Spanish developer, Xixo Games Studio, released the trailer for their new kick-starter, Enchanted Portals at the beginning of October. The game will follow two rookie magicians who are trapped between dimensions and are looking to escape with the use of their powers. Despite a high number of views on YouTube and Twitter, there has been a huge backlash towards the developers, after it was realised that the game resembles 2017’s huge hitter, Cuphead.
There are two reasons for the resemblance:
The Artistic Direction
Cuphead and Enchanted Portals both take their visual design from Rubber Hose Animations of the 20s and 30s. Rubber Hose animation has inspired many different medias through the past century and has recently made a return to the gaming industry in the past couple of years. The animation style produces almost boneless characters allowing the animators to come up with a range of humorous antidotes and story telling moments.
However, there is one key difference between the two games in the visuals, Cuphead has a film grain, reminiscent of the early 20th century cinema whilst Enchanted Portals doesn’t. I think this has some part to tell how the story is told. Early Rubber Hose tended to tell some sinister stories, appearing in dark areas like graveyards, this is the case with Cuphead, as you have to work with the devil to collect a number of contracts after a gambling bet goes wrong. Although the picture of the Enchanted Portals above takes place in a graveyard a lot of other areas seem be more light-hearted.
The Game-Play Mechanics
The game-play mechanics are pretty identical, both are side-scrolling, run and gun shoot ’em ups. Where it could be argued that Cuphead, was inspired by games such as Super Metroid amongst others. The problem between these two is that both set of characters are almost identical in terms of movement, both seem to recoil when shooting, however, Bobby and Penny (the characters from Enchanted Portals) seem to be swinging their wands rather than recoiling. Other movements such as ducking and jumping are similar as well but this could be simply down to the art style.
A lot of mechanics in Enchanted Portals are unknown at this point, it is only the basic shooting and moving mechanics that we 100% know off due to the trailer. We can assume that there are different spells that can be learnt throughout the course of your time in the dimension. There is also the ability to block in Enchanted Portals, an ability that isn’t available during in Cuphead, there is also no evidence of a “Super Move” so far. The travel mechanic wasn’t shown either just a range of boss battles, are we going to have a map like system similar to Cuphead or not? Is it simply to early to
Originally, I thought there was a case for branding this game a “rip-off” but didn’t think there was a case for not making the game at least not legally. After some thought and research, I feel it could be argued that Enchanted Portals is inspired by Cuphead rather than a direct knock off. The game posses an original story, whilst also having original bosses, background and level designs, which yes are inspired by Cuphead, but are not copies. After all Metroidvania’s and Rouge-like games have a lot of mechanics from the games that inspired these genres, even similar graphics as others in the same genre. Maybe this is the start of a new sub-genre to run and gun games, Cuphead-like or simply, Rubber Hose Run and Gun games.
The counter argument here is how much can developers take before being considered to make a knock off or rip off. Cuphead is certainly a unique game, it brings a number of different inspirational factors together and puts them into a unique and cohesive vision. Whereas, Enchanted Portals is clearly inspired by Cuphead alone almost becoming a spiritual sequel, despite a difference in story. But does this mean that there can never be a Rubber Hose Run and Gun game ever again? How much IP do StudioMDHR actually own? So many questions to be answered in this case.
I think a lot of this backlash is down to the two year gap between the two, have Xixo just announced Enchanted Portals too soon? Cuphead is still fresh in a lot of people’s mind and a DLC has been released this year. Whereas Cuphead used mechanics, game designs and art style similar to types of media that were released in the previous century. Or is the backlash a lot to do with internet culture, are people jumping on a bandwagon or are people trying to protect a much loved game from being copied time and time again. Should we give the game a chance to be released and then make a full judgement? After all there is a lot we don’t know.
I do believe that the developers should come out and release a statement to let the public know their intentions and reasons for making Enchanted Portals.
I would love to know your guys opinion on this story.
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