character. Given the time it takes, was it ever you thought you could spin it to Cuphead 2?

Moldenhauer: In terms of content, it could probably have been an independent game. In terms of storyline, it fits better as a DLC with the original game. And just considering the animation style, we thought we would group everything as one chapter. We broke the idea of ​​an independent quite quickly.

GamesBeat: Chalice and all these new charms are playable in the base game, right?

Moldenhauer: Yes exactly. You do not even have to hit the base game to access DLC. You just have to hit a mausoleum. Once you hit the mausoleum of world one, a mysterious character will appear on a nearby shoreline or jetty, and he will transport you to DLC Island.

GamesBeat: What is the difficulty we are looking at here? Do you think you can make this harder than even the base game because of DLC?

Moldenhauer: No, I would say it’s a natural development when it comes to an extension of Inkwell Isle Three. When you play Isle One, the bosses and the patterns and health are a little easier. Then it moves forward. This is probably a natural sequence to happen after the last Inkwell Isle in terms of challenge level.

GamesBeat: After working on the bass game, were there any lessons you learned there that you applied to DLC?

Moldenhauer: A lot of it was procedural stuff, which made this more efficient. The number of frames of animation in the DLC, we have really pushed and tested ourselves in terms of how far we can take animation in the game. There are lots of frames on this DLC island. We have not done an actual inventory check in terms of how many frames compared to the core game, but I would say that they are very close to this island.

GamesBeat: Is there a point where this almost looks too good for old-fashioned animation?

Moldenhauer: No, that’s a good point. I would resemble DLC in moving a bit away from the early Disney era and closer Fantasy epoch. Layers and layers of effects, sparkles and all that, it’s definitely a little later, the last few years of 2D animation.

GamesBeat: It’s a sublime thing to compare it to!

Moldenhauer: Absolutely. I would say that it is a goal for us, to get there. That is the standard we were working towards, in that direction. We’re not there, of course. We took the time we needed to make sure the quality was there. We did not just rely on the stocks for the success of the original game. We really wanted to give the fans something new, something inventive, creative, exciting. Nothing they had seen before.

GamesBeat: Another big part of Cuphead is the aesthetics, the music and everything else. Is that another big part of DLC?

Moldenhauer: Okay, to put it in perspective, the original game had around, I think there were 60 to 65 musicians on that soundtrack. This time we have more than 110. Recording the soundtrack during covid proved difficult, due to capacity constraints in the rooms and stuff, but we did it. Kris Maddigan is the composer again on the soundtrack. He surpassed himself, of course. You will hear influences from Rococo to early western movies, but all within the same underlying jazz that we had in the original game.

Check?
Check?

GamesBeat: I thought it was interesting that the run and gun levels do not appear as much in DLC. Is it about focusing on what worked best in the original?

Moldenhauer: I would say that it was more that we just wanted to experiment with something new, something we had not shown or talked about yet. We wanted there to be a moment of surprise for the fans when they get their hands on it. The purpose of the platform stages is to collect coins, so that you have money to go to the store. We wanted to experiment with something new when it comes to how to make money. It was more of an experimental matter.

GamesBeat: Chalice’s double jump is pretty nice. Is it hard to go back to Cuphead or Mugman after being pampered with it?

Moldenhauer: There is probably a small curve when it comes to rehabilitating the moveset after playing with Chalice for so long. But it clicks back. You get used to it. It is complementary. There are things, for example, that I do not play very well with Chalice’s dash parry. I very much prefer to time my hope. I think it will only satisfy different preferences.

GamesBeat: Dash pairing is nice, and it’s interesting, but sometimes you find that you’re looking for pink objects when you see them, and you can hit an enemy or projectile by mistake.

Moldenhauer: Exactly, exactly.

GamesBeat: How does it feel to be so close to launch?

Moldenhauer: Euphoric. We are a very small and flexible team. Many of us are in the weeds. For example, I colored the game again this time. To step out of it and see it as a whole is wild. Seeing all the pieces come together. We are so excited. We are really excited. We are probably most excited to see the fans’ reactions.

GamesBeat: The coloring process, how is it?

Moldenhauer: Everything is still on paper. It’s not on celluloid, given the cost versus what it looks like. Animators, they start by creating something, a design for a boss. Then they go to key images, how it will react. Then it ends up in the middle. When that animation set is finished, it has passed to me. I put another layer of animated paper on top. We clean and paint it. Then it’s what is scanned in. It is colored digitally. This is the first time in the process we use digital.

GamesBeat: How many drawings would you color in a productive day?

Moldenhauer: It really depends on the boss. I talk a lot about mileage internally, when we make forecasts, in terms of how long a manager will take. It all depends on the details. That’s really what mileage is. It can be anything from six minutes per frame to about 14 minutes per frame.

GamesBeat: How does it feel to get people here and play this now?

Moldenhauer: It feels great. I can not say if it is skewed by what everyone has been through the last two and a half years, or the fact that we are finally delivering and sending this, but it is above what we expected. We are very proud of that.

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