By: Jeff Cater
With the advent of online gaming, local co-op experiences have been in rather short supply. Well, the two silly folks over at Ghost Town Games have developed a wonderful, unique game that relies solely on having some friends over and working together as best as you can.
In Overcooked, you’ll team up with pals and start taking food orders in a race to see just how many you can complete accurately and successfully. Let’s take a closer look at this short order!
This game is a great example of how to make an effective and easy to pick-up control set. As you would expect, the left stick will guide your chef around the level. To pick up an ingredient from the supply box (or items in general) you’ll press “X.” Depending on your current duty, that’s about all you’ll have to manage.
If you’re prepping, however, square will be mashed to bits as you furiously chop onions or mushrooms to keep up with the rest of the crew. You can also use circle to give your chef a speed boost while walking, which is extremely useful when trying to keep a pot of tomato soup from catching fire… or there’s an order that needs to go out YESTERDAY, PEOPLE!
Overcooked doesn’t feature fancy particle effects or high-poly models, but the sheer amount of personality and life displayed by the character and level design is almost infuriatingly cute. The characters are rather bulbous and funny looking, often with gap-toothed smiles, and they fit perfectly in their environments.
Speaking of which, level design is fantastically varied and there’s always something that makes them memorable, be it slick ice or prep stations sliding back and forth with the tide on a pirate-themed level. Animation sets are great as well, full of spunk and love, whether you’re chopping burger meat or doing dishes, the action is clear and concise.
Background music not only fits given levels perfectly, it also matches the incredibly hectic moments that Overcooked is full of. When time (and tolerance for your friends’ ineptitude) grows thin, the music speeds up and your mind ratchets the intensity of making a simple tomato lettuce burger to a 10.
Each item you’re prepping or cooking also has a unique sound to pick up on, like the soup coming to a boil or the final sear of a burger patty being fried, so your ears become trained to pick up on these cues.
I can’t tell you how often we’d all try to pile up on a completed pot of soup simply because we were trained by the sound and weren’t properly communicating. It’s just another thing that the game does extremely well; it requires clear communication between you and your buddies to succeed.
Let’s get this out of the way: Overcooked must be played with at least one other friend to have any fun at all, which is really the only thing “wrong” with the game. In single-player mode you get to control two chefs, switching between them at any given moment by pressing L1 or R1 — playing solo also extends prep times to account for switching between chefs.
Set a chef on cutting up some onions and switch to the other to get him started building up plates, switching back to move onions, switching again to get the order to the window, etc. It can be very difficult and frustrating to try to balance all of the duties as a single person controlling two chefs.
Overcooked is definitely meant to be played exclusively with friends and family. See when you’re playing with a full four chefs, each player is pretty much doing their own job and helping fill gaps where others are struggling. In single player any gap you’ve exposed in your line is completely up to you to fix.
Issues with the single-player option are pretty much moot, however, because everyone in your house will want to play this game. With four players commanding four chefs, each will have their hands full at all times.
Early on, you’ll all be having a great time making simple things like soup. Soup is fun because it requires (at first) only three items prepped, be it onions, tomatoes or mushrooms. So naturally one person will be grabbing the supplies and bringing them to the prep station where another player will be waiting to chop them up. Once chopped, they’ll bring them to the pots and toss them in to get the soup started.
When the soups up, a player will be taking the soup to a plate to complete the dish and will go to serve it up to move onto the next order. A fourth player will (also at first) be filling in the gaps by getting dishes washed up and replaced on the line in a tidy fashion.
That all quickly goes to hell when the level design gets crazy, like… try making soup on this pirate ship that rocks in the waves and slides the prep stations from side to side! Or try making hamburgers on two trucks that are pacing one another on the highway, occasionally separating and creating moments where chefs can end up falling to the roadway along with whatever ingredients they may be carrying.
Level design is just as fun and challenging as constantly communicating with your fellow chefs, which is critical to success in Overcooked. I’d be lying if we didn’t start yelling at one another from time to time, but it never got too serious and usually consisted of things like “Mike, get the soup! MIKE GET THE… IT’S ON FIRE, MIKE! GRAB THE EXTINGUISHER!”
That the single-player mode stinks in a game meant for multiplayer is really the only downside to Overcooked. Well, that and there’s no online play, but really who would want to risk teaming up with people who neglect to plug in their microphone anyway? It’s a missing feature that adds more to the game by being absent. Ultimately, Overcooked is just an incredibly fun time that requires a different kind of teamwork than most gamers are familiar with.