An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance, goes the saying, and although it's not particularly smart to judge a game by publicity shots alone, Cuphead is a visual triumph which demands attention.
It's a 2D shooter resplendent with hand-drawn animations and wonderful touches that give it a faux CRT telecine vibe. The slightly washed out watercolour backgrounds, the decidedly lo-fi monitor scan lines, the jazz music, the inkblot cartoon style and the rubberiest of rubber hose animations - all these techniques come together to create what appears to be an interactive cartoon from the 1930s golden age.
Take a look through the slideshow below to get a better feel for Cuphead's distinct look.
The game has been in development since 2010, originally designed using the XNA framework but now developed through the Unity Engine. Currently it's in development for PC and Xbox One, though its creators are open-minded about releasing it on other platforms.
Cuphead broke onto the scene last month during Microsoft's E3 press conference, wowing onlookers with a fleeting thirty-second trailer.
The game is being developed by Studio MDHR, a small five-man team founded by brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, who reside in different Canadian provinces and time zones.
The team has published two other Cuphead snippet videos, both of which only make the prospect of playing it even more tantalising:
Though the project is now in its fourth year, the game is not expected to ship until 2015. Studio MDHR recently told Kill Screen that art assets are roughly forty per cent complete.
There's also talk of Cuphead being a trilogy - or at least a package that comes with a couple of expansions.
Influences for the game design itself are predominantly 16-Bit. Studio MDHR cites boss battles from shooters such as Gunstar Heroes, Contra III, Contra Hard Corps, Batman & Robin, Mega Man X and Hard Corps Uprising. Miyamoto is also a frequent source of inspiration on the team's website.
Cuphead also is more a boss-rush style shooter than a traditional run and gunner. There are no grunts or foot-soldiers to blast through, which on a purely speculative level is a real shame, and it will no doubt be tough to nail the flow and limit the fatigue that comes with a succession of boss fights.
There is a playable world map (think Super Mario World) with hidden secrets, but Cuphead's principal offering is boss battles, which MDHR appear to be obsessed with.
The studio writes on its website:
"When developing Cuphead we started with the basics - who knows this better than Shigeru Miyamoto. He set the standard for all 2D and 3D platformers and they are still a great formula for gameplay perfection. Knowing this, we've spent a lot of time fine tuning small details like hitboxes, screen movement, player control, weapon balancing, and a ton of small details that may go unnoticed by some."
Additional features that aim to prolong the experience include super arts, infinite lives, additional boss patterns and balanced weapons to equip.
The game will also feature offline co-op, starring its sidekick Mugman.
"We plan to release 10-15 bosses per episode and end up with over 30 bosses," the studio says.