Hilarit y a la cart e
Have you ever fantasised about being celebrity chef/ walking swear jar Gordon Ramsay? While also dating Gordon Ramsay? While also having two mates... who are also Gordon Ramsay? If so, then boy have Ghost Town Games cooked up something that will whet your deviant appetite.
Overcooked is a riotous multiplayer offering where teams of up to four players attempt to co-ordinate the smooth running of a chaotic kitchen. Orders appear in the top-left of the screen as you scramble around your workstations to prepare each recipe before the hungry customers get in a huff and walk out on you.
It eases you in gently. In the first kitchen, your team’s task is to make onion soup. This simplest of recipes requires the team to chop up three onions, shove ‘em into a pot and empty it into a bowl when it’s ready. The bowl is dispatched to a conveyor belt, where it’s whisked away for the serving staff to work their magic. With a little intra-kitchen chatter, it’s pretty easy to get an optimal production line up and running, chopping onions and washing dishes like a well-oiled machine, to bag three stars with ease.
Recipe for disaster
But as you progress, the designers gradually turn up the heat until tempers come to the boil. It isn’t so much that the recipes become more complex to assemble (although with more possibilities for order variation, they do). It’s more that the kitchen layouts become more farcical, with surprises that’ll throw a spanner into the cogs of even the most organised of cooking machines. It begins with conveyor belts and awkwardly placed counters, before escalating into even greater absurdity. As an example, one kitchen is haunted – poltergeists interfere with the layout of your equipment, making it impossible to stick to a rigid gameplan. Another kitchen suffers from an entirely different unwelcome guest – a fault line running through the middle, meaning impromptu earthquakes will temporarily split the room in two – just long enough for unattended hobs to burst into flames. And imagine the toilet-words that would spew from Ramsay’s hellmouth if he were ever forced to cook in a kitchen spaced out over the back of two trucks, which meet and split at regular intervals as they career at speed down the motorway? Trucking hell, indeed.
Overcooked is a local multiplayer-only game – there’s no online. But it wouldn’t really work as an online game anyway, because like all good sofa co-ops it generates humour through the mundane. Uproarious moments such as watching your mate attempt to hurl a tomato across a small gap, or screaming at your pal to thwart a rat that’s running off with your burger bap, make for a real ‘in the moment’ kind of mirth that wouldn’t carry well over a headset. Nor would it translate well to a single-player mode. We can attest to that, since there is one – it sees you swap between chefs using the bumper buttons. If they aren’t already occupied with a task, such as busily scrubbing dishes or chopping lettuce, your kitchen buddies stay motionless, making for a very different kind of multitasking challenge.
This won’t hold your attention for long, but it was never meant to. It’s a multiplayer game first and foremost, and it’s a simple idea that has been well implemented and stretched as far as it could possibly go. The only ingredient that’s a little – we can’t resist saying this any longer – undercooked is the scoring. It’s never clear how dishes are rated and what separates a two-star performance from a three-star, and this ambiguity means stages peter out towards the end, rather than whipping themselves into a frenzied climax. Still, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into – and if you keep a swear jar handy, you’ll earn the £12.79 outlay back in no time. OXM
“Impromptu earthquakes occasionally split the kitchen in two”
RIGHT One of Overcooked’s understated charms is the fact you can spy diners noshing on their grub, oblivious to the mayhem in the kitchen.