Played on Windows.
Also Available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One.
I feel like there is an unknown genre of games. There is a lot of variety in the genre but they all have a central theme they share. If you’ve seen the name of this review then you might guess that I’m talking about Cooking games. For me, the big games I’ve played in this genre is Cooking Mama, Cook Serve Delicious, and Overcooked. I’ve reviewed Cook Serve Delicious, and today I’m going to look at Overcooked.
Overcook starts out and you quickly realize that this isn’t intended to be a serious game, at least not compared to the other similar cooking games. Where Cook, Serve, Delicious! tries to make you feel like you’re cooking real food, Overcooked relies heavily on the cartoony graphics to warn you off that. Everything in the game has a cute and lovable feel to it.
The players are pudgy chefs, the leader you follow is a talking Onion King, and the main villain in the first scene is a giant meatball monster, you can even get racoons and kittens as playable characters to help you out in the kitchen, and the Onion King has a very cute lovable dog named Kevin.
I love the feel of the graphics in this game because it gives me a little enjoyment just to turn off the realistic part of my mind and to just enjoy the cuteness. While the game has a lot of dangerous hazards, something about the game and the graphics makes them feel less scary and more like challenges that I have to overcome. Whether it’s moving on ice flow blocks or having to fight a fire, the non-realistic look to the game attempts to lower the stress level just a touch, which is critical when you’re constantly adding stress to rise to the challenges that the game presents.
The game’s cartoony look also goes to the food being prepared. The dishes you make are just pots of soup that come out into a single bowl, and an entire chicken breast being used to make a single burrito. Seems outlandish and it is, but it still makes some sense in the long run of things.
Of course, that look also leads to the story. I mentioned a meatball monster, and that’s your main antagonist. He attacks the city in the opening and you arrive as meteors are falling, the Onion King quickly realizes your cooking ability isn’t going to be enough to save the day.
Meatball monster or me if I haven’t eaten by 8:00 PM? I’m not sure.
When the Onion King realizes that you aren’t strong enough. Rather than let you get killed, the Onion King takes you through a time portal to go back in time. Yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense but really it’s just a reason to go cook and learn how to cook food. Overall the story is serviceable, and while I wouldn’t have minded a little more connection, the entire game is mostly about cooking with only the tutorial level and the finale really tying into the major story.
The main gameplay of Overcooked is about cooking food to order and matching exactly what the customer wants. The first levels involve soup, so the player has to cut up three of the same ingredients and combine them in a pot, put the pot on the stove until it’s ready to serve and get the soup in a bowl for the customers. The chopping of ingredients takes time during which your chef needs to focus on the job, but it’s all about optimizing your chef and food prep, and getting food cooked as fast as possible and as the customer wants.
The goal of the game is to get through the orders as fast as possible as you get graded on your score, which is gained by serving the dishes that are requested. The faster you serve the food, the higher your tip is, though the bigger goal is to serve as much food as possible as the food itself gives the most score, each dish is worth twenty points with only a two to six point bonus.
It may not sound challenging, and the first few levels definitely aren’t that strenuous. It’s simple resource allocation. You might have two or three chefs, and they each can cut one onion and throw it in a pot to make a soup. However, eventually, the food gets more complex like burgers which require a chopped burger that gets cooked in a pan and may need lettuce or tomato cut up and everything arranged on a bun on a plate.
It’s just food prep, timing, and situational awareness. However after a couple of levels, the game starts to throw level based curve balls at the player, starting with a restaurant with a crosswalk through the middle of it, and the player has to dodge people when moving around, otherwise, they could get stuck or slowed down. Shortly after that, there’s a ship level which requires the player to deal with their counter shifting left and right as the ship sails over rough seas. The shifting counters force the players to switch position, with one handing food and another forced to cut and then switched usually at inopportune times.
The entire game is built on these interesting but gimmicked levels. Whether they be a space station or an iceberg that is slippery, the players always have a new and interesting challenge every couple of levels. That kept the game interesting through all 28 levels of the main game. There are a few different types of food to cook along the way, but for the most part, it’s those curve balls that kept my interest the entire time. I wanted to see what challenge or what interesting strategy I would or could come up with for the next level.
Hey guys, don’t worry an earthquake just ripped through the restaurant. Just keep cooking.
I often found myself running the same level a few times to figure out a better strategy and optimize my solution. By the end of the game, I gave up the goal of getting 3 stars on each level, but it’s still the goal and something that you feel that you should reach for on every level.
