Aaron tucks into the delicious last course of Studio MDHR’s animated run-and-gun platformer, Cuphead’s Delicious Last Course. It’s the last course, and it’s delicious.
You don’t need me to tell you how drop-dead gorgeous Cuphead looks. But I’m going to anyway. Studio MDHR’s mastery of the hand-drawn, rubber hose style evocative of 1930s cartoon serials never fails to be absolutely on point; it’s there in every jump of the frame, inventive boss transformation, and the way faux film scratches appear on screen as the fights grow ever more intense. The recently released DLC, cleverly subtitled The Delicious Last Course, proves the developers haven’t missed a step in the five years since the base game released and wowed everyone who played it.
In addition to an entire new isle to roam, the main inspiration for an Inkwell return trip is Ms. Chalice being made a playable character. Her fleeting appearances before always hinted at a deeper story, and while The Delicious Last Course is first and foremost a gameplay-focused experience, the tale of Cuphead and Mugman trying to get Ms. Chalice her body back is a narrative entry point I greatly appreciate. So, with that light bit of context provided, and after hopping on a boat to this mysterious new isle, it’s off to wallop another six or so bosses (with a few hidden secrets littered in-between).
The first blighter I come up against is Mortimer Freeze who, as his name suggests, suffers from a serious case of frostbite. Starting off as a maniacal wizard lobbing down cards and icicles from high above, dodging between them using Ms. Chalice’s horizontal dash is relatively breezy. The fun really starts, though, when Mortimer takes on the form of an abominable snowman and rolls about the screen. It quickly forces me to use the air just as much as the ground, where I need to stay low. It’s yet another example of why watching for tells is crucial in a Cuphead fight.
Trying to bob, weave, and duck beneath so many incoming obstacles still leaves me a bit gutted that there isn’t a way to just sit back and enjoy all these new animations without fear of death. However, getting progressively better at surviving each of Mortimer’s three stages serves to remind me of the satisfaction that can quickly set in once you enter that unique Cuphead flow state. Being the first boss I tackled in the DLC, I know now that Mortimer could probably be made much easier with the help of the newly added charms and ammunition types. That said, by the time I enter his last stage and finally land that knockout while simultaneously trying to stay atop melting platforms that continuously rotate, an unmatched feeling of elation hits me. I’m no Dark Souls guy, but I imagine it’s a similar level of satisfaction.
Pre-release, I recall many players calling for Studio MDHR to make The Delicious Last Course not as painstakingly hard as the main adventure. Luckily, that is far from the case. All six of the main new bosses are just as meticulously intricate to navigate and take down as the 15 featured before. The difference now, however, is that Ms. Chalice taking up a charm slot sees her given a unique moveset that quite literally changes the game.
For example, whereas when playing as Cuphead or Mugman, you’d have to jump into the air to land a parry needed to build your super move, Ms. Chalice’s dash doubling up as a parry makes the act a lot less intimidating.
Ms. Chalice doesn’t explicitly make any of the boss fights any less daunting, but the parry dash – coupled with her additional HP and ability to double jump – does help take the edge off most ever so slightly. The DLC only took me a couple of hours to run through, and more useful was a new ammunition type called the crackshot. You see, while most traditional firing methods require you to persistently aim at your target (as in most run-and-gun games), this can be aimed anywhere from any position and it will still hit a mark – be it the boss itself or one of its underlings. The main Cuphead game’s homing shot functioned similarly, sure, but believe me when I say the crackshot is far superior.
It would have been easy for Studio MDHR to completely isolate The Delicious Last Course from Cuphead and Mugman’s larger story, and the developers are on record as stating that they did consider splitting the DLC into its own standalone game at one point. Keeping it a tight package has turned out to be another stroke of genius, though, because it means Ms. Chalice can be used to tackle any of the classic bosses, too.
This bite-sized second outing might be brief, but even after just a few minutes of battling foes, it’s evident there was just as much love, care, and passion poured into The Delicious Last Course. And as far as great game ingredients go, you can do a lot worse. If anything, the DLC offers players previously put off by the original game’s brutal difficulty a more approachable way to play, via Ms. Chalice’s distinct gameplay changes. If this is indeed the last Cuphead course, at least there’s plenty of reasons to go back for seconds.