The chaotic couch co-op, Overcooked, returns to the kitchen with a generous helping of what we loved about the original but with a few new features added to the specials board. In fact, Overcooked 2 is like ordering from your favourite takeaway: you know you’re going to order the same thing as always but now the restaurant has added a few side dishes to tantalise those taste buds. Overcooked 2 sticks firmly to the recipe of its predecessor, creating a multiplayer experience that would make Gordon Ramsay blush, dropping more expletives than the lead in a Tarantino movie and having you accusing your sou-chef of being an idiot sandwich. And though you’d be forgiven for suffering from deja-vu whilst playing Overcooked 2, there are enough new features and a much longed for addition that revitalises grandma’s cookbook enough to earn its first Michelin star.
Overcooked 2 wastes no time holding your hand through the dangers of a professional (be that poorly thought out) kitchen but assumes you’ve made your way here from the original game, wanting more of the same anarchic action but with the spice turned up to 11. This isn’t some best quiche contest at your local village fete but rather a place in the Masterchef grand final aboard the Hindenburg express. But this is in no way a bad thing – the speed with which you gain new recipes makes Team 17’s first outing look like a disillusioned employee at a fast food chain and the rate at which you must implement more advanced strategies gives you a greater sense of satisfaction when you get the dishes out on time.
Though there are some returning favourites to Overcooked 2’s menu such as pizza, burgers and salad (with which it is impossible to make friends with), the inclusion of extra ingredients makes their construction a little more tricky and far more frenetic. With new recipes like sushi and steamed dumplings emerging onto the scene, Overcooked 2 pushes the player to their limits right from the get-go. Add into this a more diabolical level design that sees kitchens struggle to stay in one piece, more moving parts than a game of Mouse Trap and a whole barrel of craziness that has no right to be in the kitchen, and even the most experienced Chef will be in for one hell of a ride.
There is no denying that Overcooked 2 is a far more challenging game than the original but, fortunately for us, the quality of chefs are of a higher standard too. With the controls sticking to their simplistic brilliance, one new manoeuvre has you tossing salad like Steph Curry. Unlike Overcooked’s first outing, you are no longer shackled to delivering your ingredients by foot to their desired destination – you can now throw your food around the kitchen with wanton abandon. This gives a massive boost to a chef’s manoeuvrability, opens up your options when tackling more devious problems and adds to the overall hilarity of the chaos. With a bit of training, a dollop of luck and some Jamie Oliver flair, you can lob a slab of meat straight onto the hob from the other side of the room…Pukka!
That’s not to say everything about Overcooked 2 is a well-risen souffle; single-player still suffers from the lonely kitchen blues. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the mode but, after experiencing the sheer joy of couch co-op, shuffling around an almost empty kitchen, your yells of “service” echoing off the walls as you watch your inanimate clone staring dumbfounded at you, is an unfulfilling experience. It’s like going out to a fancy restaurant, tasting the intense flavours of a freshly prepared curry and then being forced to eat Pot Noodles for the rest of the week – an eating experience most of us can relate to. However, unlike the tormented chefs of yore, Overcooked 2 has implemented the one thing we had all been clamouring for since the dawn of the Be-Ro cookbook… online multiplayer.
No longer must you manage competing for diaries so you’re able to assemble your most hardy companions around a single monitor. No more shall you venture solitarily through structurally unsound cooking environments, wistfully dreaming of the bustle of a busy kitchen. Overcooked 2 has served up a generous helping of online action. With the ability to play cooperatively or competitively, there is no longer a reason to be running around like a headless chicken on your own. Just put those spatulas out there and join in with a group of other budding chefs. However there is a minor caveat to this gourmet meal: unless you’re placed in a team where everyone has a headset you’re going to have to use the game’s emote system to communicate – signalling when you’re preparing cooking and serving. It’s a rather limited system and in such a hectic environment there isn’t really enough time to be fiddling around with anything other than the next ingredient. In an odd way, this actually adds a wonderful new dimension to Overcooked 2; your awareness of the kitchen has to be heightened, preempting what your partners will need or are about to do is vital and making sure you focus on a small number of clear tasks will help the group around you.
Though it’s a wonderful adage, playing with strangers online can’t live up to the sheer brilliance of playing with friends and couch co-op is still the stand out feature of the Overcooked series. Even as the kitchen burns around you, customers storm out after having waited a lifetime for their order to be served, and food hygiene laws have been thrown out of the window, you can’t help but have an absolute blast. There were times when I’d been laughing so hard I’d be doubled up in pain; what made it worse was, as I lay curled up in hysterical agony, my kitchen crew continued to launch eggs across the counters yelling “EGG!” at the top of their voices. I couldn’t breathe. Moments like these launch Overcooked 2 into the top table of gaming: the variety of recipes, difficulty of the puzzles, the sheer number of kitchens and the ability to throw food make it one of the best and most accessible party games out there.
Overcooked 2 has been seasoned to perfection, packed full of scrumptious settings, mouth-watering recipes and deviously delectable kitchens – there’s plenty here to get your teeth into. But it’s the inclusion of online multiplayer that really makes this dish sing and though Overcooked 2 is more of a refined dining experience than a whole new menu, it’s well worth the delivery charge.
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling hungry. Thai, anyone?