Have you ever wondered what life in a professional kitchen is like? We have the hellacious representation in Hells Kitchen where trying to be the number one chef in the kitchen can be cut throat or with Kitchen Nightmares (Gordon Ramsey does do a lot of TV huh) it can result in a poorly run restaurant that lets down customers and has a terrible reputation. If you break down the fundamental elements of how a restaurant kitchen works you essentially have take the order placed by a customer, prepare the ingredients, cook the ingredients, plate and then serve the dish. All sounds relatively simple right? Well this is where Overcooked comes in and takes what is an already stressful process and turns it into a fun yet challenging local co-op party game.
Couch Co-Op party are few these days but Overcooked has plated up an extremely tempting course for gamers who relish teamwork and co-operation in a true test of all those elements but blended in with an appetizing challenging puzzle game based on the very basic principles of restaurant cooking with a rather unique twist.
Overcooked’s Story Campaign can be played solo or best with co-op partners from two to 4 friends all working together. The introduction explains that the players are chefs working for the Onion King in the Onion Kingdom when the terrible end of days begins when a giant monster attacks the kingdom with the only way to satisfy the beast’s hunger is to cook and feed it all the food it wants before the time runs out. Despite your best efforts, it will not be enough to sate the hunger of the beast and the Onion King opens a time portal for you all to escape through. Certainly not the opening I would have expected from a cooking game.
Having been through the time portal the King informs you that you have gone back in time to the year 1993, and sets you off on a mission to visit various kitchens across the kingdom in order to learn and perfect the co-operation skills needed to successfully cook and feed the monster without failing. Each kitchen will pose a different challenge with different recipes to learn and master how to work as a team of chefs to complete each one.
The kitchens are all more challenging than the last and creatively designed to provide a challenge on different levels. First you have the actual cooking and preparation of each order which in itself is a tricky task. The ingredients can be found in a different area to where the preparation area is which can also be further away from the cooking section. You must first collect the ingredients needed for the customer order seen in the top left of the screen and prepare them before cooking them and finally placing them on a dish ready to be served. Even in solo mode you will have a basic team of two chefs to us, switching between the two using the controller bumper buttons but in co-op mode each player can control a different chef. Once you begin cooking the ingredients you will only have a short time to add the remaining ingredients or to plate the finished food before the meal overcooks which will spoil it, requiring it to be disposed off and to start the order all over again. Failing to plate the food will also result in the pot catching fire which will begin to set the rest of the kitchen on fire unless you grab a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.
Then of course you have the kitchen itself that adds its own little devilish twist to the action. As players progress through the different stages, the kitchens become more intricate to both navigate and have the chef’s work together. At times, chefs can be separated all together in the kitchen, where good communication will be essential just to have the meals prepared. Some kitchens are themed such as the street restaurant that will have pedestrians walking up and the down the middle of the kitchen forcing the chefs to navigate around them to pirate ship kitchens where the roll of the ship causes sections of the kitchen to move position completely changing the layout. A rather insidious added challenge sees some kitchens having a rat problem, where any ingredient left unattended they will scamper in and take it away.
Each kitchen will grade your team’s performance up to three stars and these are important because some of the later kitchens require you to have acquired a certain number of stars in order to play them. This is where playing the campaign solo starts to buckle, as the majority of the kitchens are designed to be played co-operatively and though the grading feels more relaxed for single player to earn stars, I found it tricky to replay certain difficult kitchens to earn more stars to proceed.
Where Overcooked really comes to life is when played with others in local co-op, with up to four friends able to work together in the story campaign but also in versus mode playing in competitive kitchens against each other. So many aspects make this just a superb party game the more players you have to take part, the challenge of successfully completing orders against all the high pressure needs of working together, communicating well and just trying not to burn the kitchen down leads to great fun and no doubt a few fights along the way but its perhaps the most challenging party game in a good long while.
Even when I set had set fire to the soup, forgotten to fry the fish to go with the chips the Eskimos had ordered or putting together the perfect burger to go, Overcooked is so much fun and a real test of friendship when partnering with friends. Developer Ghost Town Games has put together a great game with so much rewarding challenge and stage designs that you will always be put to task in each stage.
It is no surprise that TEAM 17 has published this and will certainly make you reconsider putting in an entry form to Master Chef.