Cuphead is a beautiful game, guys. That animation is absolutely top-notch, and I can’t even begin to imagine the work that went into it. All the bosses are grandiose and fluid and evocative of the golden age of animation in a way that simply does not exist in video games. When we talk “retro” in video game terms, we are usually referring to pixels, but Cuphead bucks that trend by borrowing its “retro” aesthetic from a totally different medium. It honestly feels groundbreaking in same way that System Shock 2 changed how stories could be told in games, or how Uncharted 2 taught us that grand set-piece moments were not limited to popcorn action flicks. Cuphead might be the start of something greater, and the more I play, the more impressed I am that this thing exists at all.
But for all the fun I am having with the game, there is one burning question that threatens to devour my every waking moment. A query that, if left unanswered, may send me spiraling into a vicious world of existentialism.
What’s in Cuphead’s cup?
There’s gotta be something in there, right? I mean, his head is a cup, a vessel whose sole purpose is to store liquids. You don’t introduce something like that and just like, not use it. It’s like the ricin cigarette in Breaking Bad, or the power loader in Aliens, or any number of Chekhov’s guns. Or is this some Pulp Fiction situation where we never truly learn what’s inside that briefcase? Maybe Cuphead’s soul is inside that cup. Maybe Marsellus Wallace’s soul is inside that cup. Maybe the cup is an analog for the Holy Grail, and Cuphead is running around with Christ all up in his dome.
Except that can’t be true, because we can see the liquid in Cuphead’s cranium. It splashes around when he runs. It’s serous. It’s purple (I think; I’m colorblind and probably wrong). Is it juice? Coffee? The 2015 E3 trailer would have us believe it’s moonshine of some sort, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would drink moonshine with a straw. Whatever the case, we know it’s there, which brings up another question: what about Cuphead’s brain? Is his brain liquid? Is it inside the walls of the cup in like, a squished U-shape? If the liquid is vital to his survival, he’s awfully cavalier with it because we can see it splashing about as he runs. Save that sweet brain juice, Cuphead!
Something else of concern is that straw in there. What would happen if someone were to drink Cuphead’s juices? If it’s his brain, that has to be instant death, right? Can he remove the straw? If he can, then that means he put it there voluntarily. Maybe he wants someone to drink his skull fluids. Maybe it’s a sex thing.
We may never know what is really inside that beautifully hand-drawn vessel, but the mystery will continue to gnaw at me until I am a distraught mess at the end of my rope, shouting like Brad Pitt at the end of Seven: “What’s in the cup?! What’s in the cup?!” But there will be no answers forthcoming, and I will be damned to eternal torment in this hell plane called Cuphead.