Overcooked on PS4
My kitchen is an absolute disaster. With the clock ticking down, my two chefs are backed up with orders, our deep fryer is on fire, the rats have stolen my finely cut mushrooms, and the panic has begun to set in. The clock hits zero, and my previously clean kitchen now looks like a war zone, with food and dirty plates haphazardly strewn across every countertop. I am awarded 1 star, my soul is crushed, and now have to retry the entire process once again.
Overcooked is a top-down arcade game that tasks players to control two chefs as they prepare a variety of orders as fast and efficiently as possible. However, the twist is that your chefs have been sent into the past by the great Onion King so you can train up your culinary powers in order to stop the upcoming apocalypse. The story is indeed odd, but this lends Overcooked a unique and quirky personality that has some fairly humorous moments. Much of it is told through the game’s visuals, though, and not the actual writing, which is sadly quite scarce and rarely utilized despite the unique characters.
At beginning of the game you are dropped onto a large Super Mario inspired world map that you will traverse, going from location to location in order to fulfill your cooking duties. The overworld map is broken up into a variety of locations such as a big city, frozen wasteland, and a haunted forest. Each area houses around five different kitchens, each with their own unique design and problems you will have to figure out on the fly.
Levels rarely ever repeat the same layout or concept, perhaps the biggest strength of Overcooked. Each kitchen offers something completely new and it may take players quite a few tries before they can fully tackle the new environmental hazard. One kitchen was haunted by ghosts and thus made all of my cutting boards and cooking stations move without notice, while another forced me to traverse slippery glaciers to deliver my food. Each level oozes personality and seeing what Overcooked had in store for me was the main driving factor for soldiering on in this challenging arcade game.
Let me be clear, Overcooked is a very difficult game once you reach the midway point and have several different recipes under your belt. If you are playing solo, you will need to control two chefs and manage all of their tasks while completing orders. Once chefs have started a task you can leave them be and switch to the other, however, if you want to physically move the character across the floor, you will need to take manual control of them. You will rarely get to just calmly sit a chef at a cooking station.
Strategies and objectives will change with each level, making it very difficult to simply sit down and finish a level in one go. You will need to plan ahead and hope that you get lucky with what orders come in. Since each order is randomized, you may get a burger that has all the trimmings or is just a meat and the bun. There were more than a few moments where I ended up screaming at my little chefs to cook faster as the designated 4-minute timer each level gets quickly depleted. This wouldn’t be that big of a problem if progressing in Overcooked wasn’t directly tied to your performance at the end of each mission.
Players are rewarded 1 to 3 stars at the end of each level and to unlock new ones you will need to obtain a certain number of stars. While this does help train you to micromanage your chefs better, it can also be infuriating because you may not progress any further if you just cannot get enough stars. This becomes even more apparent as the game’s multiplayer feature is locked to local play only, as it lacks all online functionality.
Above all else, the lack of online multiplayer is the most baffling feature left out, as the game is clearly designed to be played with others. Having other people with you to control the chefs makes multitasking far easier and allows you to adapt to each level’s curve ball faster. The catch is that the point requirement for stars goes up with each new player added, but this is not as big of a deal if your friends are competent with the mechanics of Overcooked. A lack of online play is absolutely glaring, especially since it’s not only tied into the campaign portion of this title but the unlockable multiplayer feature as well.
Versus maps have two teams competing to see who can produce the most orders in the given time, and each level offers a variety of different challenges. You can unlock new versus maps and chefs by earning a certain number of stars during the campaign, however, if you are not playing locally, the versus maps are not playable. Overcooked genuinely feels like a game that is gated off from its true potential unless you have some friends or family to game alongside you.
This is a shame because the game itself is incredibly fun in a chaotic sense and quite challenging. Even though I found myself turning into Gordon Ramsey a few times, it usually because of a dumb mistake or poor micromanagement on my end. Unless you can juggle multiple tasks at once then this might not be a game to play solo, as the cooking is incredibly demanding in certain levels. In order to get three stars, you will need to have a near flawless run, which is incredibly difficult.
Overcooked is a fun and colorful game that shouldn’t be overlooked if you have some friends to join you in the adventure. With some of the best level design of any indie game, Overcooked will constantly batter you with new challenges. However, with a lack of any online functionality that clearly handicaps solo players, this dish comes out lukewarm.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair