Multiplayer is something that, over the years, has moved further and further into the online-only space. All but gone are the days of friends or family paying with (or against) one another on a single console. The days of couch party titles like Mario Kart 64 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 are gone, replaced by multiplayer titles that encourage the same co-operative/competitive spirit but in the vacuum of individual living rooms. Overcooked 2 doesn’t give a shit about this new status quo. It remembers the couch play days, and has built itself around the lessons they taught.
The original Overcooked released in 2016 and became an instant indie hit. A co-operative multiplayer title in which four players attempted to run a manic restaurant, it was fun, hectic and immediately engaging. It was only a matter of time before a sequel came along. Overcooked 2 had very little it needed to do in order to succeed — it could have been little more than a glorified map pack and it still would have been worth the price of admission.
Not only have developers Team17 and Ghost Town Games included a wide ranging suite of brand new maps, but they’ve been hard at work elsewhere too. The game’s single player campaign is now a kind in-universe road trip, sending your tiny chefs across the Onion Kingdom to thwart the rise of the Living Bread, which is a joke somehow good, simple and textured all at the same time. The single player remains, at least in my opinion, an exercise in futility. It feels like you’re playing the game with one hand tied behind your back. You can’t be everywhere at once, and so timers frequently run out while you’re frantically trying to move two chefs around the kitchen. But the single player is all entree, it isn’t the main course.
The basic game loop in Overcooked 2 runs thusly: An Order comes in. Each order is comprised of individual components. Each component must be prepared differently — some need to be chopped, some need to friend, some need to be chopped and fried, and some need no prep at all. Once prepared, the components must be combined on a plate. The plate must be delivered to the conveyor belt, which takes the meal to the customer. The customer will scoff their food down and return the dirty plate, which must be scrubbed before it can be returned to active duty. Between the optimal number of four players, there should be more than enough hands in the kitchen to keep everything running smoothly. That’s where the level design comes in.
The game offers several multiplayer modes to choose from but is at it’s absolute best in a standard co-operative ruleset with four players. The levels are fiendishly designed and will test even the most dedicated, silky-smooth four player squads. Some kitchens are floating down rapids on seperate shifting rafts. Others are built on their side of a busy street. If cooking is all about timing and patience, Overcooked 2 takes the thinking to its logical extreme. As the pressure builds and mistakes start to pile up, it can lead a party-wide panic and these are the moments when Overcooked 2 comes alive. Everyone is howling at each other, desperate to get that last meal over the line. It’s controlled chaos and infuriating at times, but you always go back for another round.
The timer and co-ordination required mean that everyone will start trying to find ways to speed up their process. By the time we finished a solid few hours of play, my friends were lobbing chopped meat into fryers from clear across the kitchen with marksman’s accuracy. We were tagging in and out of prep stations, a machine of ruthless culinary efficiency. With cooperatively minded friends, you will be putting up memorable game after memorable game.
Overcooked 2 is a fine tuning of an already inspired central design. It’s the perfect party game, the perfect family game and (in my opinion at least) the perfect multiplayer game. It’s smart, it’s fun, it’s challenging and it doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. Highly recommend.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Great gameplay; Great look; Great fun
Lowlights: Overly competitive friends may derail the experience
Developer: Team17, Ghost Town Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a retail code provided by the publisher.