I never got to play the original Overcooked. I saw it at a few Expos, surrounded by people laughing and cheering. Sadly, it was local co-op play only. I could never muster real life people together to play.
Overcooked 2 (as I understand it) is more of the same, but with online play. Problem solved! It also has ability to play solo. Also, it is very, very good fun. And now I can play online with friends, it’s even better! Shame we all fell out over this game.
The premise is simple – you need to prepare dishes that customers require, within an allotted time. You do this by cooking raw materials, preparing them if needed by chopping or mixing, then baking or frying and putting it on a plate and out to serve. You’ve probably seem games like this on tablet devices where you have to click the bits – this is the same concept, only you have an avatar which you guide around the kitchen. Oh, and you also need to wash up your dirty plates.
The twist? Well, ask anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen – it’s frantic. Things over boil, over cook, plates aren’t clean, customers are in a hurry – you need to serve a correct number of materials to earn enough money to win a star rating on each level. It sounds so rudimentary but it works. Oh, it works so, so well.
Why? Well, for a start it’s simple. One button to pick up and drop things, one button to chop and throw (yes, you can throw raw ingredients), one button to dash – and you’ll need to dash. It becomes time management; to maximise your cash, you’ll need to have multiple dishes cooking at once. Maybe someone wants sushi with cucumber, but you accidentally put fish in it. While you’re figuring that out, your rice is burning, you have no clean plates and a wizard is moving the level around.
Yes, the levels are a bit mad. From a standard kitchen, there are operations on a high water rapids river, floating on separate rafts. Here you need to wait for them to align in order to pass plates over, and aim well with ingredients. Maybe a staircase is moving in a Hogwarts inspired level, forcing you to throw, wait or use portals to get around to get the food you need. One of my favourite levels is early on, which has you cooking in a hot air balloon through a lightning storm.
The genius of Overcooked 2 though is how you have to play it. The above sounds fairly easy, but you need at least two players. This could be in solo where you control both (and is a bit of a brain bender) or 2, 3 or even 4 human players. The score difficulty scales to number of players, but the level design is set to accommodate this.
For example, another early level has one player ‘trapped’ in a small kitchen. They have all the chopping boards but no ingredients. The other players must get them the ingredients to prepare, then have them passed back and then must manage the flow of raw items to that player, as well as serving the dishes, ensuring there are clean plates and making the customers happy themselves. Sometimes the ingredients and cooking utilities are far apart, with a serving area somewhere else. It constantly forces players to evaluate the environment, come up with a strategy and stick to it. Perhaps one player just takes the food to the serving area and ensures plates are ready, with one player cooking hot food, one cold. Maybe you split the kitchen so one area is just turning steak and pasta, with another doing fish and pasta.
Hygiene rules do not need to be observed, but a slick operation releases all sorts of endorphins. Levels are timed and don’t overstay their welcome – usually between 3 and 4 minutes. Whilst switching between two characters in solo mode is fine, with other players is where this game shines.
It’s a party game – no doubt. As you get together, and try to operate a kitchen, tensions get frayed and emotions get high. What starts as a polite, “I need fish” turns into this:
Me: I need lettuce.
Player 2: Here you go.
Player 2: Oh no I dropped it in the lake.
Me: I need fish.
Player 2: Oh no I dropped it in the lake again.
Me: No not that fish, the blue one.
Player 2: I’ll deliver this.
Me: No not that, that’s not ready.
Player 2: I KNOW IT’S NOT READY I WAS JUST MOVING IT
Me: I NEED BLOODY FISH
Player 2: I KNOW YOU NEED FISH
Player 3: I need some plates.
Player 3: GUYS I NEED PLATES
Generally, scaling the players works well. I think it probably works slightly better with 2 or 4 players, as some levels aren’t quite asymmetric enough for 3 players but there’s a lot of variety here. There’s a large number of levels too set across 6 worlds.
Further online play lets you drop into a chosen or randomly selected level with friends or randoms, and Vs. play pits you on special maps in 2 vs 2 competition. This also gets heated, but what I particularly liked is the ability to cross over into the other team’s area and steal their prepared dishes, ingredients or maybe even their cooking apparatus.
I do wish there was a scoreboard mechanism – you unlock other chefs to play as just by moving through story mode, but Overcooked 2 is very much a game about fun. Drop in, have a good time, return later to do it all over again. And it is great fun. Just need to make sure you all make up afterwards and stay friends.
Reviewed on PS4