Cuphead has some of the greatest boss battles in video game history. Choosing one to cover on Best Boss Battles was a challenge in it of itself. Who to start with? Hilda Berg? Cagney Carnation? Grim Matchstick? Cala Maria? The Phantom Express? The Devil?
Then I remembered him. The boss battle that gave me more trouble than any of the others combined. The one, the only: King Dice.
Just writing his name brings up memories of suffering…
King Dice is the most unique boss in Cuphead. Mainly because he isn’t just one boss. He’s ten bosses all in one. In order to succeed, you’ll need an equal balance of skill, luck, and stamina. It’s a true gauntlet that will leave you exhausted by the time you finally overcome it.
The fight is constructed like a board game. King Dice presents you with a die. When you parry that, the number you get determines how far you move. The space you land on shall determine your fate. Land on a safe space and you roll again. Land on any space numbered 1 – 9 and you’ve got to fight a mini-boss. Land on the Start Again space, and… well, you know.
Luckily, you have some aid in this marathon. Scattered randomly across the board are three hearts. Land on these and you’ll get one extra point for your HP. Be wary, though: these hearts may be attached to one of the mini-bosses. You’ll need to carefully strategize; do you aim for that space for the heart, or skip it and avoid that particular boss?
Or you’ll get a bad die roll and your whole plan will fall apart.
Your first potential obstacle is the Tipsy Troop. These three will launch some basic projectiles at you. Luckily, they’re not hard to dodge. One of the easiest of the lot, so easy that they may as well be a safe spot.
Number two is Chips Bettigan. This guy splits his body into three parts and launches them at you, much like the Yellow Devil from Megaman. Only way easier. Dodging this guy is a cakewalk. Keep your eyes open and you’ll be fine.
Our third foe is Mr. Wheezy. This murderous cigar will shoot projectiles at you and swap platforms, forcing you to jump and dodge frequently. Luckily, he’s still fairly slow and docile. Not a difficult fight.
Contestant number four is Pip and Dot. This domino will throw projectiles on you while the field you fight on (which is covered in spikes, by the way) moves. While still easy, this one can get kind of tricky, making them the first challenge of the battle.
Fifth on our list is Hopus Pocus. The magical rabbit will summon magical skulls to attack you in varying patterns. Tricky at first, but once you figure it out, dodging his attacks is not a challenge.
Phear Lap is our sixth potential foe. This is one of two potential flying battles you can run into. He’ll launch deadly presents at you while skeletal horses charge along the bottom of the screen. You’ll need to be very aware of your spacing during this fight.
The seventh spot belongs to Pirouletta. This tall dame will simply walk back and forth and crush you. To avoid this, you’ll need to use the giant parryable chips floating around the stage. Or you could just go right through her if you have the Smoke Bomb equipped. This is one of the easiest ones of the whole lot.
The penultimate mini-boss is Mangosteen. This floating 8-ball will chase you across the screen and vomit black goo on you. So long as you move carefully, you can defeat this one with relative ease.
Finally, the final mini-boss standing between you and the King himself: Mr. Chimes. This isn’t just an air battle, it’s also a matching game! In order to make Mr. Chimes vulnerable, you need to match two cards from the background. Until you have that chance, you need to fly quickly and carefully to avoid the deadly toy monkey. Of the lot of them, this is easily the most difficult to deal with. My only consistent strategy for success is to avoid him entirely.
You can fight any of these nine foes depending on your luck. The name of the game is to avoid as many of them as possible in order to make your way to the final space on the board. Once you reach that, you get to fight King Dice himself.
Like the nine foes that came before him, King Dice himself isn’t especially complicated. Not that that makes him easy. If you’re not prepared, or you’re still licking your wounds from the marathon, he can kill you before you even realize the fight has started!
His move set is simple. He’ll set one hand against one side of the screen and release a parade of marching cards towards you. To survive, you’ll need to jump, parry, and dash your way across this little troop until the end, at which point you’ll have a chance to counter-attack. Or, if you want to play risky, you can try to sneak your way behind his hand and enjoy some safety, though your offensive options in there are limited.
On their own, none of these ten enemies are particularly hard to deal with. But put together like this and you get one of the hardest, most exhausting boss battles in the entire game! If you want to take down the Devil’s right-hand man, you’re going to have to polish every single one of the skills you’ve refined over the course of the game!
It’s the perfect showcase of all of Cuphead’s strengths as a game. From all ten of the amazingly fun and creative designs of the bosses to the brutal challenge they present, this battle is peak Cuphead! It is truly incredible game design!
Even if he makes me want to tear out what little hair I have left.