REVIEW: Overcooked

  • 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.2018032910375700-F897DAA49269BC023482B5C9AAA6BE73

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.2018032318214500-F897DAA49269BC023482B5C9AAA6BE73

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…2018032211465100-F897DAA49269BC023482B5C9AAA6BE73

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.2018032909204400-F897DAA49269BC023482B5C9AAA6BE73

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.Review3

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Splat Falls Flat

I came into Splatoon 2 not entirely sure what to think. I missed the first one due to not having a Wii U so I didn’t have any anticipation based on that. On the other hand though, it’s a first-party game on a Nintendo console so I definitely wanted to give it a try. Ultimately though, I find myself disappointed and I won’t be playing it any further.2017090818544600-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04
Initial impressions were good. The basic concept of collecting paint and spraying it about the place is great and the different weapons you’re given to do that all work nicely in their different ways. The Boy also enjoyed it to begin with – he never reached the point of online multiplayer but he tackled the first few chapters of the story and talked with enthusiasm about his exploits.2017090912351600-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04
Unfortunately, this is as far as it went for us. The game is a one-trick-pony and doesn’t have enough about it to keep it fresh for a long time. The single player game remains almost the same throughout leaving it to quickly become stale, lifeless and repetitive. Any new elements that are introduced just serve as inconveniences rather than new challenges. The boss encounters are decent but the slog to arrive at them isn’t worth it. In fact, after a while my favourite part of the story mode was the various staging areas where finding the entrance to a new level became an interesting puzzle. Lastly, you are given a small amount of lives to complete each level and no way to get more – fine in terms of giving enemy battles more edge but very annoying when you lose them from simply accidentally falling off the edge.2017091108140300-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04
Multiplayer is better but not great. My favourite mode was Turf War where your team needs to cover more of the map in your colour paint than the opposition within the time limit. The onus on splatting paint took the focus away from the rushed and confusing combat. This is supposed to be Nintendo’s take on the third person shooter but as with a lot of things that try and combine elements, neither ends up being that great. If you want a charming Nintendo game, go elsewhere. If you want a shooter, go elsewhere.2017090819052900-397A963DA4660090D65D330174AC6B04

REVIEW: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

  • Released: 2017
  • Played on: Nintendo Switch
  • Also available on: PS4, plus others in Japan only
  • Time to get into: 5 minutes
  • Time to complete: 10 hours
  • Multiplayer: yes, both local and online

My main question coming into playing Puyo Puyo Tetris was whether or not a puzzle game – even a mash up of two puzzle games – could possibly be worth the price of entry. The game is priced as a full title, the same as Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Could it justify it? The answer is emphatically: yes! This game takes two good puzzle games and them great by adding competitive play and combining them in different ways. Not all of those ways really work but it’s enough to keep you entertained and engaged for a great many hours.

As the name suggests, Puyo Puyo Tetris brings both Puyo Pop and Tetris into one title. There are myriad ways to play – from playing one of the games alone as a challenge through to full on Fusion mode (where both types are played at the same time on the same board) versus someone else. Each different game type can be chosen in Arcade mode and there is an Adventure mode that throws each type at you as you go through the story.

Adventure mode was where I spent most of my single player time. This mode is a lot of fun gameplay wise. I can make no comment here on the story or the characters – I found the cut scenes that are before and after every level so insufferable and so easy to skip that after not too long I didn’t really see another one. What I did see was a continuing stream of different game modes and challenges. The learning curve is mostly well handled, although there are the occasional levels that are either far harder or far easier than those around them. All in there are 70 levels split into 7 chapters. I think it’s a good length – it certainly didn’t outstay it’s welcome but I wonder how much further they could have repeated the different games types and kept it from being too repetitive. The only flaw here was Fusion mode. I enjoyed all the other combinations of modes – Puyo vs Tetris or the swap mode where you have one board from each game on the go at the same time and swap over every 30 seconds. Fusion mode puts both Puyo and Tetris pieces on the same board and this doesn’t really do anything but dilute what it good about each. The main aim with Tetris is keeping your lines clean and organised and the main aim with Puyo is long chains that fall into place. Fusion mode doesn’t allow you to focus on either of those things but doesn’t replace it with anything further goal. In the end in Fusion mode, I was just trying to survive the level, rather than trying to finish it.

2017080114372200-27B43DBE1CF53CADD3897FC3CD79185FOn The Line
After playing through the Adventure, I didn’t feel the need to spend much time in Arcade mode – I felt I was ready to go online. How wrong I was! Real people are even more brutally difficult than the hardest levels of the single player game. I think part of this is the seeming lack of proper matching. I was repeatedly matched with experienced and very good players even when I was just getting started – thus I was totally destroyed on a very regular basis. This is odd to say the least – matching players based on their ability is a standard component of online multiplayer games. Perhaps the game just isn’t that popular online and there simply aren’t enough players to avoid this. Regardless, if it had not been for my desire to write this review, I might well have given up online play very early on. The other reason for that is that the game plays out in the exact same way online as it does against the cpu. Most games change their character when you go online – humans simply react differently than AI. But here, given that the gameplay is so restricted anyway by the rules of the puzzles, it’s hard to know if you’re playing online or offline – it feels identical. There is nothing wrong with the online play – it’s easy, quick and smooth – it’s just not that exciting.

Ultimately Puyo Puyo Tetris is held back from perfection by the Fusion mode and the slight lack of excitement of the online play. But not many games are perfect and this is still a fantastic title that will eat up hours of your life and keep you coming back for more and more. The desire to play faster and faster doesn’t get tired and the varied modes keep it fresh for ages. It really transcends the ‘puzzle-game’ tag – this is just a really good game, full stop.


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First Impressions: Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

I’ve got to confess that I didn’t expect to enjoy a Tetris game again! Tetris feels as old as the sun to me. It was one of the first, if not the very first, games I ever played and I have had it (or clones of it) on countless consoles and mobile devices. At the end of the day it hasn’t really changed – or not for the better – over all those years and I thought my time with it would be done.
Additionally, I also have to confess that I’ve never played a Puyo Puyo or Puyo Pop game. I was vaguely aware of their existence but didn’t know anything about them. Thus the combination of Puyo Puyo and Tetris didn’t particularly appeal to me.
However, this was one of the few games out there these days that had a demo, so I thought I’d give it a go. I am pleased that I did! Outside of the Puyo Puyo being new to me – and at this stage I’m still enjoying the Tetris more – the game injects another dimension into the Tetris by being really going all in on the competitive play. You can just play a normal game of Tetris by yourself but the main bulk of it is playing against the CPU, playing against others locally or playing online.
The demo gives you a good idea what to expect but the full game adds Adventure mode. I can’t tell you anything about the story as the ‘cut-scenes’ quickly became insufferably long and cringe-worthy. What’s great about it is that it constantly throws different challenges at you, across both Puyo and Tetris and a huge host of game modes. The steady stream of different games is, so far, keeping me fully engaged.
I’ll do a more full review when I’ve completed Adventure mode and played more in the other modes too. For now, I’d recommend it if you can find it for a good price. In the review I’ll answer whether it is worth the high price of entry for a puzzle game.

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