When I wrote about the original Overcooked a few months ago, I spoke of its amazing ability to simulate the timing and chaos of a real kitchen, despite the lack of literal food preparation process. Now the frenzied little restaurant sim is back, with new challenges to face, and a fresh storyline with King Onion and his trusty dog Kevin as the cooks take on the Unbread.
In both Overcooked games, players are placed in a kitchen and are tasked with preparing meals for a busy restaurant. As the orders come in at the top of the screen, ingredients are retrieved and prepared according to the recipe (usually a simplified version with three to five key components), then put together on a plate and served out. The levels are time based, and each dish must be finished and sent out before the customer gets impatient in order to get a good tip. The successful completion of the level depends on how much money was earned by completing orders, and the big challenge lies in putting together the dish itself: environmental hazards like lava or conveyor belts, and prep techniques like chopping, boiling, frying and mixing complicate things along the way.
Overcooked is one of those games that’s easy to learn but difficult to master. But despite its appeasing sense of challenge, at a certain point, the levels start to become just a series of arbitrary obstacles tacked onto a simple mechanical premise, and it can be repetitive if playing in long sessions. To that end, I decided to up the ante for the sequel; I’ve previously played the original Overcooked in two player mode with my sister, but for this review of the sequel I also brought in the big guns, my niece and daughter. I figured a good way to put a new spin on my experience, naturally, was to make it far more difficult. The added stress of multiple bodies in a tiny space is a challenge no conveyor belt or kitchen portal could ever emulate.
In practice, playing four player mode was a beautiful little surprise. I thought it’d be a disaster, but despite the young ages of the kids (my niece is not yet ten), we were still able to coach and form a strategy through each chaotic level, assigning tasks and designating personal work spaces to form a cooperative rhythm. Of course, it came with a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’, demanding ingredients and yelling at people to get out of our way. But it was a fun kind of verbal abuse. Playing Overcooked 2 is as rambunctious as a couch co-op game should be.
My big question going into the sequel was whether Overcooked 2 is more of the same, or if it adequately justifies the existence of a sequel. For the most part, it’s more of the same, but I’m satisfied with some of the spins they’ve put on the formula. For example, one level is set on a hot air balloon, which crashes into a sushi restaurant, forcing the players to adapt to a new environment and new recipes midway through. The game is also undeniably hard, but mileage will vary depending on your patience levels; most of my family ragequit after a few hours (my husband did not make it 30 seconds), and I needed several breaks even when playing in solo mode. I haven’t had a chance to test the online multiplayer yet, but I’m not sure if I will try it. The thought of playing a cooperative game with people who I don’t feel comfortable enough with to order around hardly sounds like a way to win.
These days, with all the focus on online multiplayer, it’s not as easy to find a satisfying couch co-op game, especially one that can be enjoyable across several age groups. Playing such a good one reminds me of how much more spirited a game feels when you can feed off the other players’ energy in person. Overcooked 2 should be cherished, even if it’s exhausting and threatens to tear your family apart.
Overcooked 2 was developed by Ghost Town Games and published by Team17. Our review is based on the Switch version. It is also available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.