It’s very hard to deny the cultural impact that Cuphead has had since its initial release. The arresting Fleischer-styled animation method is enough to turn heads alone, but fantastic character design, intricate yet deviously difficult boss fights, and a bombastic score, all seal its place in the gaming pantheon. Cuphead even has an animated show on Netflix, which is quite the achievement for a game that’s only five years old at this point.
So now here we are playing the Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course DLC, after its initial reveal in 2018. Unfortunately, like many games, development issues arose thanks to the pandemic, not to mention the painstaking hand-animation that drives Cuphead, as each and every frame must be drawn, animated, and programmed into the game. It’s an astonishing feat, but one that pays off.
If you didn’t already know, The Delicious Last Course adds about half a dozen new bosses to the mix as well as a new island to explore, but most importantly, it introduces the new playable character of Ms Chalice. Though she isn’t playable in the way you might assume, she adds a nice touch of variety to proceedings and shakes up the formula so that even seasoned Cuphead…heads can get something new from this latest DLC.
Diving into the new DLC is straightforward, and you needn’t worry about completion of the main Cuphead game either. Once you unlock the DLC, a boat pops up, ready to whisk you away to the new island, where you get to meet the Saltbaker, who is on a mission to gather ingredients from the local bosses to make a special cookie. One of these cookies is also the key to Chalice Girl being playable, as you don’t get to choose to play as her, instead, Cuphead or Mugman must equip the cookie and then they start a level as Ms Chalice, essentially using up an item slot.
The trade-off here is that Ms Chalice has a very different moveset, with a double jump, a dash that also works as a parry, and a dodge roll that has a short few frames of invincibility. That might sound like it makes things easier, but the new set of enemies are clearly designed with this set of characteristics in mind, including a new set of special levels that only Ms Chalice can compete in. These are a series of fights that you can only defeat with some very precise parrying, and they’re absolutely brutal. You definitely need Ms Chalice’s jumping and dash-parry here, trust me.
On to the main event though, and here the new bosses absolutely shine. It seems that the aim is to focus on platforming and utilise Ms Chalice’s abilities, as most of these feature a lot more vertical platforming, so the double jump comes in very handy. There’s only one shmup level where players take control of a biplane, and there are no run-and-gun stages here either. I think the devs have taken notice of what works best about Cuphead, and it works to deliver a distilled and focused DLC that represents the very best of the original.
Glumstone the Giant is one of the first bosses to pop up, but the wrinkles added to the different phases are as hilarious and surprising as ever. This one in particular really makes me laugh, and the third face is so ridiculous it’s quite a thing to see on your TV screen. Another highlight is Mortimer Freeze, or the ice-themed boss, a brutally difficult fight with a huge amount of projectiles as well as a gargantuan snow monster taking up most of the screen. This fight feels the most tailor-made for Ms Chalice to me, as the double jump and the dash-parry are utterly essential to defeat the main monster and get through the odd pink flying enemy that you can parry.
There are some great shenanigans in the later stages of the fights as well (as you may have seen from Twitter), so don’t let your guard down. Each battle offers something interesting and different, and I especially love the penultimate fight, especially for its great rhythm and absolutely astounding character animation. Studio MDHR is at the top of its game, and while I’m sure the team are sick of hand-animating things for years on end, I really hope that Cuphead 2 immediately goes into production after this DLC.
For the price, this is also a fairly well-paced DLC. True Cuphead gurus might blast through their first session in about 3-4 hours (it took me a little bit longer), but once you get the knack like with previous enemies, this is possibly achievable all in under an hour. But therein lies the fun! The need to discover the rhythm, the pattern, the different phases, and slowly memorise it all until you don’t even take a hit until the boss’s second or third phase. This new batch of bosses gives me everything I wanted, while still keeping me on my toes.
There are also a few nice little extras dotted around. A couple of new weapons are on offer, each adding more variety to your regular attacks, giving you more ways to play with both Ms Chalice and the previous protagonists Cuphead and Mugman. A couple of items also await discovery but as previously mentioned, these come at the cost of using Ms Chalice. I will say, there are a couple of fights where it feels beneficial to swap between the playable characters, especially with one item that occasionally rewards you with health if you can execute a parry.
While most of the bosses here feel designed to work well with Ms Chalice, it’s up to you how you approach things, and both of the mug men are still perfectly viable. Between the new weapons, items, and Ms Chalice, there are plenty of ways to experiment. There are even a couple of mysterious items in the shop that may unlock some mysteries on the new DLC island. So be sure to poke your nose around the many different shops and every little nook.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is a chip off the old cup, gets pretty much everything right. It’s hard to complain about the Delicious Last Course DLC, but ultimately I would like a bit more here. It’s been four years, and I’m fully aware that the pandemic got in the way, as well as the arduous task of animating everything. However, if you treat this as a fun little bonus, then it’s going to blow you away. For the price, you’re definitely not being mugged off. It takes all of the best bits of Cuphead, throws in some neat new twists, and even lets you play in a few fun new ways. This isn’t a huge DLC expansion though, or Cuphead 2.
A brilliant addition to the base game that condenses the highlights of the original into a handful of fantastic boss fights, The Delicious Last Course is a constant delight from start to finish. About 4-5 hours of great new bosses, new ways to play, and a new character to get to grips with, Cuphead fans will be delighted to return to this world with so many new foes and new tools to kill them with.