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When Does a Game Stop Being a Homage and Become a Rip-Off?

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:14 PM
William Worrall
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:14 PM
  • Enchanted Portals was accused of being a Cuphead clone.
  • After the backlash, the developers have promised to make changes.
  • The developers recently began talks with a publisher.

Sometimes video games walk a fine line between paying tribute and stealing ideas. Games like Super Meat Boy may be steeped in love for the 8-bit Nintendo era , but it manages to make the style its own. Gianna Sisters, on the other hand, was a bold-faced rip-off of Mario Brothers and didn’t even try to hide it.

Often times a game which is so obviously stealing becomes the target of legal action, but sometimes it is the court of public opinion which sentences a game. This is certainly the case with Enchanted Portals, a recently announced game that caught a lot of flak for just how similar it is to Cuphead. So what did Enchanted Portals do, or not do, to get lumped in with the rip-off crowd?

The Many Marked Similarities Between Cuphead and Enchanted Portals

At first glance, it’s pretty simple to guess why so many people could see the similarities between Cuphead and Enchanted Portals, two indie platformer games with a heavy focus on boss fights. Both have a similar rubber-hose style of animation  and both also have a similar taste in music.

If you take a look at some of the gameplay footage, then the similarities become even clearer. Not only are the music and visuals incredibly close to Cuphead, but the actual gameplay seems to follow almost all of the exact same beats as well. The characters not only jump and shoot in a very similar way to Cuphead, but the gameplay features dashing, parrying and super attacks which are all executed in the same way.

More even than the gameplay, the bosses themselves seem to be very close. In both games, there is a boss fight featuring a menacing large person towering over you and looking down, and both have a boss fight featuring a giant technology-based enemy walking towards you and firing giant lasers. It seems that in their mission to pay tribute to a game they loved, the developers strayed too close to the sun and got burnt.

Enchanted Portals - Cuphead Comparison
Side-by-side the similarities between the two are easy to see. | Source: Know Your Meme

How They Could Fix It

Fans of Cuphead were understandably upset by the announcement. The important question really becomes, what could they have done to make the game feel less like a rip-off?

Firstly, there is the music. A lot of the settings in Enchanted Portals seem more whimsical and zany than the vintage 1930’s style of Cuphead. Having the jazzy style of music heard in Cuphead in this situation doesn’t make much sense. On top of that, the rubber hose animation style has also been brought over from Cuphead, which again feels unnecessary for the setting.

Enchanted Portals - Facebook Post
Not long after the backlash from the online community, the developers promised to distance themselves from Cuphead. | Source: Enchanted Portals Facebook

The Outcome of the Backlash

Luckily it seems like this story has a happy ending for Enchanted Portals. It was recently announced that the Kickstarter campaign was being indefinitely suspended  since a publisher had stepped in to offer them money and help to publish the game. With the prospect of a real publisher comes the ability to increase the scope and begin production immediately instead of having to wait for the campaign to complete.

The studio also announced in a recent Facebook post that they would be making some changes to help differentiate themselves . While it isn’t clear exactly what these changes will entail, and how successfully said changes will be at stopping the game feeling like a rip-off, it is nice to see Xixo Games taking feedback onboard. Hopefully, other developers and publishers will use Enchanted Portals as a cautionary tale on avoiding feeling like a copycat.