PC, PS4, Xbox One
Oh, bugger, the chips. One of our number has just come a cropper and fallen off the block of ice we call a kitchen, taking a vital order of fries with him. Our companion will be back in five seconds and the plate will respawn soon after, but the clock is ticking and that stack of tasty fried potatoes is gone forever. Even if the four of us work in perfect harmony, there isn’t enough to time to fill that final order – the last one we need to get the maximum, three-star rating.
And we will not, in all likelihood, work in perfect harmony, or anything like it. Failure is simply the cost of doing business in Overcooked, and all part of the charm. There are little snapshots during levels when everything sings, when you think the four of you should go into the restaurant business together. But they are few and far between, and that is the point. Overcooked’s design ethos is a succession of potential points of failure, strung together like sausages.
The controls, at least, are simple – one button to pick up or put down an object, another to chop, prep or wash it – but even the most basic tasks you’re asked to perform are likely to go horribly wrong. Take, for example, the humble hamburger. First you must tenderise a steak, and form a patty from it. Then, while the burger cooks, you must find a plate and bun, then chop lettuce and tomato. All the while a timer ticks down – the longer you take, the lower the tip, which affects your overall score – and the orders just keep stacking up. This one wants lettuce, but no tomato. Vice versa for another. The next one, bless them, simply fancies a burger in a bun; the following one wants the works. Ugh. We used to like burgers, you know.
Simply keeping on top of the chaos amid the hubbub of a busy kitchen would be tough enough, but Overcooked complicates things further with some devious level designs. One puts you on the deck of a ship: every so often the boat tilts to the opposite side and takes some of the kitchen with it. Another puts the pantry, prep area and fryers on the backs of three moving trucks and has them move together and apart over time.
There are plenty of smart ideas here, but a fair bit of dreck too, as Ghost Town Games tries to transplant the structure and length of a singleplayer game to local fourplayer co-op. Overcooked would not have suffered for having fewer levels and it would be a better game for the absence of a three-star rating system that frequently forces you back to earlier levels before you can progress. In a game where failure is as much fun as success, and a good deal more achievable, it’s disappointing that Overcooked spends a large portion of its runtime feeling too much like hard work.
The order UI is a little unfriendly – the coloured timer bars could do with being more prominent. Worse is the fussy positional recognition that frequently sees you put a finished dish in the bin, instead of on a plate