Cooperative games that require a lot of communication seem like they are played best in person. This was the thought issued by the original order-delivering chef game Overcooked. While this certainly makes a lot of sense, it can be deceptively hard to get the right people together to have a satisfying gaming session. Ghost Town Games looked to solve this by adding online play to their sequel, Overcooked 2, but also managed to squeeze some surprisingly game-changing new features that makes for a satisfying return to the Onion Kingdom.
Cooking simulation seems like kind of a disingenuous way to describe Overcooked 2, but despite the cartoony nature of the events, this is large accurate. Chefs are tasked with working cooperatively to cook, assemble and send out meals to hungry customers. Depending on the meal you’re cooking, getting the dish out on the plate can be very simple or incredibly intricate, but it’s always hectic in the kitchen. Orders appear in the top-left corner of the screen and if you get out enough orders in time, you’re awarded some cash for your effort. This translates to a score at the end of each stage where you can earn a maximum of three stars per level.
If you’ve played the original Overcooked, this should be sounding pretty familiar so far and it should. Having played through the first title, it was easy to jump back in for the sequel without very much retraining. That being said, as the game progresses, Overcooked 2 starts to sprinkle in some new features which change the game in some surprising ways. One new feature that you might easily miss is that you get a bonus for turning in food in the correct order. This develops some new strategies for maximizing scores and can add just a little more chaos when the next order isn’t ready, but another is good to go. Another small one is the emote system they have added to the game. I mainly use it to goof off after a match, but I could see it being mildly helpful if you’re playing online with a person who doesn’t have a headset.
Speaking of online play, that’s another new feature that shines in Overcooked 2. As it turns out, if you’re using a headset, that might just be all the communication you’ll need. I have been playing with a friend who is a huge fan of the game and being able to play online has allowed me to play much more often than I was able to arrange in person. While getting to see the in person reactions people have while playing Overcooked 2 would be more fun in some ways, it doesn’t appear to detract at all from being able to play, assuming you’re communicating through some form of audio chat. My only complaint about online play is that only the host retains the progress made while playing. If you’re playing with the same person every time this is no big deal, but it could be frustrating if you want to switch it up and suddenly have to start from the beginning.
Throwing is probably the most significant addition to Overcooked 2. Fans of the original might be thinking that you could throw in Overcooked, but that’s not quite correct. You can drop items while moving to sort of “toss” them using the physics engine, but the throws in Overcooked 2 are the real deal.You can get some pretty good distance with the thrown items and even catch things by moving into their path. Only raw ingredients can be thrown and you obviously can’t throw any plates, so there are some smart limits applied to the mechanic to keep it fair. The level design reflects the importance of this new feature by incorporating it almost everywhere. Even though there are many levels that don’t require throwing, once you’ve mastered it, there is little reason not to use it to optimize your cooking. It sounds pretty simple, but throwing completely changes the game and, in my opinion, warrants the full sequel status of Overcooked 2.
New stage features are another highlight of Overcooked 2, with things like moving walkways and portals adding some extra depth to how the stages can function. My favorite new stage feature though is the ability for the levels to completely change. In one stage, you start on a flying platform serving salads, when suddenly the platform crashes into a sushi restaurant. You then need to finish off the salad orders before starting on your new sushi orders. This was a cool feature that made the stage extra exciting the first time it happened. The implications of there not being anyone left in the kitchen after the crash aside, I like the idea that you need to suddenly shift what you’re making because you’re in a completely new restaurant. The overworld has gotten an overhaul as well, including interactive elements like switches to activate ramps and secret stages. This is mostly to add flavor, but it’s cute and adds a little break between hectic stages. These, along with the other changes in Overcooked 2, are smart and simple enough to really make the experience feel fresh while not changing the formula too much.
- Dynamic levels are exciting and add flavor to the stages
- Throwing works really well and adds a lot to the gameplay
- Online play makes it much easier to get friends together to play
- New recipes are fun and interesting to cook
- The built-in voice chat is a little spotty on the loading screen in the PS4 version
- Progress does not carry over when you are not the online host
Getting into the grove and executing Overcooked 2 well with a friend is one of the more satisfying experiences I have had in gaming. The package is a tight and fun experience that I will gladly come back to for quite some time. The additions made for Overcooked 2, specifically the throwing and dynamic stages, makes the experience feel very new in spite of the game sticking mainly to the same formula. Anyone out there looking for some cooperative fun would do well to check out Overcooked 2 which is well done and available now for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Promotional consideration provided by Team17. Reviewed for the PlayStation 4.