Done in perfect 1930's cartoon style, the game features one of the most impressive, adorable and timeless visuals of all time, it's truly worth it to simply watch it as a cartoon, it also seemingly implements new UI elements into it for the game itself.
The game features 3 types of gameplay, Run' N' Gun' as your typical sidescrolling platformer shooter such as Megaman, a bullet hell Shoot Em Up with everything to dodge in your little airplane, and the Contracts where you take individually unique fights against a multitude of characters with their own mechanics.
No, this s is not harder than Dark Souls.
No, this is not the Dark Souls of platformers.
No, this isn't even remotely the hardest platformer or shoot em up game out there.
The appearance of difficulty that most people tend to latch on to is also the game's biggest issue, it comes from what I mentioned above in the Gameplay, each individual fight and stage features it's own gimmicks, which at first sounds fun and surely took a long time to develop, but it's not always a good thing. The first world is a good example of how most games go about their stages, they feature a unique gameplay or mechanic that require skill and timing and pattern recognition, for an experienced gamer the first World took at most 5 deaths, never more than 2 on each stage.
How ever World 2 is where the game starts to become hectic, by throwing Every Possible Mechanic the developers could think of to Every single stage, it becomes not as much a challenge of skill but a challenge of "learning new mechanics".
It's like if you are playing a game perfectly and then suddenly a prompt comes up saying "DO A BACK FLIP" and you think that's a little weird since you are playing Beach Volleyball, so when you don't do the back flip you die and are forced to restart the game.
It feels odd, it's not as much "Difficult" it's more "clustered" than anything.
Donkey Kong Country 3 has the same exact issue, the game has so many levels and almost each single individual level has a different mechanic or a gimmick. At one point you have to appreciate it, but at another you are constantly halted in your progress every time the game asks for a new button to be pressed. Just like DKC3 both Cuphead and it are great platformer games, I love DKC3, but ask anyone that plays those games and they will say the same thing.
It becomes counterintuitive.
It must be said that the game is amazingly well done, any indie game with this much care deserves to be as popular as Cuphead is becoming, and the artstyle as mentioned above is alone reason to make this a classic, but since it takes no effort to appreciate how cool the game is, instead I would like to focus on it's "difficulty".
Aside from each level containing 30 different mechanics and gimmicks changing every few seconds, the game also has limitations.
- Using a Super does not provide I-Frames afterwards, during the Super you are invincible but right after the Super ends you can get hit again. Which means during the Super you have no control of your character and are just floating in mid air doing your thing, and after gaining control back you may find yourself inside a projectile with nowhere to go, getting hit for free.
- You cannot Parry everything, only limited projectiles. Parrying is cool, but since you can't do it on every projectile is yet another gimmick the game adds to the already overflowing pile of it.
- Some platforms are RNG. At some times you may find yourself with literally nowhere to go other than getting a hit, cause you can't parry everything, and some platforms appear randomly on screen (Within selected areas obviously), so dashing forward/backwards or doing anything would get you hit.
- The player can reach a platform offscreen, but standing on one hurts you.
It's not a great sign when the game gains free hits on the player without the player benig able to do something about it.
Since people love to compare anything to Dark Souls, compare that; In Dark Souls you can physically dodge every and any move in the game by simply pressing Roll at the right time, there have been people able to beat the whole game at level 1 or using a Torch or without Rolling or without Running and other crazy set ups, cause the game is specifically designed so, if you got what it takes, you can dodge literally anything.
But not in Cuphead, sometimes you gotta take a hit and there's nothing you can do.
In the end, Cuphead is a great game and the developers did an amazing job, but while it's a challenging game for sure the actual difficulty doesn't come from the platforming or the bullet hell or the pattern recognition itself, it comes from trying to line up so many mechanics and gimmicks + some RNG.
For most; Cuphead is going to be a really difficult game.
For some; Cuphead is going to be a challenging game, that sometimes decides to kill the player.
For anyone; Cuphead is a wonderful adventure.