It’s been a moment or two since the release of the Cuphead base game. It was way back in 2017 that Cuphead finally saw the light of day, after having teased us for a while. When it did arrive, it was pretty much faultless as a game; everything from the art design to the gameplay being bang on. But now, after a few missed release dates and some five years later, the much anticipated Cuphead – The Delicious Last Course DLC has finally arrived from Studio MDHR. Obviously I had to play it and attempt to blow the cobwebs off my platforming “skills”, diving straight on in. But should you do the same? Well, come with me to a whole island and I’ll attempt to explain why yes, you absolutely should.
Oops, minor spoiler there, but please do read on.
We’ll cover the story first of all, mostly as the narrative in the base game was very good indeed. Luckily, the same high standards have been upheld here in The Delicious Last Course and as we begin the expansion we are invited to go to Inkwell Isle Four, a whole new location in Cuphead, before being introduced to Ms. Chalice, another character who is doomed to live eternally in Limbo. Or so she thought. See, by getting one of the other characters (Cuphead and Mugman) to eat a cookie, they are able to swap places temporarily.
From there, in order to ensure that Ms. Chalice is able to escape Limbo permanently, we are introduced to Chef Saltbaker, who made the cookie in question. He tells us that he can make a dish that will free Ms. Chalice – it’s just he needs some ingredients finding. And guess who has these ingredients? Yep, a series of bosses scattered about the island. There doesn’t seem to be anything left to do except go and grab said ingredients and free Ms. Chalice, so off we pop. There is a twist in the story, but no spoilers here.
One of the unique things about Cuphead, the base game, was the outstanding visuals, and I am pleased to report that everything is just as good, if not (whisper it) even better, in The Delicious Last Course. Everything from the ridiculously catchy theme tune to the way that the bosses and the whole new Isle have been designed just oozes quality, and the development team at Studio MDHR certainly seem to have pulled out all the stops when it comes to graphics and also sound. The new soundtrack is easily as good as the first, and overall it is very much like an episode of a cartoon from the 1950s: same feel, same look, same sounds, but playable. I really cannot overstate just how good Cuphead looks in stills, but in motion it is on a whole other level, with silky smooth animation. Full marks for Studio MDHR here.
Now, a good DLC needs to add to the base game, and here the news is extremely positive as well. The big addition in The Delicious Last Course is the whole new Ms. Chalice character, who plays a lot differently from Mugman and Cuphead. Ms. Chalice can be used in all the previous levels as well as the new expansion, merely by equipping a new charm; a cookie. Once this charm is equipped, Ms. Chalice will replace the active character and away she goes. This does add issues, as you can’t use the Smoke Bomb any more (this one charm saved my ass more times than I can count in the base game), but luckily, Ms. Chalice does come with some advantages. For instance, she pretty much has an auto parry, merely by dashing, and this makes timing a lot easier. Her dodge roll also grants (very) brief invincibility, and so learning to time it correctly will be in your interest.
It isn’t just Ms. Chalice that makes a debut though as there are not only new weapons but new charms to buy and try out as well. I’m not going to go into all of them here (I believe in leaving something for you to find when you play the game), but I will mention my favourite new weapon – the Crackshot. What this is is a homing bullet that will track enemies (on stages where there are minions, it may hit them instead of the boss, but all is fair in love and Cuphead), and thus leaves you free to concentrate on bouncing around the screen like a hyperactive spaniel, trying to stay alive. I’ll also only mention one charm (not the super secret one that you will want to find) and this is the Heart Ring, which gives you health back for the first, third and sixth successful parries that you carry out. Using this item and doing some other things can see you carrying a lot of hearts into battle. In fact, there is an achievement tied to having nine hearts at the same time.
The gameplay in Cuphead – The Delicious Last Course is as good as ever as well, but that does mean it’s still as hard as you can imagine, especially for my ageing reflexes. Even my eleven year old son, who fancies himself as something of a gaming ninja, took a full day to beat every boss, and the new addition, The King’s Leap. Yes, instead of the old run and gun levels, there are now a series of challenges introduced to us by the King of Games, who tasks us with defeating varieties of his minions. This gauntlet of foes is based on chess, with pawns, knights and other pieces, all the way up to the queen, ready to take on and defeat. The twist? You can’t attack, so all the various foes have to be defeated using only the parry move, which is about as hard as it sounds.
All in all, this is very much evolution not revolution, but given the sheer inventiveness that has gone into the bosses, this is no bad thing. Although the ice wizard type boss thing can get lost.
So, a conclusion then and with Cuphead – The Delicious Last Course it’s a fairly simple one – go and play it. What has been created in Cuphead – The Delicious Last Course is beautiful to behold, the right side (just) of frustratingly hard, and will keep you playing for a while, all as you spend time with Ms. Chalice and work with the new weapons. I’m struggling to fault this expansion at all; even its apparent brevity isn’t a drawback when you realise that you can use the new stuff in the old game, bringing new strategies to old bosses.
Simply put, you need to play Cuphead and you need to play The Delicious Last Course.
Cuphead – The Delicious Last Course is on the Xbox Store