We were gifted and able to review Cuphead: Fast Rolling Dice Game published by The Op. For those who may be unfamiliar, Cuphead is a notoriously difficult video game fashioned in the style of 1930’s animation. Surely, nothing can replicate the fast paced, side-scrolling, run and gun play style of Cuphead, right? How can you avoid attacks, upgrade weapons, and defeat multi-staged boss fights? The Op knows how and they did it well. The game is complete with multiple bosses that increase in difficulty level as you progress, unlockables for meeting certain requirements and upgrades for your arsenal and health. The best part of this game is that it is just as anxiety inducing as the video game.
Setup is a few steps but easy to do. First you select your character (Cuphead, Mugman, Miss Chalice or Elder Kettle) and the appropriate dice and player mat. While all of the characters play exactly the same (as in the video game), they all have different colored dice as well as a player board that has their specific character. The boss decks come organized neatly in a row of what is reminiscent of cassette tapes while simultaneously looking like video reels of the golden age of cinema. The decks contain different boss fight with different stages as you progress through the deck. The first stage is easiest then becomes more difficult as the battle progresses. The decks are easy to set up as they have cards that will alert you when to stop before the next phase.
Play is devilishly simple once you get the rules down. You will draw three cards (four if there is a WALLOP! card), and these cards will show what you need to roll in order to avoid the attack and in what order they need to be avoided. The six sided custom dice are then rolled (as many times as you would like) and you place them on your mat to show that you have “dodged” the attack. Each face of the die is unique (shoot, duck, diamond, parry, jump and special). Once you place the die in the spot you cannot go back to the previous spot or reroll that die giving the game a sort of linearity as time goes on.
Certain faces will allow you certain abilities when you “dodge” them. If you match a parry card, you can obtain a parry token and use the token if another player perishes during gameplay (akin to reviving a player by parrying their spirit in the video game). Getting a wallop (diamond), will allow you to get a wallop card, which has a bonus that will allow you to recover health, deal an extra hit, or have an extra die face to use whenever needed. So in short, match the icons in the order the cards are placed on your mat in the order the attack cards appear on the boss attack mat. However, dodging does absolutely nothing to damage your foes. Should you roll a “shoot” icon on any of your rolls, you can place it on your board to do damage to your enemy while making your odds at dodging go down. A double edged sword of pushing your luck. One of your six dice is black and if a “shoot” token is rolled, it will count as two hits.
The game seems hectic as it is, frantically roll your dice as many times as you want until they match, hopefully sneaking in a hit or two as you go. This is Cuphead however, and that would be far too easy. The last thing to mention about this game is that it is completely timed. There is a companion app that is free, and recommended, for added ambiance. The game is played in rounds that replicated a few seconds of play in the video game. You choose a difficulty (easy, medium, or hard) and you roll frantically trying to dodge attacks and kill the boss at the same time. When the timer runs out any cards that did not have the appropriate number of dice with matching faces count as a hit to you and after three hits, your fragile Cuphead body will shatter and you will lose. Then you restart the whole thing over and try again and again (unless your buddies can pick up some of the slack and revive you with one hit point).
This game truly captures the essence of Cuphead and is just as fun and frustrating as the video game. Often times, video games turned board games do not capture the feel of their digital counterparts but The Op truly did a great job in creating the game. It is immersive, detailed, beautifully done and it manages to feel just as jarring as the video game. Unlockables, achievements, upgrades, battles and a companion app that has those jazzy tunes that get the blood boiling.
Language Barrier Playability: Easy, this game relies on symbols for 90% of everything. There would have to be some explanation on upgrades but that’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Replayability: Excellent. With a lot of content to explore, a grading system that tells you how well you played, multiple weapon options and achievements, this game is undeniably very replayable.
Artwork: Beautiful. The same art style as the video game. You can almost see the cards jumping to the beat of the music from the companion app as you play.
Quality: Excellent. Cards are lightly textured, each die has easily readable and well colored icons, cards are vibrant and colorful.
Strategy: Light. There is a push your luck mechanic and that is the only strategy for game play. Sure, you can change your weapons and add charms to increase your chances of dodging/scoring hits but all in all it really comes down to luck and speed.
Instruction Manual: Fair. There are some spots where the manual becomes a little too complicated in their description. There is also no place in the manual where they name all of the icons on the die. There are six sides and the only ones given names and importance are the shoot, parry, and wallop. The other two (jump and special) are what we decided to call them for the sake of the review and are not mentioned anywhere in the manual. It is not important to gameplay but this a little disappointing.
Organization: Excellent. Everything fits neatly into the box and all boss fights are in ascending order from left to right with individual boxes for each fight. An appropriate number of space is left in the box for all of the punched out tokens that will be used as well as for all four sets of dice.