Despite what the title might suggest, Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is much more than just a fancy flan or fruit tart to round out the original game’s gourmet menu. This is an expansion that certainly favors quality over quantity, made up mostly of just six mainline boss fights, but it’s six incredible boss fights, each one of the most fun, challenging, and visually stunning yet. Sweetening the pot are several new weapons, new spells, each adding subtle new approaches to defeating bosses, some tantalizing secrets with worthy rewards, and a brand new character in Ms. Chalice, who comes equipped with several abilities that take some of the Take the edge off Cuphead’s intense difficulty without feeling directly like an “easy mode”. My first playthrough was over in just a few hours, but it was hours that I consider essential for any Cuphead fan.
The Delicious Last Course is all about making Ms. Chalice, a character who only appeared as a ghost granting super moves in the main game, a truly living and breathing person. To that end, Cuphead and his sidekick Mugman head to a brand new island, where they are told that Chef Saltbaker, the greatest chef in the land, is able to create a Wondertart capable of permanently bodying Ms. Chalice. The catch, of course, is that they must gather their ingredients by defeating the powerful enemies guarding them. The story obviously isn’t why anyone is here, but it’s nonetheless charmingly told with quick cutscenes and more of the outstanding art that fans have come to expect.
That sets the stage for another round of some of the most spectacular 2D action platformer bosses I’ve ever encountered. The content of The Delicious Last Course is accessible almost right at the start of a new game, just after you’ve cleared the first mausoleum and met Ms. Chalice for the first time – but if you’re new or rusty, you’ll definitely want to get around getting your feet wet with other enemies first as the six bosses in this DLC don’t strike. The very first one lets you fight with projectiles in the air, spikes on the ground that force you to keep moving and shifting platforms putting you in danger if they pick you up at the wrong time, little gnomes that emerge from the ground, to shoot more projectiles at you, and more gnomes that appear on the platforms and pound you if you stay there too long. And that’s just the first phase.
While cranking up the mechanical difficulty of the bosses in The Delicious Last Course, Studio MDHR isn’t merciless. There’s still an easier difficulty level, of course, but there’s also a bunch of new spells and weapons to help tip the scales back in your favor, including one that lets you play as Ms. Chalice yourself. If you’re playing as Ms. Chalice, you won’t be able to equip other spells, but of course she comes equipped with a double jump, an evasive maneuver that allows her to roll through obstacles on the ground, a dashing parry that makes much easier-to-parry objects that coming straight at you, and most importantly, four HP instead of the standard three.
Some might look at this and think, “Oh, so this is essentially an extra easy mode,” but that’s not entirely true. Ms. Chalice also has a much worse single jump than Cuphead, so her Has using her double jump to clear certain obstacles that Cuphead could easily overcome; her sprint parry is great for objects coming straight at her, but is more difficult to use than the traditional double jump parry in some situations; and she can’t equip any of the other powerful spells available – like my new personal favorite, the Ring of Hearts, which rewards you with HP on your first, third, and sixth parries, essentially giving you the ability to double your HP if you can Successfully parry attacks from a boss. Another powerful spell is the Coffee Talisman, which passively refills your super meter alongside all the normal ways to build it, meaning you’ll have much more regular access to your super moves.
As for the new weapons, I’m a big fan of the homing weapon called Crackshot, which can be fired without worrying too much about aiming and has a special EX move that drops a turret that can then be parried and shot into an enemy for great damage. Another great novelty is the Converge Shot, which fires three full-screen projectiles in a wide spread, and this spread can be narrowed by holding down the aim button. It’s a great weapon for quickly taking out small, weak enemies spawned by a boss, making it a perfect combo for my usual weapon, the Charge Shot.
To get the coins needed for these new weapons and spells, The Delicious Last Course introduces a replacement for the main game’s run-and-gun levels in the form of a series of mini-bosses led by the king of the games will. At the beginning of the DLC, you can climb a ladder to reach the Castle of the King of Games (which is an absolutely fantastic stop-motion hand-sculpted model, by the way), and from there you can challenge his masters. The catch is that each of these chess piece-themed mini-boss battles are not won with your weapons or amulets – they are won solely with your parrying technique. One fight will require you to parry all the tops of an army of pawns, while another will require you to blow out a few candles to make the boss damageable with a parry. They’re all clever fights, and tackling them is a fun change of pace and a unique challenge, especially if you try gauntlet mode and try to beat them all in a single life. Most importantly, though, it’s certainly a step up from the run-and-gun levels when it comes to earning the currency needed to buy new gear.
Everything else in The Delicious Last Course is what you’d expect from Cuphead, but to an even greater extent. Studio MDHR’s Maja Moldenhauer has stated that the number of animation frames in this DLC alone is comparable to the entire core game, which sounded crazy to think about before playing – but now that I have it, it’s not hard to believe . Each stage of each boss in The Delicious Last Course completely changes the combat. You’ll go from battling an ice mage to a devilish fridge to a deranged snowflake over the course of a fight, with each stage having between three and seven unique attacks, and each attack being so absurdly full of detail that I did it. I didn’t even notice most of the smaller parts until I recorded and viewed my footage. This includes things like the way these gnomes climb up the side of the mountain and crawl under the fur, the way the background subtly changes at each stage of the Sheriff Winchester fight, or the way the aforementioned deranged Snowflake literally wringing out her own body to pop his eye out for one of his attacks.
The magic of Cuphead’s boss design, and something that all of the bosses in this DLC exemplify, is that while it throws a lot of stuff at you, it’s generally all pretty easy to avoid once you know it’s coming. Each attack is superbly telegraphed, patterns are easily recognized, and imagery is always simple and clear. Even when I was expected to do something that usually isn’t very intuitive, like parrying a pink bell to close the jaws of a cow skull swimming in acid to create a platform, it’s something I quickly pick up on can, because I have already taught to parry pink items. The Delicious Last Course expertly strikes that elusive balance between tough and fair, saving the really hard stuff for the expert mode, which for hardcore fans will offer a very rewarding challenge once the main campaign is complete. And for those looking for an even bigger challenge, there’s something for you too, but I don’t want to spoil what it is or how to get it.