Tuesday, August 7

Review: Overcooked 2 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Couch co-op is a trend I’ve been very happy to see on the rise, especially given how easily it can be supported on the Switch. While in principle it can be an experience that brings people together, it can also be disastrous and make people stop talking to each other… such is its power and promise, and I find that entertaining. One of the titles that tapped into this style early in the Switch’s life was Overcooked, tasking people (and ideally some of their friends) with preparing a variety of dishes in situations and settings that became increasingly bizarre and problematic. Now its sequel is here, complete with online play, with some new recipes, insane situations, and refinements to make it a more consistently fun experience.


Starting with the basics you’ll be playing the part of a chef who is trying to prepare what becomes a variety of dishes for hungry customers. Depending on the recipe this could range from being as simple as chopping up a few ingredients, putting them on a plate, and then sending them out to preparing more complex things like sushi. Each kitchen will be properly equipped for the tasks in question, whether that involves having cutting boards, stoves, an oven, or whatever. You’ll need to grab your ingredients, get them to the proper station, set their prep or cooking in motion, and then assemble each dish and get it out. Sounds easy, right!?!? If it were, this wouldn’t be Overcooked!


You see, time isn’t on your side, and as you progress you’ll often find that your kitchens increasingly won’t be either. Whether it’s in the form of unusual layouts, conveyor belts, or environmental hazards, there’s much more to contend with than merely preparing food. With this in mind, in order to be successful you’ll need to multi-task and adapt to whatever situation the game throws at you. When playing Solo this will mean you’ll need to switch back and forth between two cooks, setting a task into motion with one, and then going to another to do something else. If you’re playing with up to a total of 4 people, whether locally or online, the nature of the challenge changes substantially and becomes more about coordination. With people in the same room this is all about communicating and making sure everyone understands what they’re all doing and what help people may need. Online you’ll lose the ability to communicate so instead everyone will need to be adaptive, looking for the most immediate needs and working to address them. This actually makes the game feel and play very differently depending on how you play it and even who you play it with, even when playing in the same kitchens.


I think the most critical difference between this sequel and the original, for me, is that they’ve minimized some of the frustrations I had with the environments. I don’t mind there being obstacles to your success but there were too many level designs and situations in the original where you’d slip or fall off the edge… and it got annoying. In the sequel the nature of the environmental problems you face and how they force you to adapt feel a bit more diverse and are smarter. Your ability to deal with adversity has also been expanded with the critical ability to throw ingredients. Granted, some kitchens are set up to essentially force you to do this, but it can be a significant time-saver and source of efficiency if you’re willing to make use of it. Most of the success in the game is really about optimizing your time, performing repetitive tasks in as efficient manner as you can, and cutting whatever corners you can. It’s aggravating, maddening, but also exhilarating when you manage to overcome all of the chaos to be successful.


With viable options to play alone, with friends locally, or with people online this version of Overcooked is ripe with opportunities for fun. Better yet, the feeling of the experience and the challenge in each case tends to be wildly different, even when replaying the same levels. While the result may still be a bit too overwhelming for people looking to games more to de-stress rather than inspire even more, it can be a ton of chaotic fun if you’re willing to embrace the challenge.

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Viable and fun to play alone, with friends locally, or online
  • Once things get rolling there’s a wide variety of crazy problems you’ll have in your kitchens
  • Tweaks and refinements made from the original are appreciated and help to diminish cheap frustrations

Cons:
  • Solo play can be fun but robs you of the chaos of dealing with other people
  • Online play, as always, is unpredictable in terms of who you may be paired with, beware the food prep trolls!
  • The style of play and the stress it can cause may not be what everyone is looking for