Shacknews Best Art Style of 2017: Cuphead

The animation techniques may be close to a century old, but it's still a first for modern game design. 

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Animation is a long, painful, highly-detailed process and making even a short feature can take an incredulous amount of time. That's probably why Cuphead is the first full-length video game to be done using hand-drawn graphics. It's even more remarkable that this wasn't an undertaking of a major studio, but rather a passion project from a small indie dev team. Their hard work did not go unnoticed by Shacknews as Studio MDHR has won our award for Best Art Style of 2017.

Stylistically, Cuphead harkens back to the early era of 1930's World War II-style animation. It gives the game a vibe that at any moment Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, or Popeye could show up out of nowhere in the middle of a battle and break into a song and dance routine. Designs of both our porcelain-headed heroes and the various anthropomorphized inanimate objects and creatures build a world of wonder and let the art tell a story. They're bouncy and rubbery and it feels like everything is dancing along to the jazzy big band soundtrack regardless of the purity of their intent.

Along with all the hand-drawn animated characters, the backdrops are all watercolor paintings. Anyone that's ever picked up a brush and attempted to make a watercolor painting can tell you that it's no easy task to make something even close to decent with the medium. To make an entire game's worth of various environments that run the gamut through land, sea, and air is a noteworthy task in and of itself.

If the reception and success is any indication, the long nights, and sore, cramping hands were worth it for the two brothers who run StudioMDHR and their small, but impressively talented team. I don't think we're likely to see a game as visually stunning or daunting to create as Cuphead anytime soon. It should stand as a testament to indie devs everywhere that hard work and a focused vision can create something just as noteworthy as any triple-A title out there. We salute Studio MDHR for the excellent art style in Cuphead. 


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

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