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Review

Enchanted Portals Review

Kid: “Mum, can we have Cuphead?”
Mum: “We have Cuphead at home.”
Cuphead at home:

Whether you ask a Buddhist monk in a temple or a troubled emo at the mall, they’ll both tell you that life is suffering. However, no matter where on the enlightenment spectrum you think you are, nothing will prepare you for the suffering that is Enchanted Portals. An unashamed Aldi-style mimicry of Cuphead, Enchanted Portals attempts to reproduce wholesale the magic of that title, but fails in every regard. A tedious, unfun, unfair slog, Enchanted Portals will test the patience of even the most hardened masochist.

Udders out for the boiz

Enchanted Portal’s superfluous tale is largely told through a series of static images, but essentially boils down to two young wizards mucking around with a magical tome, only to open a portal (likely enchanted) to another world, with the book escaping the grasp of these would-be magicians. Our young apprentices must then chase the tome through a variety of thematically disconnected realms in an attempt to get it back. Every world is filled to the brim with enemies and bosses intent on your destruction, apparently at the behest of the absconding book, and this will be your only motivation to wade through the pain that Enchanted Portals has in stall for you.

Things get off shakily with only the barest tutorial to acclimatise you to the game’s concepts; Dean Takahashi really should go nowhere near this game. Playing in what should be lawsuit-inducing similarity to Cuphead, you can shoot from your magic wand in eight directions, double jump, dash and block using a weird bubble. Your magic wand shoots three different types of elemental projectiles, and the colour of some enemies’ auras dictates which one will take them down.

Changing shots is simple enough with the D-pad, but a minimal HUD means you’ll have to remember which direction gives which element (not easy in the heat of battle). But while Enchanted Portals has looked at Cuphead’s homework and copied as much of its side-scrolling 2D combat as it could, it forgot basically everything that makes that game actually work.

Mosquitoes with syringes are mildly questionable

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But while Enchanted Portals has looked at Cuphead’s homework and copied as much of its side-scrolling 2D combat as it could, it forgot basically everything that makes that game actually work

Platforming is woefully imprecise, with the dash in particular sending you careening around the levels like a drunk uncle cutting rug on the dance floor. The strange temporary bubble that serves as a block can’t be summoned midair and roots you to the spot. It is on a very brief but oddly-timed cooldown too, so can’t be spammed and must be used relatively sparingly, and is difficult to summon in hectic fights when you really need it. Enemy projectiles come thick and fast, and the platforming spaces and tools available to traverse while avoiding the clusterfuck happening on screen simply make no sense – how you’re supposed to navigate them without eating shit I never managed to figure out.

In the procedurally generated (bleh) platforming sections it is absolutely in your interest to simply rush headlong towards the end and the sweet but brief mercy it brings before the next section gets ready to bend you over. The absence of no-brainer mechanics that would have added a bit of fairness to this fight like a brief invincibility window after copping a hit or the ability to duck are felt keenly, but this is decidedly on brand for a game designed principally to torment you and hope that you find that entertaining.

When you’re not platforming, you’re fighting bosses, and some of these designs almost capture the spirit of the game’s inspiration. Memorising attack patterns in these multi-phase battles is key, and while fighting a few bosses I managed to see a rhythm emerge that hinted at a comprehension of the vision required to pull off an experience such as this. The sections where you are fighting in a plane on a broom fare slightly better in terms of design as you have far superior manoeuvrability and a functional dodge with an invincibility window, but boss fights do tend to drag on.

The absence of no-brainer mechanics that would have added a bit of fairness to this fight like a brief invincibility window after copping a hit or the ability to duck are felt keenly, but this is decidedly on brand for a game designed principally to torment you and hope that it you find that entertaining

This bastard…

The art style is incredibly derivative but inoffensive enough, however there’s a patent lack of impact to your attacks. Cuphead felt good because when you got it right the enemies visibly looked like you were troubling them and got more and more angry. Here, you’ll just sink shots endlessly into the lazily flashing bullet sponge boss until you get a hard cut to the next phase or some disconnected still that will throw you into the next area. There’s just no satisfaction or release when you finally best your foe, and if it’s one thing that ought to be at the heart of a challenging game, it’s surely that.

Final Thoughts

I will say that over the decades I have been gaming, several games have tested me, but I’ve always risen to the challenge; I almost put a hole through my TV before beating Isshin the Sword Saint, I bested Portal 2’s co-op mode one-guy-two-controllers-style (little known fact), and I still sometimes wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares of King Dice in the original Cuphead. The only reason I persisted with Enchanted Portals is out of pride for my gaming credentials, but I urge you to not pick up this cursed gauntlet. Regardless of skill, Enchanted Portals is extremely likely to break you, because unlike the title it blatantly apes, the tools you have to beat your foes feel uninspired and inadequate. The challenge can certainly be surmounted with enough trial, error and extreme levels of patience, but it’s also just as honourable to walk away, and definitely a lot more fun.

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Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Enchanted Portals Review
Pas enchanté
Enchanted Portals copies almost everything about Cuphead, except for the precision of its mechanics, the tightness of its design and the enjoyment gleaned by mastering it. All the good bits really…
The Good
Art style is clean and colourful, if extremely derivative
Bosses occasionally strike a rhythm
The Bad
Imprecise controls are inadequate in the face of the game's challenge
Boss fights drag on for far too long and lack any satisfying visual feedback
2D platforming sections are universally painful and chaotic
Copies Cuphead wholesale minus the enjoyment
3.5
Poor
  • Xixo Game Studios
  • Xixo Game Studios
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X&S / Xbox One / PC
  • September 6, 2023

Enchanted Portals Review
Pas enchanté
Enchanted Portals copies almost everything about Cuphead, except for the precision of its mechanics, the tightness of its design and the enjoyment gleaned by mastering it. All the good bits really…
The Good
Art style is clean and colourful, if extremely derivative
Bosses occasionally strike a rhythm
The Bad
Imprecise controls are inadequate in the face of the game’s challenge
Boss fights drag on for far too long and lack any satisfying visual feedback
2D platforming sections are universally painful and chaotic
Copies Cuphead wholesale minus the enjoyment
3.5
Poor
Written By Kieran Stockton

Kieran is a consummate troll and outspoken detractor of the Uncharted series. He once fought a bear in the Alaskan wilderness while on a spirit quest and has a PhD in organic synthetic chemistry XBL: Shadow0fTheDog PSN: H8_Kill_Destroy

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