The Time Has Come!
So you've all had about a week to try to make it through all of Cuphead's bosses. Now, if that week meant seven days of frustration, or seven days of bashing your head against a wall because of the stupid robot boss, it's alright, because we've got seven tips to help make your life in the game much easier. From charms, to weapons combos, to flying tactics, here is everything you need to know in order to not die in Cuphead.
For more info on Cuphead as it comes, check back with us at GameSpot. We've got more features and content planned for this incredibly challenging, but addictive game. Be sure to check out our review for Cuphead, and along with our video on why the game's difficulty makes it so great.
Learn The Basics
Cuphead is a game that, above all else, needs precision in order to succeed. That means you'll need to familiarize yourself with the controls, your character's movement, and weapon usage.
Dashing is vital to your survival and is the most efficient way of avoiding objects being thrown your direction. If you ever think you can make a gap just by jumping, or get out of the boss' way just by running, consider adding a dash at the end. When in doubt, dash out.
Also, before you begin, it's highly recommended you change the layout of some of the buttons. Using the same finger for jumping and shooting can be tricky later in the game when things get really hectic. We suggest moving the shoot button to the Right Trigger, as it will allow your thumb to focus on jumping and dashing. But you're free to rebind all your buttons, and being comfortable with your layout is the most important thing.
Now as for weapons, all we have to do is snap our fingers and… (poof)
Find Your Weapon Of Choice - Part 1
Each boss is different, from the way they move, to how they attack, and the direction they attack from, and the variety of weapons in Cuphead assures that you'll never be without a solution.
As the first weapon you receive in the game, The Peashooter is a great, if basic, weapon. It has average damage, a flat trajectory, and a good EX move with Mega Blast, but it can have some trouble hitting enemies at certain angles.
But that's where the Spreader comes in. It's a short ranged spread, similar to your favorite Contra weapon, that does slightly better damage than the peashooter. The EX fires an 8-way spread that can help when you're surrounded by enemies.
The Chaser, though low in damage, is extremely useful to taking out moving objects, since the bullets home in on enemies. For annoying little flying buggers, or bosses who force you to focus on platforming, this can be a godsend. Your EX, Chaos Orbit, is a shield that looks like something right out of Megaman, protecting you with 4 stars, and will damage any enemies that come in contact with you. Put it on and switch to a high damage weapon for all the protection you need.
Find Your Weapon Of Choice - Part 2
The Lobber, well, lobs bouncy balls at your enemies, bouncing twice and then disappearing. You'll need to be somewhat close to hit with this, but jumping will also increase the range. You might want to use the Lobber if the boss doesn't move around too much, or if they're below you, like Rumor Honeybottoms here. The damage is pretty good, and the EX move, the Kablooey, launches a massive ball that explodes on impact. It's a great secondary weapon to pair with a longer ranged shot.
The Charge Shot might give you even more flashbacks of Megaman, as you'll need to hold the fire button to charge this up, and let go to unleash a fiery, long ranged attack. You'll have to practice the timing on the shot, as it can be tricky having to charge it, jump, dash, and fire all at once. But as far as we can tell, it does the most damage per second in the game, and allows you to take down bosses in record time, but only if you can find an opening. The EX move performs a short ranged blast, which is great for some burst damage when you're in close to a boss.
And last but not least, is the Roundabout. It acts as a boomerang, traveling a short distance forward, then flying backwards the entire length of the screen. This means you'll need to fire in the opposite direction if you want to keep your distance, but you'll still be able to deal some great damage without a whole lot of precision. The roundabout is especially effective against bosses you're running away from, like Grim Matchstick or the last phase of Baroness Von Bon Bon. The EX move, The Jumbo Rebound, is a short ranged attack that acts as a saw blade, but, just like the roundabout, will return to sender, and will actually continue to swing around hitting things, just as long as you avoid catching it. Good for enemies with large hit boxes, and encounters where it's safe to jump, in order to maximize its damage.
Make It A Combo
Since you'll be able to equip two weapons at a time, and switch between them whenever you want, you'll want to be sure they compliment each other nicely.
My go to is the Charge Shot / Spread combo. You have great damage from long range, and a backup for whenever things get too close for comfort.
The Peashooter for straight damage, with the Lobber for hitting enemies while moving, is another good one-two punch as well.
If you're worried more about staying alive rather than aiming, try pairing the Roundabout with the Chaser. This is best for slow-moving or stationary bosses like Cagney Carnation in World 1, as you'll be able to hit them while dodging seeds, thorns, and whatever else they throw at you.
But experiment yourself with different combos. You never know which ones you'll like until you try them out.
Charm The Pants Off The Bosses - Part 1
In addition to your main weapon, you'll also be able to unlock six different charms, which give you unique passive buffs or abilities.
The Heart & Twin Heart charms will give you 1 and 2 extra hit points, respectively, but on the downside, they weaken your attack power. The actual value that they reduce it by is currently unknown, but if you find yourself dying a lot in the early bosses, it can help out a lot.
The Coffee constantly refills your super meter, at a rate of one card every 25 seconds, and over the course of a 2-minute fight, you'll end up with five extra cards, enough for an additional Super Move. Sounds useful, but if you intend on using your meter throughout the fight, it can be okay to great depending on which weapon you use it with.
The P. Sugar allows you to automatically parry while jumping, and is good for some bosses that throw a lot of parryable pink stuff at you -- Captain Brineybeard in particular. The auto-parry is active the moment you jump, which means you can perform parries extremely close to the ground, and can really help build meter.
