I hate to start off a review with a pet peeve however the advent of couch multiplayer games recently has filled me with nothing but sadness. All to often good, sometimes great games get pushed on the way side because they do not offer an online multi-player mode. As an adult who works solidly it can often be quite difficult to summon friends around for a gaming session, least of all to play some of the lesser known indie titles particularly considering the many other couch play games that generally get pulled out for sessions such as Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart. I can see the intention behind forcing this, however when an excellent game like Overcooked is marred simply because of this glaring omission the feeling of disappointment is all the more profound.
On the surface Overcooked is a very simple game. Your play time is in the kitchen using simple Diner Dash style rules with just the directions and two buttons to worry about control wise. This simplicity makes things nice and easy to slip into in the early hours of the game allowing you and another player to focus on the required ingredients as they pop up in the top left of the screen. The idea is to assemble food using these ingredients by preparing them on chopping boards, sticking them in a pot or frying pan, sticking them on a plate and then serving. The complications arise when the kitchens take on different forms, throwing chopping boards far apart from cooking pots, having rats pick up any unattended ingredients or by having choke points in each kitchen which would cause your team to run into each other as you all dash to your chosen station. Not only this but if you neglect your cooking stations while running around chopping onions or chasing down rats then you run into the danger of the food getting overcooked which not only burns the food with the result being a one way trip to the bin but will also cause a break out of flames in the kitchen. Luckily you have a fire extinguisher handy for these situations but more often than not if this happens then you may as well restart the level as the valuable time has been wasted. I will say however it is incredibly funny when this happens, especially with your team mates all scrambling to the extinguisher, yelling at whoever was responsible for the raging soup inferno.
This makes for a brilliant fun co operative experience, particularly with the comedic storyline which starts off with the end of the world. A hungry beast arrives and demands satiation via freshly cooked meals. At first you only have salad to feed him so it is up to you to go back in time and work in various kitchens around the world to hone your skills and learn how to assemble more complicated recipes in a bid to rematch with the beast. Your journey takes you across many different kitchens with some taking place in normal suburban kitchens, in the back of food vans speeding along a motorway and even on the side of an ice berg where slippery floors and moving glacial platforms are the order of the day.
The storyline unearths an impressive amount of hidden depth. Each level comes with a three star rating at the end which totals up your score. To better yourself and your team the best way is to work out who takes which role in the kitchen and what the best travel lines for your chefs. For example my wife and I were constantly getting a two star rating on the first burger kitchen until we found that loading up the buns with the garnish before putting the meat in cut our preparation time down considerably and allowed us to get more points out of the meals we created, not only that but it allowed us to use more cooking stations at any given time so allowing us to go from fledgeling cooks to a full blown machine of burger processing which was nothing short of glorious.
I mention Overcooked as a solely cooperative experience because unfortunately single player feels half baked in comparison. While the requirement for completing as many dishes as possible has been fractioned by a margin the requirements for multitasking go through the roof. Rather than the two button control setup you also have to tap R1 to switch between your two chefs, often leaving one of the chefs doing nothing while you d elegate between. While you can work out a strategy to make this work for you the rewards and satisfaction for doing so is far less fun. While at the beginning and learning the mechanics single player will work fine for the most part when the stack of ingredients gets larger later on it genuinely feels impossible to progress further and that is a damned shame.
Presentation wise the game is pretty standard, the chefs in game look like Muppets and the light hearted and colourful style works with this quite nicely. The only issues I found in regards to performance in this area was with the over world map, there is a slight bit of juddering and slowdown however luckily this does not affect the gameplay whatsoever. The music also enjoys the light-heartedness and is pleasant enough not to annoy despite the repetitive nature of the game.
Overcooked is a brilliant game marred by a couple of missteps that brings it down. If you have one to three other friends who meet up regularly for couch gaming fun then Overcooked may even be an essential ingredient to your party. However as a single player experience it just isn’t up to snuff and that only exacerbates the need for an online multi-player mode of some description in the future which at this point is not planned (but not ruled out) by Team 17. I will say however, Ghost Town games have done an excellent job for a two person team, they have created a fun and rewarding game that will most certainly be a great addition to any games night.