Overcooked: Special Edition Review
Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Arriving a little later than on the Nintendo Switch, the critically acclaimed and often downright fun multiplayer puzzler Overcooked lands complete with a nice Special Edition tag along with the two pieces of released DLC (The Lost Morsel and The Festive Seasoning). For those unfamiliar with this charming, often hectic little title, it’s essentially a very cute, simple puzzle game where the main objective is to work collaboratively to prepare food dishes, ranging from bobby basic to reasonable complex, serve them as quickly as possible for your customers - the more dishes you put out on time the more rewards received and the higher your star rating on each level. Sounds fairly simple on paper, but dive into the campaign a little deeper and you will see that what on first sight could be described as a delightful bit of fun can quickly descend into an episode of Gordon Ramseys kitchen nightmares complete with a plethora of very fruity language.
The top-down simplicity of Overcooked is immediately endearing, the charming, easy-to-control chefs run around the kitchen with precision and ease, and like any kitchen, the opening few levels are the calm before the storm. As you progress through the campaign you quickly realise that this adorable little cooking game is actually a fairly tricky cooperative strategy game that requires quick actions, even quicker thinking and most of all tight team work. This is where the first red flag needs to be raised for any potential purchasers. Overcooked is a multiplayer game through and through; yes it is possible to play the game solo, manically switching between chefs as you scramble to get the meals prepared and cooked before the order expires, but whilst early on it’s manageable within a short time you will soon realise that you actually need multiple cooks performing multiple tasks at the same time to be successful. As a result Overcooked is not recommended for solo players. Note also that there is no online networking features available, therefore to get the most out of Overcooked you need to go old school, inviting friends over to yours for some couch co-op...or do you?
This leads us nicely on to this new special edition on the Nintendo Switch - a match made in heaven for a local co-op game that absolutely needs other players to be enjoyable, and the Nintendo Switch, a portable console with multiple controller options which can easily be taken to a mate’s house or played while travelling with others. Overcooked is as it should be: the perfect fit for the console which brings new options to the fore for the player - but it is not without its problems which we will touch on later.
As you work through the campaign with friends a few things jump out at you, seemingly one at a time. The game's simplicity is its core strength, utilising only a handful of controls to race your little chef around the kitchen grabbing food to chop, throwing some beef on the pan to grill up a burger or washing the dirty plate from the last order - all of which are executed with one or two button presses. This takes away any complexity in the controls allowing you to focus on getting the job done and completing an ever escalating series of complex kitchen layouts. This is where a lot of the difficulty comes in, and rest assured it’s very difficult at times, as kitchens routinely mix up locations of the core stations (preparation, cooking, serving) throughout their often wickedly designed kitchen layouts. To add to the potential mayhem they can also change and move whilst you are trying to cook and serve food. There are also other random factors which hinder your work such as rats which will race in from nowhere if you leave anything on the counter for too long. As you can see, there are clear reasons why this game is not something to solo.
As hectic as it at times, in a group of three or four, (or even two earlier on) it’s an absolute riot. The viewpoint and generally intuitive design married with oodles of charm and humour makes Undercooked a delight with friends and family. Working together towards the simple goals, battling both the speed at which the orders come flying in and the ever-changing puzzle elements can very quickly either bring people closer together or tear them apart mission by mission. It’s frequently bonkers and communication matched with the ability to multitask can make or break progress. Teeny tiny Nintendo Switch controllers may be thrown in frustration as a result.
Graphically it utilises very simple block-like layouts overlaid with some solid special effects and it’s a delight to watch your little guy (or gal) racing to the serving hatch just in time to make that soon to expire order. Audio and visual cues are layered throughout each level and the audio in particular is worthy of note; switching from the charming and melodic early on in a level and ramping up considerably as you find yourself four orders behind with half your kitchen on fire as you left the soup on for too long.
Sadl,y whilst it is an absolutely perfectly setup for Overcooked to shine on the Nintendo Switch, it is not without its problems. Previously released on PC and PS4, Overcooked seems to require a little more juice to run well - juice which the Nintendo Switch doesn’t really have and as result the release is dogged by some annoying performance issues. The framerate suffers badly at times causing issues mid-panic in the kitchen which in its own way can cause the game to be even tougher than it often is. For a game that should be running at a solid 30 fps and is routinely damn hectic for everyone involved, when the framerate starts to hitch and drop by roughly a third, it’s an assault on the eyes and can really affect enjoyment. There is a patch for these issues on the way but at the time of writing it hadn’t been released.
Overcooked Special Edition on the Nintendo Switch is a fantastic slice of old school local player co-operative fun held back by the lack of a workable single-player mode and dogged by a series of annoying but not game-breaking performance issues. Packaged with both pieces of paid DLC for free, if you are a Nintendo Switch owner who will routinely have the opportunity to play with family or friends then even with the stated issues you’re in for an absolute hoot.