The only level I found too frustrating was the finale. When you go up against the meatball monster, the game throws a finale curveball at the player and demands the player to show a mastery of all the food he learned how to cook. It’s a good challenging battle but it’s also a 15-minute battle and one where I failed at least four or five times needing only 10 more seconds at the most. It’s a hard level but it’s also annoying especially with that much time invested. The rest of the game keeps the levels to four or six minutes, and with that time frame, replaying felt acceptable.
In addition, the game is also able to be played in single player or up to four person co-op. In single player, the player controls two different chefs and can start one of them on a task like chopping a vegetable, while the other performs an action and switching back as necessary. The chefs can perform simple actions like chopping as mentioned, or washing dishes without control needed. However the player can only control one character, and it’s a control, not command, sadly, so once the carrot is chopped the chef will stand there motionless until you make them do something else.
The game though does allow up to four players as mentioned and makes the game slightly harder each time a new player joins in. So an 80 point challenge might become 100 point challenge with two players, and increases with each new player as well. The idea is more chefs should make the game easier, so they have to challenge themselves more.
If you do run a multiplayer game communication will be important here. I’ve gotten into a lot of arguments with my daughter while trying to play this with her. Both of us thinking the other is ordering us around, and the fact is, we rarely get through two levels. At the same time, I had a lot of fun playing it with her. However, any problems with your friendship or relationship will become apparent in the Overcooked kitchen before long.
Just keep chopping!
Yet it’s still worth an attempt because this game was clearly intended to be played with two or more players. The single player is fun, but the multiplayer is just significantly better due to cooperation and teamwork.
Besides the finale level I mentioned before, there are a few other issues I had with the game. This game is clearly not intended to be played in single player. While I did play through the entire game in single player for the review, it’s clear the game is intended for multiplayer, and some of the timing is very tight in single player.
There’s also no online multiplayer, and that’s a shame. It feels like it’s missing a big feature there that you could team up with other random players and tackle a kitchen together. The lack of communication would make it harder, but it’s an improvement that I am glad the sequel is adding. Single player feels like it’s missing a bit, and you have to control everything rather than order sadly, so being able to team up with random people can be entertaining if you can avoid the trolls.
In addition, there are a limited number of types of food. You cook soup, burgers, burritos, fish and chips, pizzas, and salads. That’s a decent number but at the same time for 28 levels that means each of those types of food are going to be cooked exclusively in almost 5 on average.
There are no changes to the food themselves as you play through the game when you learn how to make burgers, there are three types of burgers, plain, lettuce, and lettuce and tomato. When you end the game, you still cook those three types of burger. It’s just a very standard idea of the food, and I wouldn’t have minded a little more depth, or slight changes, such as a chicken burger, or maybe start with lettuce, and then add onions, and then tomatoes, or such. The food doesn’t get more difficult, the level does.
There were a few times that I missed three stars and I would swear it was randomness that got in the way. For instance, if I consistently got plain burgers (two ingredients) I could make the burgers faster than having to make the lettuce and tomato burgers, which requires chopping two vegetables in addition to the chopping and cooking the burgers
I’m sure behind the scenes the game is correctly making sure the player has to make the same amount of burgers every time, though I just get the feeling there’s some minor randomness that can affect the final scores.
Finally, there’s a free DLC with the game. The free DLC adds the turkey and veggies and stews as well as a few more characters including a snowman. It’s a great addition and completely free, and that makes it worth playing, especially due to how unique the levels are. However, there is another DLC that only has six levels and costs five bucks. It’s odd to see paid DLC that doesn’t seem as good as a free DLC but in this game that seems to be what occurred. Personally, I played through the free DLC and had a great time, but didn’t pay for the bonus levels.
So with everything being said, how is Overcooked? Well it’s not the most realistic game, and it’s a little rough in singleplayer, but still, I had an amazing time with it. I was so entranced that I couldn’t put it down and even when I finished that hard final level, I immediately ran through the 8 DLC levels and had even more fun with them.
I also wouldn’t mind playing it again with someone or trying to tackle those last few three stars that I eventually gave up on. This is the type of game I recommend anyone try because it is unique and definitely worth checking out. As such I give this game a
Final Thoughts: A very solid and fun multiplayer experience. It works in singleplayer but really shines in multiplayer. The level design and style make it stand out. If only cooking were this fun in real life.
Stats: 9.1 hours played, 11/12 achievements earned.