Chad & Jared Moldenhauer are brothers whose love for video games has always been a prominent part of their lives. Since childhood they would sit and pick apart games, discussing why the developers had made certain decisions, and changes they would have made if they were the ones developing them. With no training or background in video game development, they decided to take a whack at making one. In 2013 the brothers began developing Cuphead, a 1930s style Run & Gun Shooter.
The aesthetic the Moldenhauer brothers chose is what is known as rubber hose, which was the first animation style to be standardised in America and named after the bendy style of the characters limbs. They were influenced by old school animators such as the Fleischer Brothers and Ub Iwerks (who went on to design Mickey Mouse). They decided that if they were going to make it with a 30s feel, they should use the animation techniques of the era. This way of thinking led to an exceedingly difficult four years of hand drawing and hand inking each and every frame on paper. The only part of the animation process that stepped into the now world was the addition of colour, which was all added digitally. According to Chad this decision allowed them to “shave five years off development time”.
Cuphead being hand drawn adds to the illusion of authenticity that Studio MDHR have undoubtedly achieved, it really does feel like a video game that was made in an alternate reality 1930s where video game technology exists way ahead of schedule. The gameplay aspect however is inspired by games such as Contra, Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes. Run & Gun is a genre that has seemed relatively obsolete since developers have moved further away from platform game format. Yet the birth of Cuphead has rejuvenated the genre and made difficult, boss centric games so much more enjoyable with their extremely warm, nostalgic style.
Accompanying the stunning visuals is an original jazz soundtrack which is in keeping with the 1930s theme, with its big band fast tempo sound. Composer Kristofer Maddigan had to make an original jazz track for each level, making a total of 50 songs, with added detail of if you play the levels multiple times (which, due to its difficulty, you will), you’ll hear different solos on the same track.
The game holds three Guinness World Records, one of which was for the most hand drawn frames in a video game, which is not at all surprising when the game consists of over 45,000 individually drawn frames. The amount of hard work that has gone into this game is truly inspirational.
Directly off the back of the game’s success, the brothers have secured a deal for a TV Series of the same title with Netflix.
Writer : Jonathan Murphy