Too many cooks spoil the broth. But with the exact right amount of cooks, you get a really nice fish and chips.
I can only imagine that developers Ghost Town Games have attended far too many chaotic dinner parties in their collective lives. Their new game, published by Team17, is like some extreme version of Masterchef, challenging players to prepare dishes under the most frustrating of situations. It is also the ultimate test of friendship as the local co-op play will push relationships to the limit. Overcooked, available for PS4, Xbox One and PC, is the psychotic, soul-destroying cooking game you never knew you needed in your life. Move over Mama, S***s about to get real!
I would love to say that Overcooked starts out simple, but from the very beginning it seems determined to test the limits of co-operation. Believe it or not, there is a story in Overcooked. Something about a monster that needs to be fed otherwise it will destroy the city. The players are dropped into this rooftop kitchen to feed the monster straight away, and of course fail. So they are sent back in time to travel the land, and work through the games various levels, improving their skills to face the monster again when they are ready.
With the taste of defeat still in their mouths, players are then dropped into a much calmer kitchen. Well, it’s calm to begin with.
The basics of the game are quite simple. Tickets run across the top of the screen, showing which dishes have been ordered and must be prepared. Players must then gather the ingredients from the labeled boxes, prepare them on chopping boards, cook them, plate up and then carry them over to the conveyor belt that takes the dish to the customer. You get points for each dish served, and lose points for missing a dish in its time limit. After the time for the round has passed, the final score awards players with up to three stars and unlocks the next level, although each level also has a star requirement so only scoring one star on levels will result in a lack of progress.
Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? Let’s look at a simple dish for example – fish and chips. Grab a fish, run over to the chopping board and prepare it, then drop it in the fryer. The grab a potato, prepare that on the chopping board, and drop the chips in the fryer. Don’t take too long, as the fish cooks quickly and if you leave it, it will catch fire and then you will have to run around with the fire extinguisher, putting out the flames. So, grab the fry basket and deposit the fish on a plate, remembering to return the fry basket to the fryer so it is ready for the next dish, rather than dropping it on the floor. Do the same with the chips and then take the completed meal to the conveyor belt. Don’t forget to wash any dirty dishes and put them out for the next meal.
Explained like that, it sounds quite straight forward. But then there is the time factor. Working as a team is essential to get the dishes out before they run out of time, and each level has a certain puzzle element as the players need to work out the best system to get things done without getting in each others way. Communication is key, but the communication is more often screaming and shouting than gentle discussion in reality.
The biggest factor adding to the chaos of Overcooked is the level design. It may start with a simple kitchen, but things ramp up quite quickly, determined to make the cooking that bit more difficult. Conveyor belts between two closed off areas of the kitchen, or rats stealing the prepared food, are only the beginning. Before long, players will find themselves having to deal with moving kitchens, such as being on a ship or spread over three moving trucks. And don’t even get me started on the ice levels, where slipping into the water and losing that finished dish are a reality. Never before has such a cute game caused such an explosion of expletives.
Aside from the campaign levels, which can be played by one to four players, there are also a selection of versus levels for a more competitive experience. The campaign can be played by a single player, with a button allowing them to swap between the two on screen cooks, but it really is far more difficult in an already difficult game. Players can unlock a selection of cute looking characters to play as in the game, giving them something else to work towards. There is even split pad control, allowing two players to share a gamepad, making this the perfect couch co-op game for those with only one gamepad.
Overcooked is a culinary nightmare. It will destroy relationships and likely TVs as controllers hurtle towards them in anger. It is a difficult game, but so satisfying when the players get into their groove and work together with flawless accuracy. But most of the time, it is just chaos. Highly enjoyable chaos, mind you. For fans of couch co-op, Overcooked is probably the most fun you can have.