Ov er­cooked

Hi­larit y a la cart e

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Alex Dale

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.

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