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Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course: hands on with the new DLC

Cuphead fans have waited five long years for the game’s expansion, The Delicious Last Course, and it’s finally almost here. The add-on will be released in June on all platforms. One of the expansion’s new bosses, Mortimer Freeze, brings new challenges and new gameplay systems to Cuphead‘s style of run-and-gun fun, and Polygon recently spent the better part of an hour trying to take him down at a hands-on event.

Mortimer Freeze is a three-phase boss that we’ve briefly glimpsed in its first form in the Cuphead DLC’s release date announcement trailer at the end of 2022. We saw the boss’ second and third phases during the Summer Games Fest 2022 livestream. At the Summer Game Fest Play Days event in Los Angeles, I resolved to battle the boss until I’d bested it, which took dozens of attempts across about 45 minutes.

For the fight, I controlled Ms. Chalice, Cuphead‘s new DLC character. She brings several new abilities to the table compared to Cuphead and Mugman: She has an extra point of HP, an inherent double jump that’s independent of parrying, and a dodge roll, plus her dash can act as a parry when you connect with a pink objects. These abilities give her an edge over the game’s original characters, making it easier to take down tough foes.

However, playing as Ms. Chalice isn’t an automatic win button; her abilities will take time to master — particularly the dodge roll, which requires pressing the dash button while holding down on the control stick. That’s not so simple to perform in the heat of combat, but the invincibility frames it provides will make it worth working into your repertoire.

The Mortimer Freeze fight seemed designed to show off Ms. Chalice’s dodge roll and dash parry. In its first form, Mortimer flew above her head as a wizard, throwing Tarot cards, dropping icy minions, and slamming the ground with a large fish from above. The small ice creatures he sent down were particularly difficult to avoid, since their trajectory was unpredictable. Trying to jump out of their way got me killed multiple times until I learned to use Ms. Chalice’s dodge roll to avoid taking damage from them. Meanwhile, using her dash parry to earn Super Art energy from the slow-moving pink Tarot cards felt satisfying.

In phase two, Mortimer takes the form of an Abominable Snowman-style creature with a bucket on its head. He rolls from one side of the screen to the other, sometimes stopping after one roll, sometimes stringing three together, often launching into the air for the final roll. As a result, attempting to jump over him proved unwise, since it was difficult to predict when he’d launch into the air instead of rolling across the ground.

The snowman form has several other deadly attacks as well. When it transforms into a fridge, it spits ice cubes that break into pieces and bounce around after hitting the ground, creating multiple projectiles to avoid. It also unleashes flying popsicles that careen at you out of the sky during subsequent attacks, adding to the fight’s already considerable chaos. And the boss periodically summons multiple sharp blades that erupt out of the snow. When those arrived at the same time that I was dodging flying popsicles, I often took a hit or two of damage.

Ms. Chalice battles Mortimer Freeze in his snowman form in an animated GIF from Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course

Image: Studio MDHR

It took me dozens of tries to get to phase three, and once I finally did, I found it to be the most challenging form yet. Mortimer became a giant flying snowflake and the arena scrolled upward into the sky, with the ground falling out from under Ms. Chalice. I had to quickly jump to a set of floating platforms that spun rapidly in a circle, making the very battleground treacherous and deadly.

In snowflake form, the boss throws buckets from one side of the screen to the other. Once they strike the wall, they spill small crescent moons that bounce back across the arena. Mortimer also sends an electric eyeball flying around the room, moving opposite the floating platforms. The eye shoots multiple vertical bursts of energy before returning to the boss, making it extremely difficult to avoid taking damage. The snowflake form also summons sharp ice cream cones that form a circle around your platforms before moving toward the center and meeting in the middle of the screen.

Luckily, Ms. Chalice’s other abilities made dealing with this form slightly more manageable. Switching to her alternate Chaser Gun, which fires green stars that homed in on the boss no matter what direction I faced, made it easier to focus on avoiding its unpredictable projectiles while jumping around the rapidly moving snow platforms. (This attack is not new to the DLC.) In addition, I got into the habit of saving up Ms. Chalice’s Super Art, a highly damaging vertical beam of light that stretches above and below her, for Mortimer Freeze’s third and most difficult phase .

After dozens of attempts, I admitted defeat and were unable to beat the boss despite our best efforts. That was, until the very end of the event, when I spied the Cuphead station empty and unattended. Glancing around, I sat down and resolved to continue trying until the booth attendants or security kicked us out. After several dozen more attempts, including one crushing defeat that was so narrow I shrieked out loud, I finally sent Mortimer Freeze packing. Predictably, it was the most rewarding thing I’d done all day.

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC (via Steam and GOG), and Xbox One for $7.99.

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