Studio MDHR has spent a long time making Cuphead’s The Delicious Last Course DLC, a development cycle that rivals that of a full game. Even though team size differs greatly, Santa Monica Studio will likely have spent as long developing God of War Ragnarök. Waiting four years for an expansion seems like a lot, especially for one this lean, but it was time well spent, as The Delicious Last Course has some of the best morsels in this newly completed meal.
The Delicious Last Course adds one more island to the game, one full of seven standard fights and a unique boss gauntlet that only relies solely on parries. And like the base game, these boss encounters are multilayered and only get better the more they are analyzed.
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The game’s vibrant 1930s-esque art style is immediately grabbing for its uniqueness, even five years after its original release. There’s still nothing like it. It’s even better in motion since that is where Studio MDHR’s incredibly fluid animation is able to shine. Characters move in exaggerated fashions in a way that not only foreshadows their attacks but also gives them plenty of personality and perfectly captures their cartoonish roots.
The enemy designs themselves are entertainingly inventive, too, and not repeats of past ideas and only completely original creations. There probably aren’t any other games where a cow wearing a saloon turns itself into a galloping sausage or a rocky mountain mine that is actually a huge gnome that plays with hand puppets. The actual battles against them are also almost perfectly honed and seem daunting at first, yet are tuned well enough to where players naturally get better after enough practice to earn that satisfying knockout.
All of that is also true of the original game, but The Delicious Last Course does it all a bit better than that base it is attached to. Bosses are more intricate, often having a greater number of elaborate forms with more complicated animation. This can mean grander attacks that are more visually arresting, but it also is a result of how a few of them shift arenas entirely. Their visual designs are also more imaginative, as the aforementioned saloon cow (it is as weird as it sounds) is a hilarious highlight that simply demonstrates its upgraded character design.
Changing arenas offers visual changes from phase to phase, but also gameplay changes, too, ones that take the game in new directions. For example, one boss takes place on three horizontal lanes that force players to watch each one before crossing. One of them literally shifts the whole perspective, meaning adept users will have to quickly turn their heads 90 degrees to get a better view of the action. Its secret boss fight even flips depending on what direction players are facing at any given time, a constant juggling act that requires a different approach.
These creative changes (and additional ones that are better left as secrets) show how Studio MDHR didn’t just churn out more of the same, but thoughtfully analyzed what would make for an interesting level with new gameplay opportunities that would continue to push players. The developer said that the DLC has as much animation as the base game, and while that claim sounds outrageous out of context, it makes sense when comparing the complexity of the DLC stages to the original ones.
Condensing a game’s worth of animation into one island sums up how lean and considered the whole package is; there’s no fat in the course. It doesn’t have an overwhelming number of bosses, which might be initially disappointing, but the quality of them is hard to argue against. There are also thankfully no run and gun levels — one of the only sore spots and fluffy bits from the base game — and they have been replaced with a collection of chess-themed bosses that can only be parried. This limitation puts the game in a new perspective and tests the defensive skills of the player and mixes up the pacing from the other bosses. They’re not as complicated and are a little easier than those more traditional fights, but that’s what makes them perfect companions. A boss rush-like challenge mode of these chess fights pops up after conquering all five, meaning those who want to make these even more challenging and take them all out in one uninterrupted run can do so, which is a welcome touch.
These challenges seem to be designed with Ms. Chalice in mind, who is the new character and plays differently than her cup and mug counterparts. She can double jump, parry by dashing, has one more hit point, and can perform an invincible slide, but can’t use any of the game’s perk-like charms. With her stacked core loadout, she is a bit more versatile and her kit comes in handy against certain bosses. Her double jump and dash are useful for avoiding hazards, but her slide is sometimes tricky and annoyingly doesn’t always come out because of its fiddly input. Offering a different character with their own pros and cons is more interesting than making her yet another palette swap, even if it would be great for the option to play as a “normal” Ms. Chalice (which likely won’t happen since it would require more animation). She can also be used during the main campaign, but, outside of a single trophy or achievement for killing a few bosses with her, there’s no incentive to go back; a missed opportunity that would invite even more replayability.
Its array of weapons and charms also fold back into the main game, most of which are useful and naturally complement what was already there. The hyper-specific angled shot is not as ubiquitous, but the homing shot is incredibly valuable and the triple shot (that can focus into a tighter beam when locked in place) has its uses, as well. The new cursed charm that randomizes the player’s weapons and gives them a single hit point is more interesting since it unlocks an incredibly powerful charm after clearing eight bosses in that hobbled state. It’s a decent reward for those skilled enough to unlock it, however, it points out how this expansion could have had more concrete incentives like this to revisit the campaign.
Studio MDHR has taken its sweet time cooking up Cuphead’s The Delicious Last Course DLC. And like the base game, this expansion is worth the extended prep time. While it is an extra serving of Cuphead that tastes quite familiar, there’s still no other game like it that has the same amount of flair, detailed 2D animation, and difficult bosses designed to make players sweat, all of which are at or around their best here. It’s unclear if Studio MDHR will make more Cuphead — the team has implied it is moving on for now — but if this is the end for Cuphead and his pals Mugman and Ms. Chalice, then it is indeed a delicious last course.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8.5 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.