Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is a hell of a dessert

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is a hell of a dessert

There is no game like Cuphead. The passion project from Studio MDHR instantly set itself apart from the wide swath of 2D action games with its uncanny recreation of the 1930s cartoon aesthetic. Its numerous boss fights were cleverly designed and stunning to watch, even if it meant seeing the same one a dozen times as you threw Cuphead and Mugman into the game’s woodchipper of challenges.

Now, nearly five years after Cuphead’s initial launch, the game has gotten its very first DLC.

The Delicious Last Course was first announced in 2018 for a planned 2019 release, but delays pushed it all the way to 2022. Was it worth the wait? Unquestionably. It adds about five to six hours of new Cuphead shenanigans, but it also recontextualizes the entire main game in a thrilling way. This is all thanks to the one and only Ms. Chalice, who takes on a starring role.

Even by Cuphead standards, the plot of The Delicious Last Course is pretty out there. Cuphead and Mugman find a new NPC on the main island map who looks suspiciously like Charon, the ferryman who rows dead souls across the river Styx and into the afterlife. In this case, Charon rows Cuphead and Mugman to a new island. Upon their arrival, Ms. Chalice appears out of a portal and offers Mugman a cookie. He eats it and promptly dies, swapping places with Ms. Chalice, who is now alive and well.

Cuphead and Ms. Chalice fight a large, bearded enemy while surrounded by a flock of geese. Image: Studio MDHR

Unfortunately for her, the Astral Cookie’s effects are temporary, and within a few moments, she’s swapped once again with Mugman, who is back in action. The goal of this new adventure is to permanently rescue Ms. Chalice from the Astral Plane by collecting ingredients for a local baker, who plans to cook something called a Wondertart, which will bring her back for good. These ingredients are guarded by a handful of Cuphead-esque bosses, each as outlandish as this DLC’s plot. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cuphead is at its best when it’s unexpected and, well, weird.

While she’s the driving narrative force behind The Delicious Last Course, Ms. Chalice is also a dramatic departure from Cuphead’s gameplay. Upon arriving on the new island, Ms. Chalice is playable by equipping her Astral Cookie in the Charm slot. While this does prevent further customizing your gameplay with the various other Charms you’ve collected, it comes with plenty of upsides: Ms. Chalice has one more health point than Cuphead or Mugman, and she can double jump. She also parries attacks differently than the original pair, by dashing into projectiles rather than bouncing on them. Lastly, she’s got an invincible ground roll. Taken all together, these abilities and her added mobility are more than enough to counteract the loss of a Charm slot.

Ms. Chalice’s enhancements are even handy in the original game’s levels. If you found the original boss fights too difficult, you can bring Ms. Chalice back to the main islands and use her upgraded skill set there. It’s actually pretty game-changing. There are a handful of bosses that were never designed with a double jump and a dash parry in mind, and it completely changes the flow of battles the second time around. It’s a rare piece of DLC that makes you rethink the base game in such a satisfying way.

A large horse dressed as a knight fights Cuphead and Ms. Chalice in a throne room. Image: Studio MDHR

Even with Ms. Chalice’s upgrades, the DLC is challenging. There are six main bosses, and they’re some of the most complex boss fights yet in Cuphead. One of the earliest battles is a jazz-themed bout featuring a jitterbugging wasp who shoots out damaging sound waves from her Victrola. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed while you get the hang of these fights, which is why the “Simple” mode (returning from the main game) is still a boon. Playing on Simple means the fights are less chaotic, making it easier to digest the patterns before you decide to dial it up to Regular.

It’s a little disappointing, though, that people who are unable to surpass the high difficulty of Cuphead won’t be able to experience all of the DLC’s story or final boss, both of which require beating all of the bosses on Regular. This was also the case with the main game, and it does feel like it’s time for Cuphead to be more welcoming to casual fans who just want to see all of the content — even if they don’t have the skills, patience, or ability to make it through all of the fights without some help. The lack of accessibility features in Cuphead is starting to feel like a relic of another time, especially when compared to similarly challenging 2D games like Celeste.

For those that can enjoy the intense challenge of a multi-stage boss fight — and I count myself among them — Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course offers some of the best stages and artwork in the game. There’s no filler here, and every fight stands out as a memorable experience, from a bearded stone golem and his pack of evil gnomes to a train-riding cow who sees the business end of a pressure cooker only to keep on fighting. If you’ve been desperate for more Cuphead, this is likely the last new content you’ll see. Thankfully it’s a hell of an encore for Cuphead, Mugman, and now, Ms. Chalice.

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course was released on June 30 on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed on Windows using a pre-release download code provided by Studio MDHR. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.