One casualty of the advent of online gaming is that, in many ways, we lost a lot of the real-world communal aspect of gaming. I recall fondly how after school myself and my classmates would go to whoever’s turn it was to host the rabble to do battle on the Sega Genesis’ Micro Machines and, in later years, the Playstation 1’s Tekken (the third outing, in particular). Now it can, and will, be argued that online gaming has meant that now more than ever we are eschewing time zones and potential language barriers as we develop friendships (and rivalries) in equal measure with players all across the globe. However, I know I’m not the only one that misses buddying up on a couch with friends to game. Tekken has certainly evolved over the years, but it just isn’t the same beating the snot out of an anonymous gamertag from another part of the country. I miss the real-world screaming and whooping and couch trampolining that both victory and defeat resulted in. Nowadays it feels that only Nintendo are aware of this now sadly widening gap in the market and has been the only company to fully capital on it; whereas other consoles and developers seem content to leave local multiplayer to a bygone era of gaming.
Luckily Overcooked! goes happily against the grain. Given that developer Team 17 created Worms, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Overcooked! and its sequel embraced multiplayer couch-gaming. The original was strictly local play however, which ironically given my lament about the how we as gamers don’t play on the same console these days, actually brought the game down in my estimations when I first played it a couple of years ago. Proof that we gamers can be a fickle bunch and are clearly never satisfied. It nevertheless became a staple in the household even though I desperately wanted to play it with my regular online gaming friends. That is, until I became some horrific Gordon Ramsay/Marco Pierre White hybrid to my underlings … I mean children and wife … and I was summarily banned from playing it.
So when Overcooked! 2 was announced to much fanfare from myself and the kids (despite the hellfire that we threw at each other in the kitchen - we adored the game). My wife seemed to suddenly develop a keen interest in holidaying to areas of the world with little to no internet. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence though, I hear autumn is the season for bargains, anyway.
“Beginning to think that regardless of novelty, this is just impractical, guys.”
The original simultaneously drew you in with cute graphics and a (relatively) simple concept: work together to prepare food orders by chopping, frying, baking and assembling the dishes before serving. This is made increasingly difficult by kitchens clearly designed by the artists Escher and Picasso while being built on only the most joyfully improbable locations such as slippery glaciers (we weren’t even preparing ice cream!) or raging lava flows (apparently putting a frying pan on the lava is impractical — who knew?). Controls are kept simple with a basic two button interface: one button for chopping and cleaning, another button for picking things up and putting them down. Team 17 even think in real-world terms by acknowledging that not every household has four controllers by providing a shared controller interface should you require it (rather akin to how the Nintendo Switch keeps things simple with their Joy-Cons).
Overcooked 2! as a sequel takes the original concept and just keeps building on it. The graphics have had a bit more polish, the controls feel more responsive and there is now a greater variety of meals for you to prepare. Now you can add the likes of burritos, sushi and a plethora of pasta dishes to your repertoire of culinary treats; no doubt while debating whether or not throwing a fish at your fellow chef will suitably motivate them. The levels are more colourful and definitely embrace their location’s oddness (preparing salads in an air balloon before crashing into a sushi bar was particularly memorable), while never distracting the player from the madness of preparing a dish.
And it is the preparation of those dishes where the the mania of it all really begins to shine. I can wholeheartedly assure any reader that no matter how organised you think you are, by half way through a level it will degenerate into utter chaos. How you handle that situation is where the true comedy of the game kicks in; whether you start shrieking at your fellow players about assembling the gosh darned fajitas*, or perhaps implying that they are dishonouring their family by burning the thrice-cursed rice*, or even insinuating that their actions bring shame on the tools which they wield by ruining the sugar-plummed chicken*. (* - words heavily censored and edited for a more civilised audience)
Of course, vulgarity should always be done with a pinch of salt and humour, because Overcooked! 2 really is a whole heap of fun. In addition to the campaign, where you travel the world to refine your culinary skills to satiate the incoming hordes of evil ‘Unbread’ (yes, really), there is also a team versus mode (two kitchens — best score wins) and an online multiplayer arcade mode which operates in much the same manner. However, at time of writing the servers were closed so I was unable to try it out. With four of you playing the levels feel chaotic but never cluttered, meaning that you’re never fighting the game design to succeed. Within the versus mode, you can even impishly subvert your opposing team's efforts by stealing away their ingredients, but given you get no points for doing so, it never feels like you can be deliberately trolled to the point of losing. Team 17 have taken their ample multiplayer design experiences and applied them expertly throughout the game. As such it succeeds in only building on the originals mechanics and gameplay — Overcooked! 2 keeps serving up dish after beautiful dish while maintaining what made it made it special in the first instance.
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