Overcooked PS4 Review
Publisher: Team17 Developer: Ghost Town Games Genre: Simulation Players: 1-4
Age Rating: 3+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Made with multiplayer gameplay firmly in mind comes Overcooked, a game in which you race against the clock and cook as many meals as possible, serving them up to gain as many points as possible within the time limit, with your reward being a gold star, or three, depending on your final score. That is the gist of Overcooked, though there is certainly much more to it than that.
All the action takes place in a chefs kitchen, with each kitchen having a themed environment that affects the difficulty of the game. The further you progress the more challenging the kitchen becomes; there are haunted kitchens, where the kitchen counters will move about; lorries in the middle of a road that are driving side by side, with pieces of the kitchen separated onto both lorries that will then keep parting; and an icy environment in which slipperiness is your enemy. There’s certainly a lot of variety in the way each level has been created and the environments are only one part of the challenge you’ll have to overcome.
Up to four players can take part in a session and it is all about communication, organisation and pace. You first start by choosing one of the many chefs – more of which are unlocked as you progress – and the game begins almost straight away. You receive an order and, with each order being timed, it is then up to all of the players involved to complete that order before the time runs out. More orders will show up in the top corner of the screen, all of them on their own timer, and if you fail an order you lose points, and if you lose points you lose stars, stars being necessary to unlock later levels.
You will be cooking a multitude of meals, from different varieties of soup, pizzas, beef burgers, fish and chips and burritos and sometimes you’ll have to cook multiple meals at once. The ways in which each meal is cooked varies – for soup you’ll need to boil the ingredients, ranging from tomatoes to mushrooms and for fish and chips you’ll be deep frying them. For other foods they’ll be grilling in a frying pan or in a pizza oven, and some parts of an order will require you to use different cooking methods to complete just one meal. Orders also vary – depending on the dish, some will require only one or two of the ingredients or a meal will require all. Some will have a beef burger on its own in a bun, or with lettuce and tomatoes. There will be something cooking all the time, and you will also need to keep a close eye on them as they could become overcooked, leading to a rather fiery disaster which can result in utensils becoming burned and useless.
As well as cooking you’ll be doing some cleaning too, washing any used dishes. In some levels dish washing isn’t necessary and a clean dish will appear ready for serving up the next meal, though in the more difficult levels you have to take into consideration that the dishes will also need washing as a meal can’t be served without one. And before you get to even serve any food, it all needs preparing; whilst some foods can go straight into the pot, others will need chopping up first before any cooking can be done.
There is also a story as such; the story begins in a future version of the Onion Kingdom and sees the chefs starting out battling a huge monster – a meatball with a spaghetti body – by serving it up meals. This part basically serves as a tutorial, giving you an idea of what to expect. However, the spaghetti monster cannot be fulfilled and, at the request of the Onion King, suddenly you are back in the past, needing to train and work your way up to the present in order to finally defeat the monster. It’s a very basic plot, so don’t expect any depth here, the story only serves to drive the gameplay more than anything else.
The graphics of the game are nothing special, but serve their purpose nonetheless, the visuals having a cute, cartoonish style, fitting for a game with such a premise. The design of the kitchen themes has been done very well and the environment has been put to good use, with fireballs and lava present in volcanic levels and slippery ice caps your only gateway to the other side of the kitchen in the snowy levels. The soundtrack matches the pace of the gameplay, and although only one type of music is used in each level it never becomes repetitive, speeding up as your time limit runs low. There is other music for menus and it has a very French feel to it, asserting to the fact that France is known for having quality chefs.
There is also a single player mode, though it pales in comparison to multiplayer. In single player you control two chefs, switching between the two at the push of a button, and it is certainly feels awkward controlling both and it would have been a better choice only having one chef. It could be accomplished with some practice, though as this is a multiplayer-focused game, it is much better played that way. With more players, the game can also be played on individual controllers or with two players on one controller, though it is awkward having to play with one hand. Depending on how may players are present, it also affects the score that you need to achieve in order to complete the level and achieve a star; the more players, the higher the score.
Versus mode is also available with up to four players taking part. There are 8 kitchens you can choose from and two players work together to gain as many points as possible, the team with the most points winning. If there are only two players taking part (as opposed to four) you still control two chefs each, the same way as in the single player mode. It is still much more fun playing with four players as, when there are only two players, the controls are just as awkward to work with here as they are in single player.
Overcooked is a joyful and frantic little game, though one pitfall is that, as later levels become increasingly difficult to unlock, it can become rather tedious having to replay previous levels in order to gain stars necessary to access these later levels. In some cases this even means that you need to achieve all three stars in a level in order to unlock later levels and, once you have replayed the easy levels and gained all three stars with them, you’ll find yourself dreading having to replay the harder levels to gain more stars. Then there’s the final boss which sees you up against the Spaghetti monster once more – some amusing trivia; there is actually a religion known as Pastafarianism in which their deity is called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which is a symbol of their opposition to ‘intelligent design’ and ‘creationism’ being taught in public schools and is designed to look like spaghetti and meatballs….. Anyway, this boss is 12 minutes long and is known to be very difficult.
So as the challenge increases, you may find your interest dwindling with the game feeling less like the fun party game that it is obviously supposed to be; admittedly I never completed Overcooked because of this, the tediousness overshadowing any initial joy. Still, for those with determination, Overcooked is mostly a fun game that challenges your skills and is still definitely one to try.