I don’t often play games with my sister. Where we used to spend hours mindlessly bashing away at Dynasty Warriors or chasing and slapping one another in LittleBigPlanet, that seems like a lifetime ago. With four prolonged years of study under my belt and her pursuit of superfluous teenage trends, a rift began to form. Just like that we had stopped playing together, leaving many of our virtual adventures unfinished as real life finally kicked in.
However, after all those years we now found ourselves perched in front of the same flatscreen telly albeit with newer, chunkier controllers in hand. Once again we’re as thick as thieves, shouting and screaming, pushing and shoving, and all because of one little game: Overcooked.
On paper, it’s a remarkably simple game yet, when in motion, is quick to mesmerise. Each stage in Overcooked is its very own kitchen, complete with bizarre occupational hazards and a steady stream of waiting customers. Orders will start to come in thick and fast, prompting chefs to collect, prepare, cook, and serve ingredients, all whilst racing against the clock.
It’s this time pressure, combined with the changing layout of kitchens, that creates a level of challenge designed specifically for two or more players. Barking orders at one another to fetch ingredients, clean dishes, or extinguish fires becomes second nature as you eventually ease into the rhythm of each stage. Think of it as Diner Dash on steroids.
Developer Ghost Time Games have even tried to wrestle in some form of narrative. The opening level has players rustle up some tasty treats for a meatball-esque monster dubbed the “Everpeckish”. With the world facing culinary annihilation, the Onion King and his trusty mutt, Kevin, beam players back in time so they can hone their cooking craft for when the day of judgement comes.
It’s fun, dumb, and rarely intrudes on the action, as players hop between kitchens across a surprisingly large world map. From greasy spoons and galleons, to haunted mansions and space cantines, there’s a great sense of diversity that also weaves its way into the game’s mechanics. Aside from juggling new recipes, players will often need to watch their surroundings carefully as the environments spin and mutate, usually changing the position of key stations like chopping blocks, sinks, and stoves.
Although Overcooked allows for solo play (switching between two chefs via the shoulder buttons) it’s a poor way to experience what the game has to offer. This is something that’s been built from the ground up with at least two players in mind, working together in the same room.
Naturally, some will moan at the lack of online multiplayer and in some cases that’s fair enough. Being able to group up with friends online would have been a nice touch. However, matchmaking with random players would create even more obstacles for players to overcomer, despite the potential for a myriad of side-splitting scenarios.
Crafting a game that feels like a true co-operative experience is something studios continue to struggle with even today. For a dev duo like Ghost Town Games to come along and nail it at their first attempt is a remarkable feat to say the least. As a result, Overcooked is easily the best co-op game of 2016 so far and will hopefully set living rooms afire with its accessible, often hilarious culinary hijinks. It’s certainly a game I’ll continue to revisit, roping in anyone willing to sit down and pick up a controller.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4