- Released: 2017
- Played on: Switch
- Also available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
- Time to get into: 4 Minutes
- Time to complete: 12 Hours
- Multiplayer: Yes, local only
Overcooked is a wonderfully fun game that that on the surface has you chopping onions and frying burgers, but in reality has you managing a complex set of simple tasks to a tight deadline. It’s breathless and stressful, but cute and fun! In single player it’s good but in multiplayer, with the absolute need to communicate constantly and work together, it is fantastic. It loses it’s way later on as a package and it’s attempts at a story are woeful, but you’ll want to have Overcooked around for a quick and crazy go with friends every once in a while.
Anything but basic
On first glance everything in Overcooked seems so simple, perhaps even too simple. There are only 2 or 3 buttons and an analog stick in use and none of the actions require any finesse – it’s just press and go. One button is used to pick up/put down items and another to perform actions on those items. From washing a plate clean to slicing up a tomato; just hit the button, wait a bit and it will be done. However, it doesn’t take too many levels for the requirements for the number of completed meals to start to get a little tight and this is when it all makes sense. This game isn’t about cooking at all! The levels are kitchens but they could just as easily have been a garages or office buildings. Overcooked is really about managing your time in the most efficient way possible and by keeping each individual task very easy the developers, Ghost Town Games, have allowed their players to focus on the more complex bigger picture of how to complete the most meals. There is even good incentive for you to keep searching for the perfect critical path – you’re gonna want to get your rating up to 3 stars on each level if you intend to complete the game. This whole concept lends Overcooked a very smooth learning curve and good reasons to continue to climb it.
When your greatest strength…
This is all achieved by Ghost Town Games by giving each different level or kitchen a different limiting factor. Sometimes it’s how many things can be chopped up at any one time, other times you’re limited by how many things can be cooked at one time. This creates a bottleneck in each level that needs to be managed and is the real genius of the game. Without this it would take no time to work out the quickest way to have your chefs complete each task and then it would just be a case of execution. The bottleneck inevitably leads to the one thing you want to avoid – chefs just standing around doing nothing. All of a sudden your nice convenient sequence of events isn’t so clear. What can you do with your spare chef? Have them chop extra ingredients? Well, now you have too many things hanging around not cooked. Have them wash up? But that takes too long and how your tomato soup has started to burn! Agghh!
…is also your greatest weakness
As the difficult increases so does the stress level and so does the feeling of reward when you manage to completely minimise the time your chefs wasted on the way to many happy customers. Unfortunately, Overcooked loses it’s way towards the end as the limiting factor bit by bit becomes the level itself. Now the bottleneck is how long it takes your chef to move from one workstation to another or how the kitchen somehow changes or shifts to ruin your work patterns. The first few of these changing levels are great – you end up having to have more than one plan and switch between them on the fly. By the end though there are too many changes and too many variables in each kitchen and it becomes so difficult, if not impossible, to perfect your strategy that any sense of reward from your achievements is gone. This is a real shame but to be clear; the absolute majority of the levels are great – and completing the game is only really the start of the fun…
Better with friends
All of this can be done in single player. You have a third button that switches between your two chefs to enable you to control both. This is how I have completed the game as neither The Boy or the other folks I’ve played it with have played long enough to reach that point. However, the real fun is in those multiplayer games. Now you can no longer control what each chef is doing and so it is completely vital to communicate in detail with everyone playing. At best it would be horribly inefficient for each player to just make their own meals but in many levels that’s not even possible. This leads to all kind of hilarity! “No, not another tomato“, “you chop that mushroom whilst I go and get an onion for you“, “which pan is about to burn?“, “but I need to wash the dishes!“, “what can I do?“. It is just brilliant and once again an outcome of how the game is deceptively simple. No one playing is concentrating on some complex task by themselves – everything is connected to something being done by someone else and the subsequent shouting (mostly good-natured, we’re on the same team here!) and, upon completing a level, the high-fives make Overcooked one of the best local co-op games I’ve ever played.
It doesn’t get a high score as it has too many significant issues as an overall package. When Overcooked succeeds though, it does so massively. It’s available for a bargain price across most platforms so even if you never reach the end of the game, pick up a copy for next time you’re playing with friends.