Overcooked 2 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Nintendo Switch, PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Overcooked was one of (if not the best) couch co-op games not only of recent years, but of any year. I don’t even know how many hours my friends and I have sunk into it trying to get 3 stars in every kitchen in our attempt to master every recipe, best every challenge and save the world from a giant spaghetti monster, as you do. As such, with the promise of Overcooked 2, all my friends and I really wanted was… more of the same, but a bit better. Like a new Mario Kart game, Overcooked 2 didn’t have to drastically alter itself but deliver what its first instalment already had, with maybe a few extra bonuses to spice things up. Thankfully Ghost Town Games realised this and that's pretty much exactly what we got.
For the uninitiated, Overcooked 2 (the sequel to 2016's Overcooked) sees you take on the role of one of a diverse cast of cooks (humans of many races and plenty of animal characters to boot – I play as the panda). Enlisted by the Onion King to, once again, save the world after he accidentally raises the Unbread (yes you read that right) after reading from the Necro-NomNom-icon. Oh yes, it is silly, but no less as silly as the time travelling “plot” of the first game acting as a basic framework to hang the various cooking challenges on. You progress through levels, striving to complete as many dishes in the allotted time, gaining up to 3 stars for each stage; stars which are used to unlock further stages and progress the game. In effect, you need to master each kitchen if you want to reach the end stages of the game. You may be able to skim by with a 1 star or 2 star performance here or there, but eventually it will add up, and you won’t have enough stars to progress, so you’ll want to really work those kitchens that give you trouble.
The mechanics are super basic, to Overcooked 2's strength; young and old, casual or hardcore, you can pick up a controller and start playing in seconds. Grab your food, prep your food (chop, slice etc.), cook, assemble, plate it up, serve and repeat. Each kitchen will have a certain theme or menu, and as the orders pop up, you have to work with your fellow cooks to get them prepared and served. Do it in quick fashion for a juicy tip and a multiplier. This time round, Overcooked 2 also adds a throw mechanic, enabling wannabe chefs the ability to hurl their ingredients around the kitchen to (hopefully) speed up the process. The early levels are designed to deliberately have to use each of these mechanics, in sometimes wonderfully effective ways. The first time my friend and I lobbed ingredients at each other from parallel rafts running down a river and simultaneously caught them was massively gratifying, even if in all the rush we didn’t quite realise what we’d done right away.
The levels, though charmingly rendered in the Overcooked franchise’s now established cartoonish style, start off simple enough only to get more challenging as you progress, adding more and more hazards and moving parts to keep track of. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself leaning into the screen as each level loads, pouring over the stage preview screen trying to deduce what strategy you’ll need for a new kitchen. And even when you think you have it figured out, I promise the game has some tricks up its sleeve. Early on, just as my fellow chef and I were figuring out what the seemingly random hazards dropping all over the floor of one "kitchen" were (it seems generous to call them such baring in mind where some of this stages are actually set), the entire stage transitioned into another level altogether in shocking fashion with a minute plus left on the clock, forcing us to radically adjust any strategy we thought we’d had up until that point. Overcooked 2 has more than a few ways to keep you on your toes.
This sequel has a few different ways to play online, so if in reading this you think there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from playing the game solo, you’d be mistaken, ghost Town has your back. You can set up private kitchens to cook with friends, stage selection taking place by a sort of vote similar to Mario Kart’s online mode. Or you could just see who’s online at any given time and give it a go. Whilst these features are a definite plus and very welcome, I cannot stress enough the sheer delight of playing this with people in the same room. And I say that as someone who really doesn’t do co-op games. Seriously, grab some friends, grab your family and give it a go. Once you get the patter down (it doesn’t hurt that in my house we've watched more then our share of US Masterchef) and you develop the unspoken understanding on what it takes to run a successful kitchen, it becomes addictive as you and your team chase 3-star performance after 3-star performance. This is probably what everyone playing Rocket League these last couple of years felt, but with hamburgers and rice balls.
In summary, whilst Overcooked 2 may still not be the best game for the solo player, it is one of the best examples of (and I'm starting to love overusing this phrase) couch co-op out there. Not a reinvention of the wheel, not rebuilt from the ground up, but the same great game improved upon, like a recipe honed to perfection over time. Now excuse me whilst I chase that next 3-stars.