Overcooked Review - A Gourmet Co-Op Experience

Couch co-op games have been pivotal to some of the most special moments I've had with gaming. The format allows you to sit next to a friend, and solidify your bond. There was a point in time where I genuinely thought the days of couch play were behind us. Luckily, it seems like I'm not the only one who adores the genre. Games around the world voiced their opinion, and the market listened. Although numerous local multiplayer titles have been released since, none has captured me like Overcooked did. Here's why:

What is Overcooked about? Well, after a supremely hungry beast creates apocalypse in the delightful Onion Kingdom you inhabit, the only solution is to travel back to 1993 and embark on a culinary journey alongside your fellow chefs, to eventually give the monster the cuisine he longs for. Players must go through a variety of cruel and unusual kitchens on their quest to become master cooks. At its heart, it's an arcade co-op game about cooking with your friends.

As soon as I began my playthrough, I knew I was in for a unique experience. Overcooked's fantastic presentation instantly captured me. Developer 'Ghost Town Games' was able to create a very charming artstyle and atmosphere that remains cohesive from top to bottom. Character models are incredibly cute, the use of sound is masterful, environments are full of color, the soundtrack is quite fitting, and at times beautiful. Performance is flawless, with steady framerate and no stuttering. However, my personal highlight was the adorable level select screen. It's easily the coolest user interface I've ever seen.

It's important to mention that while Overcooked features a story about redemption, it's extremely light and not serious. Which is something I can appreciate. Not every title needs an intriguing, complex storyline, specially an arcade game. Forcing a narrative down our throats would have added an unnecessary layer to this already great meal. Having said that, some of the tension, laughs, and anger present in gaming's greatest tales are delivered through frantic, wild gameplay.

As the iconic Colin Moriarty once said, gameplay is king. This is usually a rule I keep in my mind when reviewing games, and Overcooked fully delivers. Similar to other excellent titles, the simple mechanics and responsive controls allow anyone to join in. Without exception, levels work the same: you have a limited amount of time to prepare and supply the highest number of orders possible. You are required to chop the ingredients, boil/deep fry/roast them, assembly the meal, and scrub plates. As soon as a dish is delivered, you get a certain aggregate of points depending on how fast you were. At the end of the stage, your performance is reviewed with a three-star rating system. Gathering stars opens more levels and occasionally unlocks a new playable chef.

Sounds simple? Well, it's really not. Overcooked is easy to pick up, but it presents a deep challenge that is hard to master. Things will quickly turn chaotic on the most basic stages. Forgetting an ingredient immediately ruins the meal and takes away points. Overcooking a soup will unexpectedly leave you with a humongous fire to put out. Not washing dirty dishes will slow the entire process down. Communication is absolutely crucial. As our team improved, we slowly began to co-ordinate and designate roles;one of us is working the stove, while two others chop/keep an eye on the orders, and the last member brings the delicious meals whilst handling plates.

Even then, the progressively more difficult nature of the game will keep you grinding your teeth. Recipes are truly varied, and mixing them will make your brain hurt. You start off with three different kinds of soup;towards the end of the campaign, you'll be preparing food like burgers, burritos, and fish & chips. On the flip side, kitchens will also give you quite a bit of trouble. Again, it's pretty easy when cooking in a regular, restaurant setting. But before you know it, you'll be putting together meals in an insane variety of locations, including shaky pirate boats, moving trucks, slippery icebergs, and outer freaking space. Through it all, you must operate as an elite, well-oiled unit of super-chefs.

Lastly, we get to game modes. Overcooked features a co-op campaign that will turn your friends into family, and a versus mode that will destroy those same friendships. Single player is there, but I'm not sure I would recommend this if you literally have nobody to play with. Playing alone felt slightly soulless and bland. That's where my one negative comes into the picture: no online. To be perfectly honest, it's not the biggest issue. If online was available but couch multiplayer was thrown out the window, I would actually be upset. As it stands, it's simply a small addition that could have made a significant difference. I just wish people who don't have anyone to cook with had a way to appreciate the entertainment this game brings.

Verdict: Overcooked takes the thrilling fun & adrenaline found in fighters, racers, and shooters, and successfully places it in the kitchen. This is a meal you must try!

The Good
- Fun, Frantic Gameplay
- Charming Presentation
- Varied Recipes/Environments
- Exciting Co-Op Mechanics

The Bad
- No Online

Developer: Ghost Town Games
Publisher: Team17
Format: PS4 (reviewed), PC, X1
Release Date: August 2, 2016
A review copy was provided by Team17

No comments:

Post a Comment