Shelby: It’s 5:00pm and you’re off work. All you’re looking for is a nice, juicy burger to help you eat away your stress, but the raccoon in the kitchen can’t seem to get your order right. That, and you think you saw him throw your patty onto the kitchen counter before handing it to the cat.
Little do you know, that there’s something far worse in store for you a decade from now, and the animal duo is your only hope.
Welcome to Overcooked, where you and your friends can save the world with the power of flavor! It’s like Captain Planet, but with cooking instead of environmentalism, and far less blue, metallic dudes with bare midriffs. Now, given that this is a cooperative multiplayer game, I feel it’s important that you hear from my lovely wife, Jennifer. She is, after all, the reason that I haven’t failed miserably at every stage in the game!
Shelby: For a game that sports such a simplistic control scheme, it’s incredibly addictive. Of course, I wouldn’t make the assumption that complicated controls make for a great game, just that the developer came up with the perfect idea for a wonderful cooperative experience. One button performs an action, another allows you to pick things up, and you can dash with the last one (though you’re never explicitly told this). Furthermore, if you’re playing on the PS4 or Xbox One and you feel like fighting your couch co-op partner, you can play using different sides of the same gamepad.
I’m really not sure why you’d want to do that, unless you just don’t have more than one controller, or you like making things difficult for yourself.
It’s incredible how much coordination is required to do well in Overcooked though. Your progress is gated by your performance in each stage, with your score being dependent on how many dishes you serve and how quick your service is. Failing to deliver a meal on time impacts your score quite a bit, and that’s where the coordination comes into play.
Each stage has its own unique quirk. Often times you’re separated from your cohorts, with certain tools and resources only available to you. Communication is key in each stage, because even when you aren’t sequestered from your partners, you’re going to have other things to worry about. You may have rats to contend with, or mobile countertops. You might be cooking on a pirate ship which rocking back and forth, or have a kitchen separated by an ice flow.
It can be frustrating to have things go wrong at times, but there are few things more satisfying than having a major success.
While the dishes you’re preparing aren’t exactly complicated, they differ in the preparation method and ingredients used. Obviously, a soup which consists of vegetables is going to be a lot simpler than making a good burger, and a pizza will require an oven rather than a stove. Because of this, it’s just as important to know what you’re making as it is to know the layout and quirk of the stage.
Jen: Overcooked is one of those more simple games, kind of like Donkey Kong (I still need to play that) and Mario. It’s a game you pick up and play, not because you’re looking for character development and story, but because you need to get your elbows greased.
I don’t want to reiterate any story points that Shelby got into, so I’ll talk more about the mechanics.
When Shelby stated that this game takes communication between yourself and your squad of cooks, he wasn’t kidding. I watched him play the first few stages by himself – and cringed. He had to play his “main character” and then switch to the other guy whilst the first one was chopping or cleaning dishes. Yikes. It didn’t take long before I thought, “Hey, I could play that game,” and there I was, enthralled.
Before I knew it, we were blowing through missions like we were machines, only stopping to go back when we needed a few extra stars to get us to the next big thing.
There were two types of “missions” that really set us back any stars at all – the ones with ice and the moving car ones. It’s not for a lack of communication but more of a lack of keeping an eye on your soup, your fish ‘n chips, your plates, the vehicle/ice moving, and falling off the ice chunks/truck. If it were real life, we would’ve been fired.
The communication doesn’t just stop with, “I need an onion for this soup” which ends up sounding like, “INEEDANONIONFERDISSHOUP,” you have to talk about who’s going to clean the plate while the pizza gets in the oven, who is going to throw the ingredients on the ground so that the next person has the stuff they need, and who is in charge of the chopping and cooking and serving. All of this has to happen while the time is ticking.
You don’t have to be a master cook yourself to play this game, just patience and the drive to get stuff done.
Shelby: Overcooked is all about the cutesy graphics and music. I mean, you can be a raccoon, a cat, a weird looking dude, or even a snowman (though how he doesn’t melt is beyond me). It’s a remarkably adorable game, sporting some catchy music and interesting visuals to say the least. One of the nice little touches is that as each stage comes to a close with the timer counting down, the music increases in tempo to help
drive home the fact that your imminent failure is at hand let you know that you need to wrap things up.
Jen: Imminent failure? Awe, I thought we were doing well.
The graphics are certainly cutesy and it doesn’t matter what creature or what-have-you that you choose to play as, you’ll never have arms! Hmm, cooks with no arms, how does that work?
Shelby: I knew you’d mention the armless chefs!
