The complications of putting a recipe together can be daunting, especially with a giant spaghetti monster breathing down the nape of your neck. The onion kingdom is in danger of annihilation and it’s your job to go back in time to 1993 and hone your cooking talents to satiate his hunger and prevent disaster… by feeding him onions.
Overcooked is a game that has you racing against the clock to complete food orders for hungry diners. You must work together with three other chefs to chop, boil, cook, fry and grill your way through various stages, with the ultimate objective of becoming the best chefs in the world. The basic aim of the game is to prepare ingredients, cook them, plate them up and serve them. Easy in theory, difficult in practice.
Each stage gives you four minutes to serve as many meals as you can and, as you progress, the ingredients become more varied, the orders come in quicker and the kitchens become increasingly difficult to navigate. Stages start as static kitchens but soon become moving environments that force the player to change their assigned role, waste precious seconds of attentive cooking time and generally aid in making the chaos in the kitchen even more chaotic. From seasick-inducing pirate ships to dual-food trucks speeding down the highway, Overcooked‘s level design is one that lends well to the aesthetic as well as the functionality of gameplay.
Overcooked‘s controls are instantly accessible and, although seeming simple at first, have an unexpected layer of complexity. For example, the tutorial teaches you how to pick up ingredients and objects and place them around the kitchen. What the game doesn’t tell you is the multitude of ways you can make this work to shave seconds off your timer.
Instead of picking up ingredients and depositing them into a pot, one by one, you can use a plate to gather the ingredients you need and instead carry one thing to your pot instead of three or four. And although extremely unhygienic, you can throw food onto the floor instead of using your valuable, but limited, counter space. These are relatively small tricks, but ones that largely impact the player’s timings, and score, for the better.
Visually, Overcooked is a delight to look at. If it wasn’t for the attention that the game demands, I would happily have spent some idle seconds watching the miniature chefs running around. Levels also have a simplistic yet cartoon-like style, drawing you in without distracting from the task of running a kitchen. The visuals are clean, the colors are crisp and the overall presentation is one that fits Overcooked like a fine toque.
Not only the look, but the sounds of the game enhances the appeal of playing. Hearing the frantic chop of a knife hit the cutting board or the sizzle of a burger in the background. All this mixed together with a charming music selection that varies depending on each level you play.
The meat of the game (get it?) is in it’s co-operative play. While I enjoyed the single player, I imagine the game would be far more entertaining with three friends screaming at your side. Not only do you have to concentrate on fulfilling your duties in the fastest time possible, but adding three other like-minded and panicked players, bumping into one another and treading on each others toes, would certainly add that extra spice to the experience. The game is definitely designed to be enjoyed to it’s fullest with four controllers at the ready. From it’s level design which forces players to adapt whatever game plans they had made, to the very heart of the gameplay which requires co-operation and communication to master each level.
The game never explicitly fails you, even if you only managed to serve one or two orders. Players can progress in the game with minimal effort, however doing so defeats the point of the game which is to hone your skills, become more efficient, cut out your flaws and chase those highly sought after three star ratings. The promise of getting better through continued play and earning that third and final star is a reminder for players to keep going back as they progress forward.
This is also what adds into Overcooked‘s replayability. As the levels progress, that third star becomes further out of reach and attaining the perfect score can take several attempts. The difficulty shows when a small flick of your analog stick can mean half a second of not doing your job and bringing that three star rating down to two. I don’t want to explain how much I agonized over creating the perfect dining experience in an orbiting space station and still ended up with only two stars.
Overcooked succeeds in creating an intriguing, co-operative experience that is simple enough that anybody could learn to play it within minutes, but complex enough to keep players coming back, perfecting their skills and aiming for higher scores. I do wish players had the option to play online as well as local, although I realize that the chaos among players over voice chat wouldn’t work as well as when the chaos is sitting right next to you. Despite this, Overcooked is an absolute joy to play. The game combines a unique visual style with simplistic controls and increasingly complex gameplay. Overcooked is the missing addition to your library and one that can be enjoyed by both casual gamers as well as hardcore, high score hunters.