STAFF REVIEW of Overcooked (Xbox One)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Overcooked Box art I’m not a great cook in the kitchen. Sure, I can do the basics, and I make a mean plate of pirogi, but aside from that I leave the cooking to my wife in our house, as she enjoys it and excels at it. Well, thanks to Overcooked from Ghost Town Games, I can now boast that I’m a better cook than her; well at least on the Xbox One in this specific instance. Developed by a team of two, Overcooked is charming and silly, making for a unique experience that should be shared with friends on the couch.

Overcooked has a completely silly and over the top story centering around a massive spaghetti monster that is demanding to be fed. Unfortunately you’re not a skilled cook and you fail to appease its appetite, luckily though the Onion King arrives to save you by sending you back in time so that you can learn the culinary skills needed to succeed the next time you catch up in time and face off against the beast again. Going back in time and gaining the these skills is the only way you’ll learn to create delicious dishes, manage the kitchen, and get the orders of food out on time. It’s completely goofy, never takes itself seriously, and the art style is fitting for such a humorous tale.

Overcooked is a co-op game that turned out to be much more fun than I was expecting. It’s up to you and a friend (or up to 4 players) to run your kitchen properly, smoothly, and without it catching on fire. The first few stages start off slow and easy, but eventually the levels become incredibly chaotic and frantic, throwing unique challenges at you on practically every level.

Levels start off basic, tasking you with simply making soup. You complete this by grabbing the ingredient from the corresponding box, chopping it, then placing it in the pot to cook, though that’s all before plating and delivering it of course. Eventually you’ll have stages where your tables move, you're separated by food trucks barreling down the highway, rats that steal food left out on the counter, earthquakes that can separate your cooks, and even rotating platforms in space. Almost every level feels unique and offers a distinct challenge, which is great for variety, but it can make it difficult to master.

Gameplay is simple, but the challenges you face make Overcooked incredibly challenging at times. Orders that need to be cooked appear in the top left corner, which show the required ingredients. Certain items need to be chopped, cooked, or deep fried, so there’s lots of chaos that takes place since you need to do a handful of steps before plating and serving. The quicker you cook the better your tips, and subsequently your final star rating. Completely fail to cook an order before its timer runs out and you’ll actually lose tips, so gaining perfect scores requires precision, cooperation, and speed.

As you complete levels and gain completion stars, more levels will unlock until you reach a point where you need to go back and replay older levels because you don’t have enough stars to play the next locked stage. This 'gating' can be a little frustrating, especially if you’re playing alone, but if you have a friend to cook with then there shouldn’t many issues where you become stuck at a certain point.

Controls work well for the most part, with the d-pad controlling your cook, the A button used to pick up and put down items, and the X button used for interacting. If you’re playing alone, the shoulder buttons will swap between cooks allowing you to multitask; something that is vital. Even though the controls work well, the angled viewpoint makes it sometimes tricky to see what exact item is on a given area due to the low camera angle and the wall slightly blocking the view.

Overcooked is an adorable looking title with a cute kid-like style to it. My toddler even asked if we could get “those toys” after playing, thinking that the characters and food were also toys in a store. The cartoony style fits the humor, as the ingredients are as big as your head and dashing around in the kitchen is adorable with a handful of different looking unlockable cooks.

While Overcooked can be played alone, something that I did for the majority of my gameplay, the real charm shines through once you have someone to play locally with you on the same couch. Sadly there’s no online multiplayer, so you’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way. Playing alone means you need to constantly switch from chef to chef, juggling tasks on your own, though it never really feels fun as you’re constantly falling behind on orders and can't multitask easily. There is an option to ‘split’ your controller, allowing you to play both cooks at once, but it’s incredibly challenging to do and would take a lot of dedication to become proficient at.

You’ll want to play with friends, as even one more player makes a complete world of difference. To be completely honest, playing by myself for a few hours wasn’t all that entertaining, but I finally convinced my wife to give it a shot with me, and for someone that generally isn’t proficient in using a controller, she managed to catch on quickly after a level or two. Before we knew it we were running a kitchen together, delegating tasks to one another and working on the incoming orders.

Playing with friends means that each person (up to 4) can split up the responsibilities. So one person can be accountable for either one side of the kitchen or specific tasks like chopping, cooking, plating, washing dishes, or simply moving your ingredients to designated places. The more players you have the better your kitchen should run, but that’s a big ‘should’.

In theory, the more players you have the smoother things should be going, but in reality, you’re going to be bumping into each other, grabbing each other’s items, and participating in other shenanigans that will no doubt bring some laughs and shouts. Communication is absolutely required and needs to be on point if you want those perfect three star ratings, so you better play with some friends that can take orders without question.

Overcooked at times can be frustrating, especially when playing alone, but when playing with at least one friend, it becomes a hilarious title that you’ll no doubt make you laugh and curse at one another, depending on how your orders are being filled and whose fault it was that the tomato soup burned this time. It’s fast paced and the countdown timer adds to the crazy pace that needs to be adhered if you want to succeed. You only get tips once your meals have been served, so you need to keep an eye on your time and learn how long specific tasks take so you can figure out the best way to multitask.

Once I played the multiplayer mode, Overcooked truly surprised me. This can easily be one of the main multiplayer games any gamer will pull out when they have friends over, as it’s very simple to learn and will have everyone laughing when barking orders at one another. It’s got a unique concept, great gameplay, and almost anyone can enjoy its simple premise. If you don’t have anyone to play with though it’s going to be a frustrating and dull experience, but if you can get even a single person to play with you, Overcooked will have you coming back for one more order.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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