Canadian indie darling Studio MDHR is on the precipice of releasing Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course. Five years removed from the initial launch, this spunky studio is ready to serve up another helping of visually stunning and challenging gameplay, inspired by 1930s animation.
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course (or DLC if you want to be cheeky) is not a follow-up nor a sequel. Instead, the new content expands on what the base game from 2017 offers. It introduces the Ms. Chalice character in a much more meaningful way. In Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, Ms. Chalice becomes a core member of the available characters to play alongside the titular Cuphead and Mugman. We’re also given a new isle to explore, new weapons, and of course, boss battles.
I had the chance to sit down with core members of the team including Chad and Jared Moldenhauer as well as Eli Cymet. The team showed off Mortimer Freeze, one of the new bosses in the DLC.
The Delicious Last Course content comes five years after the debut of the original game. Since 2017, the Cuphead has launched across all major platforms. Though, its DLC, which was first shown in 2018, took a while to cook in the oven. “It’s surreal right now, Chad Moldenhauer says. “But thinking back to how long it’s been since the first game was released, I think the best lesson we all learned is don’t announce the game too early you fools.” Although fans have had to patiently wait for the new content, Studio MDHR is readying themselves for the new chapter.
The studio sets up Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course in a slightly different way than the core game. Rather than have Cuphead and Mugman on the quest to collect more souls, the duo are called to a new island to help Ms. Chalice return from her ethereal state. In order to do so, the gang must acquire special ingredients for a Wondertart made by Chef Saltbaker.
Thus, players set off to collect these numerous ingredients. Something to take note of is how Ms. Chalice is integrated into the game. “One thing you’ll notice right away is that Chalice is fundamentally different than Cuphead and Mugman,” Cymet explains. “Unlike those two characters, she actually takes the form of a charm.” As opposed to using Heart or Whetstone, players must equip the Astral Cookie charm. In doing so, players can take advantage of the unique way Ms. Chalice operates. As opposed to Cuphead and Mugman, which play the same, Ms. Chalice has a double jump ability, dash parry, and invincible roll.
“We wanted to help players choose between that moment to moment tension. Do you have access to our full array of charms and ability granting options? Or do you play as Ms. Chalice?”
Immediately when jumping into the fight against Mortimer Freeze, a frigid wizard of sorts, the benefits of playing as Ms. Chalice were seen. She’s able to automatically parry a pink object when dashing into it. She also has an effective invincible roll to evade attacks. Also, the double jump just adds that extra layer of momentum when moving. It’s not to say that the difficulty curve is turned down but based on my hands-off impression of the gameplay, players should have some extra options when playing.
As expected, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course looks to retain that level of love and care in the rubber hose animation stylings. In the Mortimer Freeze stage, snowy cultists make up the background. Studio MDHR was elated to say that each one was animated individually. Stages are also said to evolve throughout the battle against the boss. As Mortimer Freeze transitions from wizard to an abominable snowman and later into a nefarious snowflake, the stage transforms and players are brought to the sky. It’s an added level of texture never seen in Cuphead to this extent.
The new isle is a totally new environment. Although I didn’t get a chance to see the entire layout, Studio MDHR called it the “biggest little island” and says it is full of secrets. “More quests, more challenges, more secrets, more things that you’re not even seeing on the map right now that you may have to plunge the depths a little to discover and we can’t wait for players to do that.”
While there is no shortage of new content, everything Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course brings to the table moves fluidly with the core game. The new Shots including the Crackshot can be purchased by non-other than Porkrind. New weapons and Charms purchased from Porkrind on the new isle travel back to the core game and vice versa. Everything works fluidly. Even Ms. Chalice can be used when going up against the likes of Grim Matchstick and Cagney Carnation.
“These experiences are seamlessly connected. Items from the classic Cuphead experience get dropped into the shop right away. We aren’t compartmentalized. You don’t spend DLC coins on DLC isle and main game coins on main game-isle. Everything flows between one another.”
Cuphead has since found an audience across many platforms since 2017. One of which is the Nintendo Switch. Speaking from experience, having access to Cuphead on my TV and on the go was a wonderful way to reexperience the game when it was ported in 2019. Now, The Delicious Last Course is arriving on all platforms day and date. For Studio MDHR, it appears as though the Switch has opened up a new market that they hope will latch on to the new content as well.
“There’s a form of like childhood joy,” Jared Moldenhauer states. “It’s like remembering recess where everybody’s getting the Game Boy out, you’re pulling out your pocket cables to be like, “Do you want to link up and have a Tetris match? To have that feeling again? To know that a whole nother swath of a user base, letting the children play at recess and having more the community that you build. When people may not have purchased a game like Cuphead. Now that you can just have it sitting in your pocket, you’re sitting down talking about what you’ve played lately. Then all of a sudden, 10 more people are interested in seeing something that they may not have experienced. The mobile accessibility has been a huge bonus for us.”
The studio has also seemingly become more comfortable with ports and bringing its creative vision to new platforms. “Our engineering staff is just so full of talent in the same way that like all our animators, and all the musicians who’ve worked on this. So it’s been such a smooth process like taking the game and then converting it over to Switch.”
“In a good way, it made us kind of optimize as we’re making the game because we’re loading so many frames and so many assets that it works beautifully on the Switch,” Chad told me. “In turn, has made less loading time and other for all of our other [ports].”
In the span of a handful of years, Studio MDHR has found a name for itself not only in the Canadian developer industry but worldwide. Cuphead and its authentic homage to 1930s animation are known by players, developers, and other audiences thanks to the recent Netflix show. Even while reflecting on the success, the team remains humble and appreciative of everything that’s come their way.
“I think we’re so humbled and grateful to be a part of the broader indie community,” Cymet says. “I think we would never think of ourselves as the pinnacle of anything because we’re always trying to challenge ourselves to approach things creatively in ways we haven’t before. I think even as silly as that might sound for a game that lots of folks talk about as loving with Cuphead, I’ve gotten the jitters before June 30th. Are people gonna like this game? What are they gonna do? They’re not gonna play it like they only show up to play this DLC or game that came out all this time ago? You never know. We take each day as a really exciting new experience.”
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC on June 30th.