Overcooked was one of the biggest indie breakouts of the last few years, its culinary capers making for one of the best party games of this generation. Pottering around the kitchen as teeny little chefs, players scramble to serve up orders, working against the clock as well as each other, going from level to level. It’s a frenzied dollop of fun that continues to grow a following long after its launch in 2016.
You can therefore imagine how delighted we were when developer Ghost Town Games announced a sequel. Overcooked 2 picks up the baton, churning out fresh, new levels to play and recipes to cook, although it doesn’t do anything particularly risky or ground-breaking. It’s both a refinement and an expansion of the original game, and for a lot of newcomers and returning fans, that’s plenty enough.
Once again you are summoned by the Onion King. With the Ever Peckish having been defeated, his attention now turns to a new emerging threat of his own foolhardy creation – the Unbread! As in the original game there’s no real story thread to follow, but Overcooked 2 rustles up the occasional bit of humorous and whimsical dialogue as you move between stages.
With more than 40 levels in total, each one has you preparing an increasingly diverse range of dishes as a timer counts down. While there’s nothing stopping you from kicking back and going at your own pace, it’s hard to ignore the score-chasing element and you’ll soon want to earn every three-star rating Overcooked 2 dangles in front of you.
From pizzas and pancakes to salads and sushi, each meal takes time to prepare. Raw ingredients need to be diced, then either served fresh, cooked, fried, or thrown into a mixing bowl. Pressure mounts as you inevitably try and do too much, forgetting to wash a plate, setting a pan on fire, or fudging a particular recipe by adding the wrong ingredient. That’s all part of the fun, however, and that dial quickly gets turned up a notch as the levels become more complex. They’ll start off relatively simple as you learn the ropes before Overcooked 2 decides to throw in some obstacles, morphing entire stages in sometimes spectacular fashion.
There’s wizardly castles full of portals and moving stairs, hot air balloons that drift together and apart, and even player-controlled platforms that add even more pressure to your team’s organisation. The game definitely takes a visual step forward from the original, even if it retains the same overall style.
It quickly becomes a game that’s not only about puzzle-solving but management too. After those frantic first moments, parties will quickly break off and assign roles to one another in an attempt to serve up orders as quickly and efficiently as possible. There’s a sense of pleasure to be had when you sit back and watch each player performing their task to perfection, your kitchen becoming a well-oiled machine, poised to batter any target score Ghost Town has to throw at it. The real fun, of course, comes from the chaos and panic that can ensue when something inevitably goes awry.
In truth, the sequel is short on new innovations but does have a couple tricks up its sleeve. For the score chase, you now get a multiplier for completing order in sequence, while the ability to throw and catch ingredients adds a new dimension to Overcooked’s gameplay despite being a relatively small change. If used precisely, throwing can cut out a whole lot of legwork, but there’s always a risk that your least talented lobber will toss your much-needed grub off a cliff, onto a conveyor belt, or directly into the bin.
One addition many had hoped for is online multiplayer. To clarify, Overcooked 2 is best shared with friends sitting in the same space, but having the option of network play detracts nothing from the overall experience. Here you can connect with buddies, matchmake with random users, or do a combination of both, whether in arcade or versus mode. Fundamentally, nothing changes, though your means of communication will be through a mixture of voice chat and emotes depending on who has headsets.
It’s far from ideal when you throw random players in the mix, and I quickly found myself tutting at every misstep and blunder of my fellow chefs as they aimlessly floundered about, getting in my way. From what time I spent online, there were also minor connectivity issues which made me realise just how important timing and precision is in Overcooked, despite its casual appearance. Even a slight moment of lag can create accidents that jeopardise your chance of winning, not to mention those occasions where we found ourselves transported to the other side of the map for no apparent reason. We can’t comment on how the online play will be at launch but there see to be a few kinks. Either way, it’s good to see Ghost Town put in the effort and give fans even more ways to experience its superb party game.
Overcooked 2 may be short on surprises, but that’s totally fine. It expands and refines exactly what we loved about the original, with plenty of fun and challenging stages to be played again and again, whether alone, with friends, or online. You couldn’t ask much more from this indie sequel: a filling follow-up that, while familiar, will have fans reaching for their aprons on launch day.
Version tested: PlayStation 4 – Also available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & PC