Overcooked

The first thing I'll say about Overcooked is that you absolutely need to bring along a few friends for the ride. Yes, there is a single-player mode but quite frankly it doesn't hold a candle to couch co-op with a couple of other people who are down for some frantic fun. That being said - as long as you meet the criteria of having real-life friends who are willing to come over for old-fashioned local multiplayer (there's no online gameplay capabilities to my knowledge), then Overcooked is a slam dunk of a fantastic game to get. Also, as an added bonus - it's very get-together friendly. I downloaded it on my parent's PlayStation 4 on a whim for after Saturday night dinner and it was a hit.

The narrative is a little strange, which matches the rest of the game but I'll try to summarize what I know here. There's an onion that seems to be a king, and he takes you back through time in order to prepare you to feed a giant spaghetti monster using all of the skills you learned during your journey. That's about the size of it. Every few levels, you'll be able to access the king's cabin and he'll tell you what year you're now in and you'll see the plans unfold to satiating the monster. The king also has some adorable pets but you can't interact with them. It's all conveyed in-engine with text bubble overlays and gibberish sound effects when someone talks.

I can see spending a ton of time on Overcooked. At the time of this review we're in the final stretch of the main story and still have two expansion packs to go (both of which will be reviewed here once I play through them), and we've put a solid six or seven hours into it. There's a local versus mode too, but it's a bit hard to control, adopting the single-player controls for two people. The look over Overcooked reminded me a bit of that one dodge-ball game that came out a while ago which I'm blanking on the name of right now (I just looked it up, it's called "Stikbold!"). I loved the music and overall sound effects - I'd even consider seeking out the OST for its eclectic mix of oddly relaxing and suddenly chaotic selection.
The first level is a trial-by-fire, but throws you in with an easy recipe.
For the very most part Overcooked performs very well on the base PlayStation 4 console (not played on the Slim or the Pro), though there are some curious frame rate drops and slowdowns on the main menu and when transitioning in and out of the onion king's cabin. During important gameplay there's either too much going on to notice any sort of dip, but also I feel like I would notice it since I've been on the lookout for stuff like this every time I review a game. That being said it runs at 1080p and 60fps on the PlayStation 4. One small glitch we encountered on more than one occassion was food or more important items getting stuck in a strange limbo on a counter. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's very jarring.

The mechanics are simple. Each player moves and presses one of the buttons to do certain things. X (or "Cross") will pick things up and put them down, O (Circle) sends the character into a small controlled dash in whatever direction you're facing, and Square is always mashed as its purpose is chopping ingredients or washing the dishes. You and your team will make things like soup, pizza, hamburgers, or fish and chips. Every recipe requires the same few steps of collecting ingredients, chopping them up, cooking them in some way, and combining everything onto a plate to be served to the customer. Orders pop up on the top left-hand side of the screen and it's usually best (like if you've ever played Cook, Serve, Delicious!) to get to them in order or risk losing customers which will in turn lose you money.

You're scored by how many orders you deliver and how quickly you can get them out. Fail an order or send out the wrong thing? That's a 10-point penalty. The levels are all scored on a three-star system, and unlocking more levels relies on a climbing total star count. Of course this would be an easy feat to accomplish if Overcooked wasn't constantly delivering new mechanics and challenges in the way of stage design. One level had the lights turned off and we could only see directly in front of us thanks to the flashlights around our necks. Another kitchen is set in an active volcano with fireballs constantly spewing out and death a mere misstep away into a boiling pit of lava.
The results screen after every level.
There are ice levels where you slip around, stages set on multiple trucks on the highway, and even some on a space shuttle. If this all sounds a little overwhelming - it is and that's exactly why it works so well. The core mechanics of making food and serving it are so solid that the only "fair" way of adjusting the difficulty is changing up how the player goes about doing those things. The fact that developer Ghost Town Games had so much fun switching things up is just a laugh-out-loud bonus for the players.

Now unfortunately, as I said before there is no online mode available in Overcooked. So while I want to share this game with my best friend in Ohio, I can't tell him to purchase it for some PlayStation Network fun. I still very much appreciate the couch co-op action because I feel like it's a trend quickly becoming lost in the industry in order to sell more copies - but I wish I could play with my good friends who are a seven-plus hour drive away. Now to the hardest part of any review - do I recommend this game for you? Yes, with some strings attached. You need local friends who won't bite your head off under some stress and you need to accept that at some points Overcooked is going to get a frustrating. Don't buy it on any system if you're going to play it alone.

Let's Review:
  • Couch co-op
  • Simple core mechanics
  • Hilarious to play, watch, and tell people about
  • Super fun
  • No online mode
Overcooked gets a 9 out of 10.

One of the first levels, the choke-points slow you down a bit when they're busy.

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