Ahh Cuphead. It’s a delightful game, which very nearly caused me to throw my Xbox in the bin in frustration. When I eventually bested it, (the last two bosses are a goddamned nightmare) the feeling of elation of having beat the devil and his lackey is indescribable. And yet, it’s something that so few people will get to experience.
Thing is, that doesn’t make me amazing or special. It just makes this lovely, wonderfully hand-drawn game inaccessible to most people. The game has been both praised and vilified for its difficulty, but I think it could do with being a little more accessible.
Accessibility in games is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. As a grumpy old bastard who’s served his time playing games since the Atari 2600, I often want to sit down and play a game without hitting brick walls of difficulty, but the option to move past that just isn’t there. And I say option, because I feel that games should have those – optional difficulty levels, opening the games up to more people.
For the first time, this year’s Assassin’s Creed has a difficulty selection, letting people who don’t want to get caught up in the newly adjusted combat’s difficulty play through the game to experience the story, without as much hardship. It goes even further, offering a free update next year that introduces an educational museum mode, letting people experience parts of the game without any combat whatsoever.
IDDQD? IDKFA? Hey, those made the game more accessible!
There are other games that are great at being accessible. Forza is a great simulator, that requires technical precision when its assists are off, but allows those who drive like assholes (me) to turn on things like ABS, racing lines and more so staying on the track isn’t impossible. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite (middling game as it is) introduced new features that let newcomers unleash devastating combos just by tapping a button.
And I think more games could do this. While Cuphead is a game I’ll remember fondly, I think it could easily be adapted to be more accessible without sacrificing its design ethos. An easier mode with a halfway checkpoint? Still tough as nails, with half the frustration. Not every has god-like reflexes, and that’s okay. that shouldn’t deny them access to the content in many games. I’m not suggesting that all games need to have modes that play themselves, or that all games be stripped of their challenge, but almost all games could cater to a wider audience in some way, without losing their scope. This thread is worth a read.
Of course, there will always be others who’ll just say “git gud,” but that’s a different argument for another day.
So what do you think? Should games have more options, or should newcomers just struggle their way through the frustration?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: October 6, 2017