“We need more cabbage!”…”Where’s the pan gone??”…”WHERE ARE THE CLEAN PLATES??”. That’s how a general game of Overcooked, developed by Ghost Town Games and published by Team17, devolves into when there’s four of you playing. A game about managing orders, working together and trying not to panic too much when things inevitably go wrong. In a PC market where great local multiplayer indie games are cropping up on the regular, does overcooked serve up a winning dish, or does it slide into the waste bin?
Overcooked is a game about being a chef in a kitchen. The order comes in, you prepare your food by chopping or cooking, plate it up and serve it. More orders come in, rinse, repeat. The core gameplay loop is very simple to follow. Controlling the game also follows a similar vein; one analogue stick to move your character, one button to grab an item and another to use an object. Where this game shows its true colours is when you include this simple gameplay in with local multiplayer. Splitting up tasks within the kitchen, shouting at each other as someone tries to wrangle control of the situation and not trying to get in each others way. Just another day in the kitchen here. Once things get heated, you can even play a competitive mode, where teams of two face off seeing who can get their food out the fastest.
Your kitchen is also a factor that you have to take into consideration whilst playing. To begin with, you’ll have a regular square kitchen with lots of room to move and put food down as you create the meals. Then the game puts you into a street with foot traffic moving through your kitchen, creating an annoying diversion as you navigate through, but it’s still the same style of gameplay. But then the curve balls start to hit. Kitchens which are moving trucks, making you time moving ingredients across so you can actually get food served on time, or a pirate ship with moving worktops. Or the worst offender, the icy river stages. Ice physics on the ground restricting movement, combined with a set of moving platforms giving the opportunity for meals to be dropped in ramps up the challenge significantly. The difficulty as you get further into the campaign gradually rises, making earning the highest rating on each level a challenge for your group’s co-ordination and kitchen management skills.
Sadly, the game is not without its flaws. The biggest complaint I personally have, no online play! Like Crawl and Towerfall: Ascension, it falls into the category of games which are amazing locally but are crying out for online play. Playing with a group of people, a common complaint is struggling to identify who each player is in the heat of the kitchen. Everyone has a different colour when you choose your chef, and it’s only shown as a ring under your character’s feet. Colouring everybody’s hats, instead of just all being white, would go a long way towards helping this and cutting out some of the confusion.
The other big problem is that this game is best played with a group by far. It can be played with three or two people, but the charming chaotic nature of the game seems to be lost in the transition. It can even be played solo, but the game changes completely. One person controls and can switch between two chefs, and it turns into a micro-management game of having one do chopping or cooking while the other runs around and sorts the plating of the food and ingredients. It loses the charm that makes the game really fun to play.
Overcooked is a great entry into the local multiplayer PC library, promoting the complete chaos and craziness that these games are known for, while still being simple enough for anyone to come pick up and join in the fun. It loses its charm when played solo, and it lacks any online functionality, but if you have a group willing to play this is definitely worth your time.
+ Fun local multiplayer game
+ Lots of variety, encourages replay
+ Competitive as well as Co-operative
– Complete lack of online
– Single player seems tacked on and lacking