To say that I was excited for the release of Overcooked 2 is an understatement. I picked up Overcooked, the first entry in the series, after reading Allee’s contribution to our February Question of the Month article. My boyfriend and I play plenty of games together, but few with a cooperative element and even fewer these days that fall into the party game genre. Trying to sell someone on Overcooked is difficult in the same way that it’s difficult to explain why games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon are entertaining and not the same thing as Farmville.
“You run a kitchen and have to budget time getting orders out and washing dishes and-“
“So it’s one of those cruddy online flash games or mobile games where you run a restaurant?“
“No! It’s very different in a way that I can’t properly articulate right now.”
Nonetheless, both of us fell in love with Overcooked and eagerly anticipated Overcooked 2 ahead of its release last week. In this installment, the Onion King (and everyone’s favorite, Kevin the dog, of course) have invited you to join them in reading the Necro-nomnom-icon, which unfortunately summons the Unbread to the castle. Once again, you must set out on a quest to improve your cooking and cooperation skills so that you can hopefully feed the Unbread to the point that they no longer hunger for the succulent rings of a certain royal onion.
The premise of both Overcooked games is simple. Visit a kitchen, fill orders while meeting the demands of each individual kitchen (i.e. fire blocking your way, being separated from your co-chef), collect tips (your points) for orders completed on time and try not to set anything on fire or mess up any orders. Get as many points as you can within the time limit, move on to the next kitchen, rinse and repeat.
Overcooked 2 boasts almost all new recipes and completely new level designs. Alone or together with up to three friends playing couch co-op, you’ll cook in Asian-inspired restaurants and food stalls, on hot air balloons and high speed river rafts, in mines, wizard castles, and somehow on a faraway planet? All of the new kitchen designs are colorful and fresh, and some of the trick elements or points of difficulty are absolutely devious.
In addition to the new kitchens, the world map has gotten a little more interesting. The Food Truckster 5000 can now turn into a boat and a…flying truck to take you to the improbable kitchens on the rapids and in the sky and beyond. Some levels require switches found elsewhere on the map to be hit before the access ramps become available.
Honesty, this addition was completely unnecessary since it adds zero challenge, nor does it require any puzzle solving, but it wasn’t irritating either. There’s also Kevin levels, which unlock after you complete certain criteria. We never found out what was required for each Kevin level, but we unlocked a few of them, at least! Kevin levels aren’t distinct in terms of difficulty or design, they just provide further levels to enjoy.
As for recipes, Overcooked 2 has added heaps of variety – you’ll find some familiar meals such as simple salads, and burgers, burritos and pizzas are still around, albeit with a few new items that can be included as toppings and fillings. In addition to these classics, Overcooked 2 has you serving up steamed buns, sushi rolls, sashimi, pancakes and cakes, and fried chicken with fries. I enjoyed the mix of new and old.
Something I was really excited about was the addition of even more chefs! All your old favorites are there, such as orange cat chef and dark-skinned stubbly male chef (our preferred chefs in the original Overcooked), but there are even more to unlock in addition to all the old ones. This is particularly true if you purchase the Too Many Cooks DLC.
Too Many Cooks, which was free if you pre-ordered it prior to release on PSN, gives you five new chefs right from the get-go: calico cat (my new preferred chef), unicorn, purple alien, walrus (my boyfriend’s new preferred chef), and monkey. You don’t get access to the same selection of starter chefs from the first game straight away, which is what led us to try new characters. Please note that the chef differences are purely aesthetic – there’s no in-game benefit in choosing calico cat chef over walrus chef.
So what else is new? Well, you can now throw items to your fellow chefs (and catch, at the other end of that exchange). That’s new and exciting, and a core part of many of the puzzle elements of each kitchen. You can also throw ingredients straight into frying pans, mixing bowls and pots from afar, which can be both good and bad. Sometimes you just want to throw something down to your friend from another story of the kitchen, only to have it sucked into a bowl that really didn’t need an extra serve of flour.