Charm The Pants Off The Bosses - Part 2
The Smoke Bomb, perhaps the most useful charm in the game, turns your dash invisible, and allows you avoid taking damage while teleporting past enemies. If you can, buy this from Pork Rind's Emporium as soon as possible. Out of all the charms, it's the one with the most applications, as almost every boss has projectiles that are worth avoiding. It can get you out of hairy situations, when you're cornered, or if you jump in the wrong direction and need to get back to safety. Once you get familiar with the travel distance, you'll be zooming in and out of harms way in no time.
And finally, the Whetstone gives your parry a damaging axe attack. Sounds okay at first, until you realize that this lets you jump onto ENEMIES, not just the pink stuff. If you're confident in your parrying abilities, the whetstone can give you an extra avoidance option. You'll avoid taking damage, AND kill them to boot.
As you progress through each of Cuphead's worlds, you'll come across Mausoleums that house some spooky pink ghosts. If you can parry them all without the urn taking damage, you'll unlock one of the three Super Moves in the game. The first super is the Energy Beam, which shoots a wide beam of… milk? Water? Moonshine? Whatever liquid is inside Cuphead's noggin. It only travels horizontally, so make sure you have a proper angle. You're also going to want to be careful while using this Super during heavy bullet hell segments. It might be tempting to shoot this off to clear as many enemies on the screen, but you're vulnerable immediately after it ends, so be mindful of when you decide to use it.
The second Super is straight up Invincibility. Nothing too fancy, but it'll give you 5 seconds to slip by any enemy, cross any gap, and even circumvent some bosses in the run'n'gun stages. Use it aggressively, during some tough bullet hell segments, or defensively, when you think you're about to get hit. If you're doing fine on damage, but are struggling with that ONE boss phase that you can't quite get through, maybe give this one a try.
And the last super you'll come across is the Giant Ghost. This releases a spirit from your body, who, by the looks of it, has definitely been working out. You'll be able to maneuver it around the screen, as he mirrors your character’s inputs, but it can be tough to handle at first. To practice, you can try locking your character in place, allowing the spirit to wreak havoc on his own, while you shoot safely from the corner. But once you've built up the coordination, you can go all in, shooting, avoiding obstacles, and making sure your spirit stays on the enemy. The Giant Ghost isn't ideal for all bosses, but you'll found it particularly useful for The Phantom Express boss and any other boss where there isn't an immediate, indestructible threat.
Charm The Pants Off The Bosses - Part 3
Oh did we mention that some of the charms change while you're in the aeroplane levels? The heart charms and coffee are unchanged from their ground versions, but the other three have some slightly different properties.
The Whetstone has a similar application to its ground-version -- the parry button will also act as an axe attack -- but might be even more useful while airborne. You'll be able to whack random enemies that might show up in your face without needing to aim at them.
The P. Sugar, instead of auto parrying, increases the duration of your parry, spinning your airplane twice to whack any pink stuff out of the air. Really good if you're having trouble timing your parries.
The Smoke Bomb adds a dust cloud when you transform into the tiny plane, giving some invincibility to your “dash,” and if you time it right, you can slip past hazards unscathed. You won't get quite the same amount of invincibility as on the ground, but while surrounded by an absurd amount of projectiles, it can be a lifesaver.
Speaking of the aeroplane levels, your weapons and supers will be completely different as an airplane. A significant chunk of the game's bosses take place in the air, so it's necessary to know you what you can do.
Initially, you'll have just the rapid-fire shot and the bullet EX attack, but after you make it to the second world, you'll get more weapons. Specifically, bombs to rain down on enemies beneath you, as well at homing magnets as its EX move. The homing magnets are especially useful for taking out smaller, pesky enemies.
You can switch between the two at will, but both will have the same super, the Bomb Morph, to blow up enemies with. Use it to deal a huge chunk of damage, to get rid of any bullets on screen, or as a last ditch effort to avoid getting hit, as you'll be simply explode upon taking damage and have a second or so of invincibility afterwards.
And don't underestimate the power of Shrinking. Instead of dashing, your plane will simply become a smaller plane, increasing your speed, but reducing the range of your gun. With all the bullets being tossed your way during these levels, it's important to use it liberally whenever you need to move quickly, even if it means sacrificing some damage for a while.
Explore The World!
Finally, with all the focus on the bosses in Cuphead, don't forget to take a break and walk around the overworld a little. You can admire the gorgeous watercolor backgrounds, talk to the NPCs, and even uncover some secrets!
There are some shortcuts in the world, so if you are stuck on certain bosses, you can actually circumvent the levels and move on
If you're short on cash to buy stuff from the store, there are coins hidden all over the place. Scour every crack, every corner!
The NPCs will offer you some amusing flavor text, but some of them will give you rewards for things like parrying multiple times in a row, or helping a barbershop quartet find their fourth member
Talk to the radio and phonograph in world three, and you'll start a feud that ultimately allows you to change the overworld music!
Enjoy the music! Cuphead's overworld tunes are ridiculously cute, so don't be surprised when you catch yourself humming the music on your way to work.
There are a few other secrets that you'll be able to unlock after talking to NPCs, including a couple hidden modes to change the look of the game! You can check out my previous video to see how it's done.
Congratulations! You have not died!
And that should just about cover all the basics for surviving in Cuphead. While your survival chances will depend a lot on your own personal skill level, these tips should help you get a leg up on some of the bosses.
And if you find yourself dying a lot, don't worry! It's all part of the learning process in the game, so don't feel discouraged if you have to restart a level a couple dozen times. Just keep plugging away, switching out weapons, charms, and supers until things feel right.
Be sure to keep an eye out for more Cuphead features and guides in the near future on GameSpot. Also, check out our look at the bizarre, yet fitting black and white mode for Cuphead, and how to unlock it.