Local multiplayer. Two words often not spoken one after the other these days. But that wasn’t the case when I just a wee boy. Local multiplayer was the only multiplayer. But technology advanced and now online multiplayer is the norm. While I do enjoy a bit of online gaming, local multiplayer has always held a special place in my heart. Enter Overcooked. My latest gaming addiction.
Overcooked is a local co-op cooking experience. And that word co-op is so, so important. The levels in this game would be almost impossible without at least one other player. I attempted level 1-2, the campaign’s second level, solo and I was just swamped with jobs and unable to keep up. You would think that this would take away from the experience of playing, but it actually doesn’t. If anything it adds to it by forcing you to play with friends and, in doing so, enjoy the game and have a laugh. But let’s take a bit of a closer look at the game.
Overcooked’s story begins with the two characters standing on a rooftop with the Onion King and his canine companion Kevin. I say characters as the game’s campaign doesn’t follow two set characters. At the beginning of every level the player gets to choose which character they wish to play as. As a result the game instead narrates the story in a way that makes it feel as if the Onion King is speaking to the player themselves. The first level sees the players attempting to feed the ever hungry spaghetti monster and failing to do so due to the beast being, … well ever hungry. Suddenly the Onion King cries out to the players telling them to jump into a time portal, which transports everyone back to 1993. The Onion King explains that the players need to explore the land and hone their culinary skills so that they can feed the beast and stop the apocalypse.
I have been playing this game for about 6 hours now, and other than the odd trip to the Onion Cabin there hasn’t been much story progression. The Onion Cabin sequences involve players talking to the Onion King, and him explaining “It is now the year [X]” before opening access to a new area. And with it new challenges (but more on that later). Now some of you may be thinking “Why play a game with no story?”. And the simple answer is because the story of Overcooked is purely there just to give the game a reason to exist. That may sound horrible but I truly feel that Overcooked without a story would not have been possible. However the simple story does work for the game. The simplicity of the story allows you to enjoy the game so much more and for a game so heavily focused on the local multiplayer aspect, Overcooked would be nothing if it wasn’t enjoyable.
Now to the crux of Overcooked; it’s gameplay. There are two parts to the game’s gameplay; it’s campaign and it’s versus mode. Let’s start with the campaign’s gameplay. The campaign features different areas, each with their own challenge. Each area consists of levels which, upon completing, award the player with a ranking of 1 to 3 stars. Upon completing all levels in an area, a new area is opened. The levels start simple, with simple menus and very few challenges in terms of the layout of each level. But as you progress the levels become harder, with menus consisting of dishes that have different varieties and several ingredients. On paper (or screen) this may sound simple but trust me it isn’t. Parts of the levels begin to move resulting in players being denied access to certain parts of the level, meaning that you lose orders and so lose points. When parts of the levels aren’t moving, they’re covered in ice making it a pain to move around. Or the level consists of trucks that split in two because you know, why not? The game’s versus mode is basically the same. Levels with moving parts, but this time instead of working with one another to reach a certain number of points so that you can be 4 points away from 3 stars, the players are split into teams competing to be the team with the most points, and thus the winners.
There are some cool little gameplay tricks that you can do in Overcooked. For those of you playing the game, it is pretty much 1000x quicker to bring the plate to whatever it is you are cooking (soup, burger meat etc). Literally 1000x quicker. But the most impressive feature in terms of Overcooked’s gameplay is the game’s ability to allow two players to share one controller. The loading screens for the levels show you the image below. The image shows that instead of using the X and square buttons to perform actions the player can use R1 and R2, with the second player using L1 and L2 with the right analog stick allowing for movement. I thought this was an awesome feature, allowing a party of four to fully utilise the game’s potential with just two controllers. Because let’s be honest. At £55 a controller who’s actually buying four PS4 controllers?
It is also possible to play this game solo. I will warn you it is very hard to do so. The way it works is by providing the single player with two characters. The idea is you control one, and make them begin chopping for instance. While holding the button to chop, you press R1. This switches it so that you are now controlling the other character, but the first character is still chopping. The idea is you use this to spread the jobs that need doing between the characters, leaving one to finish a job while the other continues prepping for the next order. I personally found this quite difficult, however this may be due to the fact that since day one of playing Overcooked I have always played with another player. I’m sure after some practice I could do it. This feature can be used to either play the campaign solo, or to play the versus mode with just two players.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
I coupled the game’s graphics and audio into one section because they together complete the charm of Overcooked. I love the art style of this game. The game has a cartoon-ish art style to it, that is so perfectly fitting for the game’s setting. What with that setting being an alternate universe where food has come to life and is seemingly causing an apocalypse. When this art style is added to the game’s music it all seems to come together. The game’s music is very hard to explain without listening to it. If you want to listen to the game’s music it’s in the trailer at the beginning of this review. You know that kind of music that’s just bouncy? The kind that makes you want to bop your head? It’s that kind of music. The kind that even as someone who doesn’t dance at parties I found myself humming along to and bopping my head.
To conclude, Overcooked is a simple yet very charming game to play. It’s a game that will make you rage one minute, and have you bopping your head and singing along the next. It will test friendships (especially when your friend sets the entire kitchen on fire), but I can guarantee it will also give you some of the greatest gaming with friends moments of 2016. Maybe even your life. Assuming that you don’t lose a friend because you forget to chop that mushroom he asked you to chop for the soup that needed cooking so you got 3 stars instead of 2. I mean other than that you’ll be fine.
Overcooked is a great game with charming graphics and music that will make you bop your head. Even with it’s simple storyline Overcooked is a shining example of why more developers need to pursue local multiplayer games, and all I can do is hope that they will.