Now you’re cooking with power!
Late last year, I reviewed Overcooked for the PS4. I remember mentioning that at first I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy it, and that I ended up bribing my friend with pizza to come over and play the game with me. I won’t go into too many details, because that would lead to me recapping a review of the same game that I’m reviewing now. Which seems kind of self-defeating. Instead, I’ll say that we both ended up really liking it a lot.
After haphazardly attempting to save the world once, I had assumed that my culinary quest was over. But the food-infused powers that be had other plans for me, this time in the form of Overcooked Special Edition. Knowing that I couldn’t venture through this alone, I did what any hero-chef would do; I donned my chef’s hat and apron, called up some friends, and buckled down for another time-traveling, food-filled adventure — and had just as much fun the second time around.
Overcooked begins not in a kitchen, but atop a crumbling skyscraper, in the middle of a burning city, with your merry band of chefs facing off against a giant spaghetti monster. Hoping to put an end to the catastrophe known as “The Peckening”, your team is frantically preparing and serving food to the monstrous pasta dish in a vain attempt to slate its hunger. But alas, your poor teamwork and lack of culinary arts are simply not enough to save the day. Seeing this, your benevolent leader, the Onion King, opens a portal teleporting you all to safety.
When your group comes to, they are greeted by none other than the Onion King himself (and his dog, Kevin). The Onion King explains that your abilities are not up to snuff and, in order to give you an opportunity to better yourselves, he has sent you back to the year 1993. And thus, your journey begins!
No, I didn’t skip anything; Overcooked‘s story is all over the place. But that’s okay. While I very much enjoy a good story, not all games need one. In fact, a game like this would be kind of weird with a serious storyline. I can appreciate the fact that this game doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’s perfect for the kind of couch multiplayer game that it is.
Service With A Smile
At its core, Overcooked presents players with one simple goal; to prepare and serve as much food as possible within the given time limit. Orders will appear on the upper left-hand side of the screen, and you must fill those orders accordingly. In terms of mechanics, none of what you need to do is hard. Preparing food usually involves nothing more than cutting up food, putting it in a pot, stove, or pan, to let it cook, and throwing it all on the same plate. After your dish is done, simply place it in the serving area, and the customer will automatically pick it up. Despite the simplicity, I personally found the game’s controls to be a little wonky at times. Characters seemed to not want to pick up the correct items unless you were placed perfectly in front of them, leading to some frustrating moments when time was short.
Cooking may be the name of the game, but score is what matters the most. At the end of each level, you’ll be given a tally of your total score. If your score is high enough, you can move onto the next level. That isn’t all, though! Your score will also determine how many stars you get in the end. Depending on how well you performed, you can claim up to three stars per level. Not only does having three shiny stars above each level look neat, but they’re also necessary in order to advance. Each level requires you to have a certain star total — failure to meet that total means having to go back and nab some more stars on previous levels.
Main Course Mayhem
So far, Overcooked may not sound that hard. Your goal is simple, and the mechanics are easy to utilize. So… you should have an easy time, right? Hah, no, of course not. While the mechanics aren’t that hard, the level gimmicks are enough to intimidate even the most seasoned of cooks. In the beginning, Overcooked knows that you’re still learning the basics. Because of that, it’s not too bad. Rather than actual gimmicks, early levels will present you with things like awkward kitchen setups, just so you can practice doing things quickly. Even without any major obstacles however, this can still be a challenge if you aren’t focused, and cooperating with your friends (or yourself, I guess).
Soon enough, Overcook starts going full-throttle with its gimmicks. You and your friends will find yourselves going from preparing in nice, safe restaurants, to frying up fish on an iceberg, and cooking tacos in a volcano. It won’t take long for you to figure out that cooking isn’t the real challenge in Overcooked isn’t cooking food — it’s fighting against the level. Seriously, these levels can get really, really frustrating, so be prepared to make plenty of mistakes.
Normally, gimmicky level designs would put me off a bit. When it comes to Overcooked however, gimmicks seem to be the perfect ingredient. Overcooked‘s arcade-y, made-for-parties type of gameplay is something that forces you to not take anything too seriously. The game expects you to mess up. It wants you to mess up, even. And I’ll be frank with you — my friends and I messed up a lot. But we never really got that mad. In fact, there were a few times where our screw-ups had us laughing pretty hard. An accidental sabotage here and there is funny, and it helps you keep in mind to have fun with the game. Because it’s certainly having fun with you.
