Order some pizza, get some mates over and settle in – Overcooked is back to ruin your relationships. Initially released in 2016 and primarily developed by a team of two, Overcooked garnered mainstream and critical success as well as notoriety as an excellent couch multiplayer game. Overcooked was then released on the Nintendo Switch a year later and found enough success that Nintendo selected its sequel to be showcased in the Nintendo Direct showcase at E3 this year. You’d be pleased to know that Overcooked 2 has everything you want in a successful sequel: enhanced mechanics, higher production values and new ways to compete.
The premise of Overcooked 2 is simple. Players take control of chefs in a kitchen and must fulfil dishes as they are ordered. The faster you fill them, the more points you get. While there is a story in the game (something about protecting the Onion Kingdom from being overtaken by the undead (or the “unbread”)), it merely serves as a vehicle to unlock new stages in the game. One of the best new features in Overcooked 2 is the morphing nature of certain stages – you could start making salads in a hot air balloon, only for it to crash into a Japanese restaurant, where you must then churn out sushi. Or you could be peacefully cooking on stationary rafts, until a flood arrives and forces the rafts downstream. These dynamic changes to the environment force players to learn new routines on the fly and are a fantastic addition to an already hectic game.
My only criticism of these new “set-piece” stages is that there aren’t enough of them – by the time I finished the game I encountered them less than five times. There will, however, no doubt be more of them in future DLC. Another point that I noticed was the difficulty level, which started off easy but spiked significantly in the later stages. This was not something that I noticed when playing the original Overcooked. It’s not a knock against the game, but it is just something for players to consider.
The new throwing mechanic is an inspired addition and introduces a new tool to players’ repertoire. Now you can throw instead of physically passing raw food to others. If you are skilled enough, you can even toss these foods right into the proper cooking utensil (i.e. fish into a deep fryer). I played many games of Overcooked 2 with three others for this review and stages got a lot easier once we got the hang of the throwing mechanic. Watching a seasoned squad of four cooks in an Overcooked kitchen is a sight to behold – food was flying across the stage, orders were being fulfilled and the tips were mounting. It was a sight to see. There are some limitations though – you cannot throw cooked dishes or empty plates.
Overcooked 2 is designed to be played with friends. While you can play by yourself (by switching between two players), this experience is so inferior to playing with others that I would not recommend it at all. In a first for the series, online multiplayer is included. During my tests of the online modes, I found the network code to be sufficiently stable – lag was non-existent. The developers have swapped out the “swear” button to include certain emotes so that you can let your online teammates know what you are doing – for example, if you are cooking or cleaning dishes. But for a game where clear communication is paramount, these emotes fall short, especially in situations where roles change quickly. Overcooked 2 is a perfect example of a game which would benefit immensely from native voice chat support, like Fortnite. Not having such functionality is a massive missed opportunity and makes it difficult to pass the tougher stages successfully.
The overall production values have also been vastly improved. While the first Overcooked had some great gameplay mechanics, the total package was a little rough around the edges – there were niggling frame-rate issues, and some of the visual elements were sloppy. Overcooked 2’s presentation is vastly improved, and the game’s visuals appeared to be enhanced overall. There is more ambient activity in the levels and animations are livelier, giving a much better sense of the environments. Overcooked 2 was never going to win any awards in the graphics space, but it is great to see Ghost Town Games building upon the first game and improving the visual experience. The soundtrack is suitably “ear-wormy” and would likely be stuck in your ears after many rounds.
When I first saw Overcooked 2, I knew there was something special about the game. The fact that Nintendo chose what was a little-known, independently developed game to showcase at E3 this year alongside flagship franchises such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate demonstrated their faith in the game. And that faith was not misplaced. New features such as the throwing mechanic, online multiplayer and improved production values sweeten what is already one of the best multiplayer experiences on the console. And although there are some negative points (such as the lack of native voice chat during online play), these are minor gripes when compared to the mayhem and pure, unadulterated fun that local multiplayer sessions offer. If you have three friends and are looking for some of the most fun on the Nintendo Switch, you’d be hard pressed to pass on Overcooked 2.