Shelby: So many games on the market include some form of cooperative element, but Overcooked takes co-op to the extreme; in a good way. It’s imperative that you work together with your teammates to complete each stage, because you can’t do everything by yourself. Sure, you can play Overcooked alone, but it isn’t nearly as much fun. Multiplayer is where it’s at.
Efficiency of action is the term to remember here. Delegating tasks to different team members cuts down on wasted work, though there’s a certain hilarity to the mistakes that can be made. A good few times, Jennifer and I had a breakdown in communication which led to glorious shenanigans.
It’s great marriage counseling in a way…
Jen: Overcooked is certainly not a fully original game. I’ve seen games similar in style and character for mobile devices. The one thing that Overcooked has over those games though is its capability to have co-op which is actually a really awesome feature, especially in this case because it takes more than just you to get the job done.
Overcooked definitely was created with the thought of cooperation as being its main feature in mind. You can play it alone, but you’d be squashed before you could finish your dishes and finish the game with a clean smock on.
STORY AND MULTIPLAYER
Shelby: The world is ending! What I can only assume is the dreaded flying spaghetti monster has come to eat everything, and the only way to save the world is to sate its enormous appetite. The only problem is that no matter how much salad you feed the devourer, it’s never enough. Probably because you’re feeding it salad… You suck as a chef, so the Onion King sends you back in time to build up your skill set; to learn how to make everything from soup to burritos.
As I mentioned previously though, Overcooked isn’t about the story. The story is just the broth to the gaming soup. And if the story is the broth, then the multiplayer is the meaty goodness (or tofu for those veggie folks out there). Overcooked isn’t a game to play by yourself. It’s certainly possible to play it alone, but it’s significantly more challenging. Since almost every stage is designed for multiple players, playing alone requires you to switch between two characters to be able to complete each level. Thankfully, playing alone gives you a little leniency in terms of score to move on, but it just isn’t as much fun.
Just as adding more ingredients to a meal can improve the flavor, adding more players makes Overcooked vastly more entertaining. So long as you don’t attack each other.
Unless that’s your aim, because if that’s the case, there’s always the competitive mode.
Jen: I’ve gotta say that the Flying Spaghetti Monster must have good taste in food, it doesn’t like salad and you have to learn to make soup, burgers, pizzas, burritos, and fish ‘n chips. YUM!
Shelby: I like salad though…
WILDCARD: HELL’S KITCHEN
Shelby: One thing I’ve noticed about co-op games is that when things are going well, they go really well. When you’re in a stride with your fellow players, you’re able to just get it done. However, when things are going poorly, or you’re in a rut, it’s like a train wreck. Except the train is falling from space, and it’s on fire, and you’re on fire, and the world is on fire, and your eye won’t stop twitching, and why won’t the chopped onions just go in the DAMN POT WHEN I TRY TO PUT THEM IN THERE!?
Sorry about that. I was about to say that Overcooked is one of those games that either goes off without a hitch, or is a huge pain.
Just be sure to communicate with your friends in a constructive manner, because you’ll have enough fires in the kitchen to deal with already.
Jen: This particular endeavor was the first time we had to make burritos, which really are just as simple to make as the soup is, however there’s a twist. This particular twist had me waiting to figure out what the heck we were supposed to do and resulted in this terrible score, which we ended up laughing at.
Shelby: It was pretty surprising. I didn’t even know you could get a negative score!
Jen: You know when things go this poorly that it’s just something you’ve got to learn and practice at. After doing this stage multiple times, we got the hang of it and did much better than our first attempt – though I wouldn’t want to eat the burritos we made, too much food was stored on the floor until needed.
Shelby: Overcooked is definitely one of those games that is great for when you have people over. Its blend of simple yet interesting mechanics, and co-op nature, makes for a perfect game to play with others. If there’s anything I could say about it that I could qualify as a con for it, it’d be that it isn’t a game to play by yourself. While it’s possible to get by without friends, it isn’t fun; unless you’re just looking for a challenge.
It’s also one of the few games out there that Jennifer and I can play to help us communicate better as a married couple, so it should count as relationship therapy, right? Totally a tax write-off! Not really though. I wouldn’t recommend telling your national tax agency that you deserve a tax break for buying a videogame (even though that’d be awesome).
One other boon in favor for Overcooked, is that it’s available on almost all modern gaming platforms. You can find it on Steam, PS4, the Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. Furthermore, on Xbox One it’s part of the Xbox Game Pass!
Are you into co-op games? Have you tried Overcooked yet? What’s your take on it?
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