Another downside to the otherwise delightful throwing mechanic is that the physics seem to suffered a little as a result. Sometimes one of us would try to drop a pot on the ground to free up our hands and it would come to rest on part of a bench containing another ingredient. It wouldn’t actually take up that bench space, but it would get in the way of picking up the other ingredient underneath it. This didn’t happen in Overcooked, as the physics were different and there was strictly no allowance for any overlap.
Graphically speaking, there’s been some improvement at a subjective level. Overcooked and Overcooked 2 have, and only really require, very simple designs. Anything more complex would only overcrowd the kitchens. In fact, certain new items such as the mixing bowl, which has two empty slots floating above it to indicate what’s in the bowl below, when placed close to things like cutting boards and empty benches, sometimes mask which item you’re about to pick up. Likewise I found that some of the level designs made it a little tricky what you were doing past the orders on the top of the screen. This was a problem that affected some levels more than others, like the hot air balloon levels where there was a lot of content clustered into a small space.
One issue that will definitely need to be addressed is some of the early, more graphically intensive levels (i.e. some of the hot air balloon levels) suffered lag and skips at certain points. Playing a simplistic game like Overcooked 2 on a Playstation 4 Pro, I would never have expected to get this kind of interference. I imagine this will be patched out if enough people complain. Thankfully, later levels that were a bit busier did not attract this issue. On a positive note about some of the levels, I won’t spoil the surprise, but the changes that you see throughout certain levels are really fun and interesting and shook up the gameplay a fair bit by having the kitchen proceed in stages. There was no such thing in Overcooked, so this is welcome purely from a variety standpoint.
Overcooked 2 still features the same star rating as the first game. You receive one star for reaching the bare minimum amount of points to pass a level, two stars requires a higher point value, and three stars is the best reward one can receive. Apparently almost all levels have star count barriers to entry (i.e. 13 stars required to enter a level), but I didn’t even realize this at first, as we had been achieving three stars on every level as a matter of course. I wouldn’t call the game too easy, especially not in the later worlds, but if you’re an veteran Overcooked player, you will absolutely beast your way through the first 2-3 worlds with three star rankings coming out your ears.
So far none of the background music has gotten stuck in my head like some of the tracks from the previous Overcooked, but I also have nothing bad to say about the score for the sequel. The customary sped-up, hectic version of each level theme is still present whenever you reach the last minute or 30 seconds of your time in the kitchen, which I always enjoy both for the increased intensity and because it serves as an important auditory cue to let you know that you don’t have much time left. As an incredibly minute note: the story ends abruptly, just like the first one. Story isn’t really a consideration for Overcooked, is it? It’s like expecting a coherent story out of a fighting game. I’m here to cook, not to read or emote.
I’ll only briefly talk about the new online multiplayer angle of Overcooked 2, since I didn’t get to experience much of it. I wasn’t able to connect to online arcade mode at all, so I’ll outline my experience with the online versus option. I found it very easy to find three other people to play with. You can join up in teams of your own accord, and join with as many local players as you want, so you could have three friends on a couch and one random person half the world away joining in an online capacity.
You can now use simple emotes such as, “Cooking” and “Cleaning” to communicate your plans to your co-chefs, but based on what I could see when playing versus with a couple of randoms thrown together on the other team, it’s very hard to coordinate when you can’t speak to the other person aloud. The other people disconnected from our game very quickly when they (presumably) realized that we were playing together on a couch when they weren’t, so I think you can expect to see that if you try the same thing. That’s fair enough, I think, as it isn’t really fair or balanced at all to play like that. Nor is it fun from the couch co-op team’s side of things, if you’re absolutely roasting people with no challenge at all.
Important note: If finding out new level types ahead of time is a spoiler for you, I would recommend waiting until you’ve played through the whole game before you delve into the online section.
So, Overcooked 2 in a nutshell: I don’t know whether I like it better than the original, but I definitely liked it a hell of a lot. I will, undoubtedly, spend many more hours playing it and trying to max out the stars on some of the harder levels, as well as trying to unlock the rest of the Kevin levels. Overcooked 2 offers an incredibly fun solo or co-op experience for anyone who can hold a controller and remember what a lettuce looks like. Please buy it immediately, you won’t regret it. Overcooked 2 is available now in kitchens everywhere …but also on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Happy cooking!