NOW PLAY­ING: OVER­COOKED

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS -

“I don’t want to do it again.” “This is so stress­ful!” “Can we stop now?” It’s fair to say that my wife Lyn­d­sey is thor­oughly en­joy­ing play­ing Over­cooked with me. Sure, we can only play for about half an hour be­fore the fun be­comes so over­whelm­ing that she has to re­treat to the bed­room. And yes, she does some­times in­sist that the wash­ing up re­ally can’t wait when I sug­gest we start the next level. But we’re hav­ing a great time. Okay?

Lyndz isn’t a gamer. In the past, bless her, she’s tried her best to get in­volved in my favourite hobby, giv­ing a selec­tion of lo­cal mul­ti­player games a go. We have played through our fair share of LEGO games in the past, and she… well, she knows ex­actly how to watch a Blu-ray on my Xbox One. Does that count?

But re­cently, she sug­gested we try and find a new game that we could play to­gether. As I searched through my Xbox’s li­brary of games I sug­gested ti­tles like A Way Out (“That doesn’t look very fun…”) or Halo 5: Guardians (“Does that have guns? I’m not very good with guns…”), but in the end we set­tled on Over­cooked, which I have been mean­ing to play for years. It fit the bill per­fectly – it’s fairly sim­ple to pick up, it only uses three but­tons along with the left stick and the art­work fea­tures an adorable cat in a chef’s hat. It’s the clear win­ner.

High hopes

All seems well as we start up a new game. There’s an onion king with a pet dog. A gi­ant spaghetti meat­ball mon­ster forces us to travel back in time to train hard so that we can be­come ex­pert chefs. It is, frankly, whim­si­cal, and Lyndz is lap­ping it up. But I’ve watched a few other peo­ple play this game in the past, so I know that this ex­cite­ment is mis­placed and a stress night­mare is about to be­gin.

The first level starts sim­ply enough. You’re tasked with mak­ing burg­ers, the goal is gen­er­ously achiev­able and we are laugh­ing as we both strug­gle to get to grips with the pur­pose­fully wonky con­trols, un­der­stand the physics and avoid dash­ing into each other as we zip around the kitchen. This is fun!

Then, Ghost Town Games hits me with a sucker punch. “Hey, I got an Achieve­ment! ‘Let­tuce Be­gin’. Nice, we played the first level. Wait a sec­ond, did I only get 1G? One sin­gle Gamer­score? That can’t be right.” I check my pro­file and there it is. A sin­gle, measly digit at the end of what was, just sec­onds ago, a beau­ti­fully rounded num­ber.

Some of you may not un­der­stand this, but I get twitchy when my Gamer­score ends in any­thing other than a zero or a five. Is that weird? Prob­a­bly. But then some peo­ple like to dress up as gi­ant car­toon an­i­mals and do it like they do on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel, so I’m not too wor­ried.

I don’t im­me­di­ately panic, be­cause there must be an achieve­ment for nine Gamer­score some­where in the game. It’s fine! We’ll just get that achieve­ment and every­thing will be a-okay. I look it up – you get 199G for com­plet­ing ev­ery level with three stars. FUUU

I have to for­get about this, be­cause Lyndz is look­ing con­fused, and try as I might I can’t ad­e­quately ex­plain why my Gamer­score has to end in a zero or a five. So we for­get about it (who am I kid­ding, it’s all I can think about)

and carry on play­ing. And this is where things start to go down­hill.

You see, Over­cooked is de­signed to cause ar­gu­ments. The goal is to de­liver meals to hun­gry pa­trons, which means you and your fel­low chefs have to grab, chop, cook and serve the food cus­tomers or­der be­fore you miss the win­dow and you lose points. But the real chal­lenge comes from the frankly dan­ger­ous kitchen en­vi­ron­ments in which you cook. You’ll be fry­ing burg­ers in moving vans, chop­ping onions in rat-in­fested res­tau­rants and serv­ing bur­ri­tos sur­rounded by burn­ing lava. It’s like Delia Smith’s fever dream.

Kitchen night­mares

Get­ting around these ob­sta­cles – and pre­par­ing the right meals be­fore their meal ticket timers run out – re­quires con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion and clear in­struc­tions. And when a rat makes off with your diced mush­room, shout­ing any­thing other than, “GET OFF MY FLIPPING MUSH­ROOM YOU HAIRY ARSEHOLE I JUST CHOPPED THAT!” be­comes a sec­ondary con­cern.

As the clock ticks down and the pres­sure to reach that pre­cious three-star score ramps up, we both find our­selves for­get­ting how to press the A but­ton, drop­ping raw meat on the floor and lit­er­ally set­ting fire to the en­tire kitchen when the soup boils over. Thank­fully, while we both start rais­ing our voices, we man­age to keep fairly calm with each other. Yes, I might be hold­ing a tomato when ac­tu­ally Lyndz needs a clean plate from the sink that only I can access, but she isn’t scream­ing at me for it. We’re do­ing okay!

We soon de­velop a work­able method. It’s far from per­fect, and it usu­ally flies out the win­dow six sec­onds into the level, but it’s a method. Af­ter we first play through a level, Lyndz cor­rectly says, “Right, we need a plan.” We look at the level, dis­cuss the chal­lenges we face, then come up with a so­lu­tion to sim­plify things. The level be­gins again, we in­stantly panic and the plan falls apart. That process re­peats un­til we fi­nally get three stars (hey, I can’t get that 199G on my own) – and then we do it all again on the next level. Half

“The real chal­lenge comes from the frankly dan­ger­ous kitchen en­vi­ron­ments in which you cook”

an hour later, Lyndz says some­thing sen­si­ble like, “Can we go to bed? This is stress­ing me out.” And be­cause she is 100 per cent right, we head off to bed and I lie there, star­ing at the ceil­ing and think­ing about that one point of Gamer­score.

But you know what? De­spite all of that non­sense – all of the stress, and the panic and the stupid god­dam rats steal­ing our care­fully sliced veg­eta­bles – we’re hav­ing a great time. Not only am I proud of Lyndz pick­ing up the game so quickly, I’m happy that we’re talk­ing stuff through, prob­lem-solv­ing and get­ting three stars on ev­ery level. We haven’t played games to­gether in a long time, and it’s great to have a ti­tle we can pick up and enjoy with­out me hav­ing to spend ages ex­plain­ing con­trol schemes, or weird me­chan­ics. Ghost Town Games might be a mon­ster for its choices when it comes to that Achieve­ment, but the team made a damn fun game. Af­ter this, we’ll prob­a­bly give Over­cooked 2 a try. Or maybe we’ll look for some­thing a bit more re­lax­ing – I think she’d love Su­per Meat Boy. ■

STEPHEN ASHBY

ABOVE Look at that invit­ing, whim­si­cal piece of art. Watch out, though: it lures you into a false sense of se­cu­rity.

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