“It’s nice to see a sequel that isn’t half-baked.” “It will leave a great taste in your mouth.” “It’s a mix of ingredients you’re sure to enjoy!” “Ghost Town Games sure fried up some fun!” “Overcooked 2 really raises the steaks!” Okay, now that I’ve got the eye-rolling games-journalisming out of my system, I suppose I can actually commence with my Overcooked 2 review, discussing the sequel to the co-op cooking simulator that I’m certain has ruined more friendships than it created.
The original Overcooked made waves for its unique multiplayer gameplay that received accolades from The Game Awards, the British Academy Game Awards, and popular critics such as the late-great John “TotalBiscuit” Bain. While I’ve only logged one session of the original Overcooked, the sequel has left me with no question as to why the original was so beloved.
Local, Organic, Co-Op
It’s a refrain you’re sure to read in other reviews, and it’s an aspect lauded about the original Overcooked, but it can’t go without saying, and it can’t be overstated: Overcooked 2 is a co-op game like none other. Most co-op games, couch or otherwise, are content with having you and your partner(s) simply doing the same thing simultaneously, with shooters being the prime example. You shoot the bad guys, and your buddy shoots the bad guys. If he doesn’t shoot enough bad guys, you can always pick up the slack.
Overcooked 2 is another beast entirely. A few levels notwithstanding, Overcooked does not let you do everything on your own. You are relying on one or more people to do their part(s) while you do yours, and those parts are different and of equal importance. You need someone to wash dishes and serve food, someone to chop ingredients and cook, while another person may float and plate. It requires a different kind of teamwork and co-operation at which even most team-oriented games don’t succeed.
This isn’t lost on Overcooked 2 either. If anything, the sequel manages to put more of an emphasis on working together. New aspects of its level design, such as tight corridors and conveyor belts make working with one another not enough; you must now also work around one another. It’s common practice in kitchen work to call out “behind” when you’re moving close to someone who cannot see you. This is kitchen safety 101, but I never thought I’d need it while playing a video game, even one involving cooking and serving food, and yet Overcooked 2 requires it.
Thrown for a Loop
Overcooked 2 does what any good sequel should: it innovates while preserving. Sequels to any medium, be it books, movies or video games, need to feel new and familiar at the same time. It’s a tightrope that not many can walk without at least stumbling. You’ll see a game like Left 4 Dead 2 get criticized for just feeling like a full-priced map pack, and you may worry that Overcooked 2 won’t be much more.
But fret not! Overcooked 2 is a more than just a shallow continuation of a beloved series (*cough* every Madden game from the last decade *cough*). I’ve already mentioned the walking conveyor belts, but Overcooked 2 adds throwing as a premiere mechanic. Have some raw ingredients (fresh or chopped)? Use the square button to throw them in a straight line. The effect of this is two-fold. No longer do you have to bring things all the way across the kitchen, so it cuts down on time. But, you can also bust out the advanced strats, such as throwing chopped ingredients directly into the fryer.
As with any good mechanic, though, Overcooked 2 designs levels that seemingly require it. Throwing isn’t a new feature that you can simply ignore and get off just fine. You’ll find a kitchen on two rafts floating down the river, and these two rafts will separate and rotate. Now you need to throw ingredients. You want to get more advanced? Try catching them in the air. If your sous chef throws you some noodles, save a button press by moving into the path of the throw, catching it in air and right in the pot. You can have fun with this, but you can also use it to extreme advantage.
As much as I want to pile praise onto Overcooked 2, and I won’t let little things stop me, there’s a couple issues I can’t overlook. Dishes are a constant issue in Overcooked 2, and that’s fine, it’s an essential part of cooperation equation. But, if I can’t see the sink, that’s an issue, and it comes up more often than it should. The maps in Overcooked 2 are a lot more ambitious than I remember from the first, but this, combined with the way Overcooked 2 shows incoming orders (with large visual descriptors in the top left corner) means that important parts of the map can be covered up. On one hand, if I’m confused as to the location of an important part of the kitchen such as the dishes or the pans, I can assume it’s behind the order overlay, but I also shouldn’t have to do that.
More importantly, though, I’m of two minds about some of the more ambitious elements in Overcooked 2. Things like gusts of wind or raining balls of fire certainly do increase the challenge level, and, for that, I have to praise the additions. On the other hand, though, these additions often made playing Overcooked 2 feel less like a puzzle to be solved and more like a random event to be endured. These floor conveyor belts change direction as soon as you’re halfway down, or a change in the winds happen right as you cross the rickety bridge, or a car runs you over right as you cross the street.
To be fair, I’m not sure if these elements in Overcooked 2 truly are random, but they feel random, and that’s just as bad. They too often just don’t pass the eyeball test and instead make you think “that doesn’t seem right.” I’m all for scripted curveballs (an early level has you fall out of an air balloon of salads into a sushi restaurant midway through), but these rubbed me the wrong way. Outside of isolated incidents, though, this isn’t too prolific a problem. Overcooked 2 is largely comprised of challenge levels that engage you on a physical, reflexive and mental levels without leaving you feeling like you’ve been cheated.
Its obvious caricatures aside, Overcooked 2 manages, above all else, to feel like working an actual busy restaurant job – you slave away for what feels like an eternity of non-stop, fast-paced work, certain you’re always miles behind where you should be, but then you count the tips at the end of the night and think “You know what? Not too bad.” In that respect and many others, Overcooked 2 is a delightful follow-up where each consecutive levels feels either completely satisfying or enticingly challenging.
Overcooked 2 review code provided by Team17. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please see our Review Policy.