Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course Review - The Perfect Top-Up

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The Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course characters enjoying making a soup together.

After five long years, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, has finally come along to top off the original release. And, unless you liked the run n’ gun stages, it truly has something for everyone: because they’ve been justifiably ignored for Cuphead's last hurrah. The side-scrolling stages never could square up to the dopamine hit the game’s signature boss battles bestowed upon the victorious, and you won’t have any of them block your short road to the new credits sequence. The decision galvanises what made the game resonate with so many, forging a cheap and cheerful DLC pack that rounds out one of the best games of the decade with more of what made it the sweetest drink in the first place.

The Delicious Last Course isn’t just for those who mastered Cuphead the first time around. Because it’s a standalone story that revolves around bringing The Legendary Chalice back to life (who becomes playable in every old and new stage right from the get-go), you can access its content from the port on any of the base game’s four islands whenever you want, no matter how far you got through the original release.

For me, the add-on presented a dilemma: Would I go back and finish the second half of the game I originally didn’t have time for, or would I just throw myself to the wolves and get on with the new stuff? Firing it up again after five long years meant relearning how to micro-manage two weapons, two specials, ducking, flying, dodging, parrying, and knowing when to admit that my loadout wasn’t the best choice for the job at hand.

A fish-like enemy with a witch on its head fights in Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course.
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Table of Contents

Sip Before You Glug

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After wisely deciding to relearn the controls against some early bosses, I jumped aboard the boat at set sail for the aptly named DLC Isle: home of a magical baker, a living mountain man, some kind of marshmallow wizard, the Godfather as a bug, and an anthropomorphic dog pilot I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more of around the web real soon.

It’s a relatively small hub space with limited environmental secrets to dig out, but beyond signature boss battles, it comes with a new weapon shop, a place to test out Chalice’s unique moveset, some NPCs to interact with, and a neat little mystery involving a cheap item, a ghost peeking out from behind a tree, and a puzzle I didn’t have time to solve in the end that I’m sure will result in some secret boss battle I’ll never see.

To pad things out a little further, a load of other boss phases come back as new challenges found in a castle in the sky if the completionist approach is your jam. You have to rely on parrying to best them, though: it’s the fan-favourite pacifist challenge made official. It can make them a little less engrossing, sure, but they’re a neat little treat if you just want more Cuphead. Likewise, new weapons and the existence of a new character with accompanying traits breathe new life into the base game if you’re the type of fanatic who has to finish it with every configuration possible.

A yeti-like enemy fights Cuphead in Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course.
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This Cup Runneth Over With Content

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There’s no way to check exactly how long I spent putting down each of these new members of the game’s colourful cast. Looking back, I’d say none of them ever took more than 90 minutes from the first attempt, which would mean chipping away at each of the game’s five primary bosses took around six hours.

The finale, which came as a surprise, took closer to two hours simply due to my own refusal to admit my loadout wasn’t the best fit. Clearing that unlocks an even harder difficulty of every new fight, turning each brawl up to eleven to add a few more hours to the challenge as optional content.

Now, a six- to eight-hour-long content patch after five long years might not sound like much, but it’s only in retrospect that I’ve come to understand and accept it for what it is. Originally scheduled for 2019, it wasn’t just increased scope that led to the add-on’s delay, but a pandemic that, by StudioMDHR’s account, made things like remote working, avoiding crunch, and organising a live orchestra for the soundtrack all things that needed to be addressed: which is fair.

We likely won’t know for some time whether any lofty ideas ended up on the cutting room floor due to the unique working conditions of a pandemic, but we do know that its asking price makes it about a buck per unique boss. That’s technically more expensive than the base game, but it’s also a very silly and not at all serious metric for videogame pricing and more of a needless observation that, if you’re reading, I’m surprised made it through edits.

A horse enemy swings a sword at the protagonists in Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course.
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Aged Like Fine Wine

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And that circles back to what I think makes Cuphead and, by extension, The Delicious Last Course one of the greatest games of the last decade. Like any good video game, the boss battles know how to be thrilling, while ensuring that the grandiose spectacle of it all remains fair.

With every new boss, you go in thinking you’re never going to be able to do it: that it throwing ten projectiles at you from every direction is cheap, unfair, and just plain not fun. But you figure something new out with every attempt. You work out where to stand, what to pay attention to, what you can parry, and when the boss just stands there, ready to accept the hundreds of bullets your shotgun fingers can dish out in a slim three-second window. It all boils down to learning what is essentially a long, complicated, and delicate dance: those tiny strides eventually amount to a satisfying achievement, and it’s well worth sticking around for.

Though I doubted my own ability to complete the original game, going back to where I initially stopped after beating the new content showed that I had nothing to worry about. A bunch of older bosses I had never tried only lasted 15 minutes after I’d persevered through The Delicious Last Course, proving that the skills I learned in those half-dozen hours were enough to get me through the rest of the game.

They’re harder, but the single-island setup naturally encouraged me to keep at it. The end was always in sight, and the gentle prod was all I needed to finally finish one of the finest and most game-y games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in recent memory.

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course strips away some of the less interesting scenarios and polishes what made it a standout success. It’s a little on the short side given the long wait time, but it’s justified by its bargain price and immediately obvious love and attention for its addictive and fair gameplay loop.
PC

This game was reviewed on PC. Code was provided by the publisher.