Sometimes a game doesn’t need to make much sense for you to have a lot of fun whilst playing it. They have an ability to take something simple and even mundane and make it exciting and competitive, like working in a kitchen for example! With this in mind, Team 17 and Ghost Town Games have combined to bring us Overcooked, a game which turns cooking into multiplayer madness.
Overcooked: PlayStation 4, Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Ghost Town Games
Publisher: Team 17 Software Ltd
Release Date: 3 August 2016
Price: £12.79 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
You take control of one of the many loveable characters of the Onion Kingdom, who you may very well come to hate and shout at as time goes on. Unfortunately, the kingdom is about to be destroyed by a beast called the Ever Peckish, which just so happens to be a giant spaghetti and meatball monster. You try and fail to fulfill its hunger, so the king sends you back in time in order to hone your cooking skills, and build them up over the years until such a time when you’ll face the beast again.
Your job, essentially, is that of a chef, and you must prepare food, cook it, throw it onto a plate, serve it out of the hatch and then wash up the plate when it comes back. The dishes you need to make are shown in the top corner, and the ingredients you need as well will also be shown here. Sounds simple enough, but things get pretty tough pretty quickly. Starting with soup, which simply requires chopping 3 vegetables and cooking on a pan, you’ll end up with pizzas, wraps and fish and chips, which require a lots more ingredients, preparation and different cooking. The fun comes in trying to fry some meat whilst boiling some rice and getting your wrap on a plate, and bring it all together without burning your kitchen down (which can, and probably will, happen).
Overcooked sees you move through different levels based amidst a variety of worlds, you’ll be cooking everywhere from on hot lava to slippy ice and even venturing into space. Each environment poses an array of differing problems, with rooms going dark, moving lorries and fireballs to dodge. The difficulty builds up fairly well as you go on, and you will definitely be struggling towards the end, especially if you are trying to get through on your own. The game thrives on multiplayer, and if you can grab 3 friends to join you on it then do so, because the game gets near impossible to complete on your own, and this is its biggest downfall. Obviously aimed at multiplayer fans, the game is made so much more fun, mad and interesting with the extra players, but the fact it is limited to local co-op means you might not be able to find the extra cooks that you need. This is really sad for a game that is a lot of fun with friends, but mildly frustrating on your own the more you play.
One of the best things about Overcooked is that is easy to jump into and play, but equally hard to master and complete. There’s a good challenge here for those that want it, and as mentioned the biggest challenge comes if you are cooking alone. Each level will mark you out of three stars, and the more dishes and tips you get for quick meals, the more likely you are to hit the three-star target. Missing meals off will drop your score, so keeping an eye on which meal needs to be made next is of upmost importance. Trying to cook ingredients, prepare others, see what needs doing next, washing dishes all on your own is pretty hard, and whilst you always have two cooks in the kitchen, simply being able to control both doesn’t really make anything any easier.
Unfortunately, I did encounter a few minor problems with the game. Getting your character to pick up the right ingredient or the right pot can sometimes be difficult. Whilst this may just be level design in some cases, with others the character simply wasn’t reacting to the press of a button. I also had a few issues when making pizzas, where they would come out on the oven and it wouldn’t let me put them on a plate no matter what I tried. This saw me lose a meal and consequently a star in some cases, which was more than mildly annoying. For the most part though, the game runs smooth apart from you possibly running into your team mate more than once, and quite possibly screaming at them in the process.
The cutesy, cartoony look to Overcooked suits it perfectly and works well in contrast to the dramatic soundtrack that accompanies your cooking. There’s a large group of characters for you to pick from, including various animals and some even in wheelchairs. If you like the multiplayer element to the game, there’s also a versus mode which allows you to go head to head with your friends in various settings. A short achievement list means the game looks deceptively easy to complete but be prepared to complete all the levels perfectly with 3 stars in order to get your well earned 100% on Overcooked.
There is so much fun to be had here with Overcooked, but only if you have a couple of friends to join you on it. It is still fun alone but gets irritating and repetitive a lot quicker than in the local co-op mode. There’s a gradual learning curve through the levels, with a nice assortment of recipes to master. With minor problems in the actual game itself, the lack of some kind of AI to help you out or an online co-op mode are my biggest gripes with the game. Overall, though, you’ll be able to have a lot of laughs, mixed with quite a bit of frustration. Overcooked manages to turn a mundane everyday job into a hectic, exciting and fun game to play, and as someone who works in a kitchen as a job, I definitely know which of the two I enjoyed more!