Overcooked! Our sous-chef reviews a top coop.
Posted By: Will Smith-Parsons - August 01, 2022
Overcooked: All the fun of watching your kitchen burn down, none of the messy clean-up.
Overcooked! is a top-down, high-pressure cook-em-up that pits aspiring chefs against the clock and a series of strange circumstances to prepare ingredients and cook dishes to the satisfaction of hungry customers.
After each level, players receive a score and a number of stars based on how many orders were completed, how many were missed, and how many were stolen by penguins for some nefarious purpose.
This review draws from my experience of playing the first Overcooked! game, both single player and co-op, on the Nintendo Switch Lite.
Picture the scene. A pair of chefs stand on the bay of a flatbed truck. Another truck, made up of hobs and ovens that join with the current truck to constitute their kitchen for some reason, drifts away to avoid oncoming traffic.
A pot of soup was left on before the oven truck had to swerve to avoid a speeding milk float, and now the whole vehicle looks like the ice cream van Ghost Rider runs on weekends.
As the flames lick higher, one of the chefs—who is a walrus—wipes the tears from his moustache. He would likely not be consoled by the controllers of both chefs, who are unable to stop laughing at this turn of events.
We cooked Pie...rates... ahem.
Before we get onto the main course (this will not be the only cooking pun) of this review, there is something I must stress. Overcooked! is a game about there being too much stuff to keep track of. Things will go wrong, things will catch fire. Mice will run away with your cheese while you desperately try to assemble the rest of your pizza.
Perfectionists will find the array of tasks that must be completed under time pressure and in nonsensical circumstances both frustrating and unfair. This is a game that caters towards a messier palette, to the gamers who, in the face of ghosts stealing their lettuce, can laugh as the games takes them on its whacky journey.
In essence, a lot of the gameplay loop is about things going wrong and desperately clamouring to overcome those things. Still with me? Right. Service!
Souper Smash Bros
The visuals are there to do a job, and they do it well.
Aesthetically, the game has a humble but effective art style. It is bright and colourful, with a wide array of backdrops and circumstances for your culinary chaos. Although it lacks the wow factor of more artistically inclined games, and after a while a lot of the elements start to look the same, the main advantage of this style is that you know what everything is from a glance, which is vital once the pressure starts building.
The visuals are sufficient to indicate which bits of the game are which and do not embellish themselves further. You are very much in a kitchen, not a gallery.
A well-focused gameplay loop taking you through a wide array of levels and circumstances. It may well get stale, but it’ll take a while. Just don’t play it in single player.
The gameplay is the real meat of Overcooked!. A focused and, in my experience, bug-free gameplay loop (prepare ingredients, combine into meals, serve) is framed in different environments providing various challenges and hectic circumstances under which you must prepare soup and avoid ghosts.
Different dishes will be requested—often variations on the same theme—and preparing the right ingredients and assembling them in the time limit is key for success. The game deviates little from this core set of mechanics, with the exception of occasionally adding new dishes and themes, but trusts in the circumstances of each level to provide the challenge. It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, just send it down a different road every time.
Cooking to take your partner out of this world.
A massive bonus on the gameplay front that adds to the pacing of the game is that although you need three stars to get the high score on a level, you only need one to advance. This relieves the pressure between missions and gives the game really good pacing: even if things go wrong, you aren’t stuck on the same level becoming increasingly frustrated.
Completionists can rerun levels for high scores, but this is treated as an option rather than a necessity for progression. Ultimately, it is easy to progress but hard to excel in Overcooked!, and the game shines for it.
However, I would highly recommend playing this game with somebody else. Although the game is playable in single-player mode, switching between chefs feels clumsy and it’s much less fun to laugh at yourself when all of the mistakes are yours. The single-player mode seems like an afterthought in an experience very much designed for a second pair of hands.
It’s called ‘street food’ for a reason…
Longevity and value: 80/100.
Lots of content, a solid story, and an arcade mode for the tourists, and many stars to try to achieve for full game completion, all on a £30 plate.
In its current form, Overcooked! offers a generous portion size of game for the price. The version that is currently on sale is the ‘All you can eat’ edition, which comprises Overcooked!, Overcooked! 2, and all additional released content. For the first one, my sous-chef and I got in around 4 or 5 hour long play sessions before reaching the end of the first game, and moving onto the arcade mode.
In addition to the main story campaigns, there are arcade and challenge modes for those who want to really stretch the game, although I anticipate things would start to feel a little repetitive once the game started running out of new mechanics.
This is fine, this is fine, this is fine…
Relationship value: 90/100.
For the right kind of partnership and in the right (easy to achieve) setup, Overcooked! is a co-op triumph of hectic bonding and pulling together against the worst the culinary world can throw at you.
Overcooked! is designed with co-operative play in mind. However, I recommend that you and your sous-chef are either in the same room or using voice comms while playing in order to co-ordinate your efforts and hear each other’s sounds of panic as you realise you’ve run out of clean plates.
Overcooked! is a game about facing adversity with a collective grin. It’s a game about pulling together in the face of the nonsensical and unfair and managing to progress into a completely unrelated scenario with the same tools and objective but different routes and obstacles. You may get in each other’s way, you may have to passively aggressively chop tomatoes because the other person forgot, but you pass or fail together irrespective of who made the most soup. Sometimes you miss orders, sometimes the truck drifts off with something on the stove and catches fire, but those levels are still recoverable. Overcooked! teaches us that it’s hard to be perfect, but sometimes being just good enough can hit the spot just as well.
1- Solid gameplay and excellent pacing through the range of what Overcooked has to offer.
2- No bugs encountered over the story campaign or in the arcade mode.
3- Despite the pressure inherent in the game, it’s very relaxed for short play sessions or imperfect runs.
4- Good value for money.
1- Lacklustre single-player experience
2- Players need to be ready to accept the haphazard nature of the game or it can rapidly become frustrating.
3- Visuals are more about utility than artistry.
A well-paced co-operative experience.
Overcooked! is, above all, a well-paced co-operative experience about finding joy in imperfection and pulling together in the face of ludicrous adversity, but you need to meet the game halfway to truly discover its delights.