Ever since the success of “Minecraft,” the Indie gaming sphere has been skyrocketing with multiple titles trying to capture that same success. With so many giving their own attempt, it becomes a tad difficult to discern which ones are actually worth your time. The following two titles exemplify some of the best stuff the Indie scene has featured recently.

“Cuphead” – Xbox One and PC

A game that has long been on my radar since its debut in 2015, “Cuphead” delivers on the hype that surrounded it even with a few delays hindering its release. The game is set up as a 2-D run ‘n gun platformer and boss rush game, but with an art style that looks as though it was made in the 1930’s by Walt Disney himself. It’s comical story begins with Cuphead and his brother Mugman losing a bet to the devil, forcing them to collect soul debt contracts from a variety of creatures to pay off their own. The character design pays clear homage to cartoons from the time period such as “Popeye,” “Betty Boop” and “Steamboat Willie,” which looks great with the beautiful watercolor backgrounds on stages. Perhaps the most remarkable thing from the game is that every single piece of art and animation was hand-drawn by the game’s designers, making the couple of delays well worth the wait.

Just about as important as the game’s art is the music itself, which also lends inspiration from the 1930’s time period. Recorded by a 13-piece big band orchestra, the music ranges from ragtime to full on swing a la Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller. Each boss, stage, world and even menu has its own unique track for players to play alongside, with it totaling over two and a half hours worth of music composed specifically for “Cuphead.”

A fair warning to potential buyers of the game, don’t let the cool artstyle and music deceive you in what you’re buying. “Cuphead” is one of the hardest games I have played in recent memory, which is fantastic if that is what your looking for. The bosses each have their own unique look, as well as abilities in how they progressively change to different stages depending on the damage done; this makes it imperative that you learn the tell-tale signs for what moves they’re about to do, whether it be through a sound or animation. You have three hit-points (until purchases which can be made later in the game) and once you lose them, you’ll go back to the beginning, which isn’t so bad given you have unlimited lives and the downtime between dying and starting over is nearly instantaneous. The sweet satisfaction of finally defeating a boss and hearing the victory music when totaling your score is why this is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in gaming. My one knock on the gameplay is a couple of bosses have certain stages where they use a random attack, with one being a lot easier to dodge than the others.

When the music, art and gameplay mesh together as well as they do in “Cuphead,” you end up with something very special. It’s clear Studio MDHR made great use of their development time to polish the game as much as they could, as I never came across any real bug or glitch in my entire play-through, which is saying a lot in a world where developers rush to get their product out as quickly as possible. “Cuphead” is both a unique and rewarding experience, one that is easily towards the top for my favorite releases of the year, maybe even all-time. With such a well-made product for only $20, “Cuphead” is a game I can not recommend enough.

“Golf Story” – Nintendo Switch

Harking back to the original “Mario Golf” on the Gameboy Color, this golf RPG was one of the biggest surprises of the year to me. The premise of the game has a young man looking to pick back up the clubs after abandoning the sport as a young child. The actual golfing you’ll be doing in the game is similar to how other games handle it, with you aiming your shot, then timing it based on power and accuracy. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the sport, it is still a lot of fun to play and gets more difficult as you adjust for wind, slope on the green, what club your using, and more. Being an RPG, you level up through accomplishing quests for various people in both the main story and optional activities. The points you earn once leveled up can be spent on power, the draw on your shot, accuracy, and a few others.

You’ll meet a variety of humorous characters on your main quest, who all contribute to the game’s charming tone. The game gives you eight different courses to explore, each with their own unique theme and music. The music itself very much fits nicely alongside it’s gameplay, making it a perfect game to play undocked on the Switch while relaxing on the couch. This is the first title to also really take advantage of the HD rumble on the Joy-Con controllers, as the golf ball has a unique feel to most places that you hit, which can only really be conveyed if you try it for yourself. “Golf Story” is a definitely a sleeper hit at $15, and one that I can confidently say is a must buy for all Switch owners.

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