Over the thanksgiving weekend my son and I finally finished the fantastic game, Cuphead. If you haven’t read over my review of the game, take a look at it if you find the time. I cannot think of a game in my recent history that has been such a joy to finish. I mean, we literally screamed and jumped when that final hit to satan’s face resulted in the much anticipated “KNOCKOUT” flashing across the screen! Though I think some of the earlier levels were much more brutal, the final boss, ol’ Beelzebub himself, did not disappoint in its difficulty and weirdness!

Now that the game is done (with the exception of replays on….gulp, expert mode) I look back on it, along with my recent play through of Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

With the recent release of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus my mind got to thinking about the original Wolfenstein, a game that holds some fun memories for me. I have mentioned it before, but the original Wolfenstein was the first ‘shareware’ game I ever played and was found on a rack of shareware titles at my moms place of employment back in the day. The rack held cardboard envelopes containing a single 3.5″ floppy disk with partial, but playable game titles on them that could be installed on your home PC. If you liked the game, you could buy it (for more info see my review on Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which should be online within a couple of days). I found and purchased it on GOG.com for $1.49, and it was a great investment!

Back to the subject at hand, my recent play through of RtCW got me to thinking about the recent Cuphead ‘controversy’ of it being too difficult and how it essentially locked purchasers out of being able to complete the game. The concept, in and of itself, is ludicrous. If your not up to the challenge of a game then either don’t buy it or get better at it and rise the meet the challenge. Complaining about how it is ‘too difficult’ and insisting that since you paid for the game you are entitled to see its ending is insufferably idiotic and is the equivalent of a four year old stomping their feet because they can’t get past the first Goomba in Super Mario Bros. (I have seen it!).

RtCW is not an easy game, not in the least. Released in 2001, it can be brutal in dishing out the pain and several times during my time with it I would start up, play for about 10 minutes, dying multiple times in a single spot, get angry and turn it off. It took a lot of trial and error to determine the best course of action in particular areas, with some challenges best being ignored and ran past, while others simply required luck and a ton of bullets. As I started to think about it, this was pretty much par for the course in early shooters, with even the normal difficulty level being pretty, well….difficult! It got me to thinking that a modern day game like Cuphead isn’t really any more difficult than games have been in the past, it just seems that most modern games aren’t really tough. Not like they used to be! I remember when the original Devil May Cry hit the scene and reviews indicated that it was not for the feint of heart. The difficulty level, even at normal difficulty, would still mean tons of deaths for players, and it was true! My first play through of DMC was certainly not easy, but it was tons of fun!

The main point of this post is that modern difficult games really only seem to be throwbacks to the plain ole’ games of yesteryear. You want brutal? Try Cuphead. Try the original Battle Toads or even the original NES version of TMNT (the weird side scroller one). How about Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts? Dear god, that game was a flippin’ nightmare!

Overall I think the issues with games being ‘too difficult’ is both a combination of players and developers both becoming afraid of a real challenge. On the one hand you have a developer that not only needs good sales of a game but likely wants a big enough fan base to produce a couple of sequels. Making your game too ‘difficult’ can really cut down on the number of buyers or turn off buyers who aren’t in to challenging gaming. On the other hand you have a generation of gamers that have played games with walk-through tutorials, cheat codes that make them invincible or allow them to make the game easier and developers who make games that aren’t as difficult in order to create a big enough fan base to create sequels. See how that works?

I have moved on from RtCW to Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a majestic looking game that is fun and challenging and, yes, I have already died a ton of times, but I crave the challenge. Of course, I’m 42 years old and have played through some of the most difficult games ever made. I know there are tons of challenging games out there, but I’m not sure why Cuphead was picked to be the poster child for complaining about them. Weird.