Overcooked has taught me that I can never open a restaurant. At least, I can’t open one if my housemates or close friends will be the ones in the kitchen helping me cook up a storm. Burnt soup, ruined burgers, overly crispy fish and chips; these are the culinary delights you’ll find at Il ristorante del Vaughn – a surefire hit with the locals.
Despite the constant failures, the mice stealing food from work surfaces, the inevitable slips off icebergs, and falling under a moving car while holding the perfect meal, Overcooked is excellent. And, just like with a good meal, it’s best enjoyed with friends via its chaotic couch co-op and competitive modes.
But I digress. The year is 1993, and you’ve been sent back to the past after failing to adequately feed The Ever Peckish during an apocalypse. Thankfully, the Onion King is there to help, whisking you back in time to train your culinary skills and tackle the beast once more. Even if the story sounds somewhat convoluted, gameplay is blissfully simple, fitting in brilliantly with the chaotic nature of play.
Recipe cards fly in along the top of your screen, instructing you with what’s needed to make each order. Some items can be rather straightforward, such as a patty in a bun for a burger or a soup that requires three of the same ingredients, but orders become increasingly more complex over time, with some requiring drastically different combinations to satisfy customer needs.
Fun is a dish best-served through shouting
Just like in a real kitchen, or at least the ones Gordon Ramsay has shown us, Overcooked works best when you’re shouting at your fellow chefs. Don’t get me wrong, playing solo is great fun, but running around a kitchen and swapping between two characters at once isn’t ideal. Instead, cooking really works best when playing with friends, and the only way to stay on top of the ever-growing list of orders is to simply take up a role in each kitchen and stick with it.
Of course, such a perfect plan never pans out. People slip up, roles slowly rotate as you pick up the slack, and suddenly you’ve gone from prepping food to serving up and washing plates. Thankfully, Overcooked is so ridiculous that you’ll rarely actually fall out with your friends – even if you’re playing co-op by sharing a controller between the two of you (a surefire way to kindle any new friendship).
Aside from a lacklustre solo-experience, Overcooked has minimal faults. Its star-based level progression can feel a little unfair – especially as it requires you collect a certain amount of stars to unlock the next level – and some characters look a little too similar to be easily distinguishable from another. But for the most part, this is a stellar debut title from Ghost Town Games, and a strong example of Team17’s indie publishing arm pushing out interesting and new IP.
All-in-all, Overcooked is a riotous way to spend an evening with friends. It harks back to the days when couch co-op was commonplace, and makes you remember why you loved playing Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye or International Track & Field. Friends make games great, and there’s no better social experience than sitting down with some mates to cook food and have a grade-A shouting match.
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