Ice & Spice
Along with the basics, Overcooked Special Edition comes with some extra content in the form of two additional campaigns — “The Festive Seasoning”, and “The Lost Morsel”. Originally released as free DLC, The Festive Seasoning holiday-themed campaign that will have you journeying through a Winter Wonderland as you prepare festive-themed meals. The campaign is rather short, but it’s a lot of fun. After all, you get to use a flamethrower to cook your food! And you can unlock more characters to use. How cool is that? Because of it’s higher difficulty level, the game recommends that you finish the main campaign first. So long as you know what you’re doing though, it really isn’t too difficult to take these levels on.
The Lost Morsel is the second campaign, and was originally released as paid DLC when the game came out last year. Much like The Festive Seasoning, The Lost Morsel presents a short, new campaign for players to go through — this time on a tropical island! While there aren’t any cool new gimmicks like the flamethrower, The Lost Morsel presents a pretty decent challenge. I personally found it to be much harder than its festive counterpart, and I didn’t end up digging it as much. Still, it was relatively enjoyable, and was worth playing for the unlockable characters alone.
More Friends, More… Craziness
Overcooked doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s designed to be played with friends. And, even if it weren’t obvious about it, it wouldn’t take long to figure out what its true intentions were anyway. This is most definitely the kind of game that you play with your friends, on a couch, in the same room. Much like games like Mario Party, part of what makes Overcooked so fun is the fact that you’re constantly reacting to things, and that you get to see your friends react to things as well. Failures were more funny than frustrating, and it didn’t take long before we were all laughing, shouting, and overreacting to pretty much everything. Really, that’s how it should be.
Better than laughing at our mistakes was the feeling of finally getting into the grove. Being able to come together to work as a cohesive unit is immensely satisfying. It really doesn’t take much, either. As hectic as the kitchen can get, delegating tasks makes things much easier. And I know that all of this sounds kind of obvious, but it’s easy to forget at first. The levels are so frantic, that you kind of forego cooperation sometimes. You’re too busy doing your own thing. But when you finally start communicating and come together as a team, you’ll be cooking with the best of ’em.
If you’re feeling confident enough, you can also go head-to-head with your friends, too. Overcooked‘s Versus Mode features a number of levels designed for two teams of two put their skills to the test. Multiplayer works just like single-player, albeit with two sets of scores and two sets of chefs, and is a lot of fun. I personally prefer working together with all of my friends, but Versus is great for people who love holding their victories over their friends’ heads.
Sadly, as good as the game is with friends, it’s somewhat lukewarm alone. In single-player mode, you control two characters. Multitasking and paying attention to level gimmicks are already difficult with one character. Even when playing with other people, your concentration needs to be sharp. Imagine having to constantly be aware of what both characters are doing at all times. It isn’t easy — especially when you can only see part of the screen. Characters’ actions, such as stirring and chopping, are also significantly slower, and I’m really not sure why. I know that Ghost Town Games did their best to accommodate people out there, but single-player play falls a little short of the rest of the game in terms of quality — ironic, considering that the only exlusive feature that the Special Edition has is the ability to play it as a handheld game.
A Heaping Helping of Fun
There you have it. Overcooked Special Edition may have officially turned one year old today (Happy Birthday, by the way!), but it hasn’t lost any of the excitement that it originally set out with. Given that the Switch already has a nice little lineup of multiplayer-heavy games, Overcooked fits in quite nicely. And it’s pick-up-and-play style of gameplay is something that I would imagine to have a lot of pull, regardless of what kind of gamer you are. Overall, Overcooked is an incredibly charming couch multiplayer, with just the perfect amount of challenge, that is sure to keep you and your friends entertained for hours to come. The next time you’re hungry for a new game, be sure to pick this morsel up.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: Switch ; Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd. ; Developer: Ghost Town Games Ltd. ; Players: 1-4 ; Released: July 17, 2017 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Overcooked Special Edition given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher