Overcooked is a couch co-op cooking game in which you either try to control two hapless chefs by yourself (incredibly stressful and not recommended) or you are joined by one to three friends and you all fight over who’s fault it was that the kitchen lorry burnt down while you were waiting for lettuce to be chopped and passed over from the other lorry (incredibly stressful and highly recommended).
In terms of gameplay, it’s quite simple. You are given and kitchen and some orders, such as a hamburger. That hamburger order might say it needs lettuce, tomato, a bun, and meat. So you need to go and mince the meat, then start it cooking in a pan. Then you need to get the bun, chop up some lettuce, chop up some tomato, put all of that on a plate, then once the meat is done cooking you put the meat in. Then you put it in the little place where orders are served. Then once the dirty plate comes back you wash that up and do it all over again with a new order. If you leave something to cook for too long it’ll catch on fire and need to be extinguished, but other than that it’s not too complicated. Unfortunately only the first kitchen really works like that. Later on your kitchen is the victim of earthquakes, splitting it in two, or only has enough room for a single person to go past, or has customers walking through the middle of it, or is split over two trucks. On top of that you have a range of different orders coming in that require different ingredients and different preparation methods. You also only have a very limited supply of plates and cooking pans. Oh and your character controls like they’re slightly clumsy and drunk. And you might be a cat. All of this put together leads to plenty of chaos and the only way to overcome the challenges are to either split the work evenly between the two characters you control (and swap between with a press of RB) or to manage tasks as a group. It’s easy when you can have one person cooking the meat and another cutting up the veg, but often your roles will constantly be in flux based on how the environment is changing.
Each level is graded out of three stars and the more stars you get the more chefs you unlock (purely cosmetic). Trying to get three stars on the later levels is a real challenge, but an addictive one as you constantly strive to find ways to make your kitchen ever more efficient. When it’s all working, it’s brilliant, with chefs zooming about all over the place and food seemingly getting prepared miraculously out of the organised chaos. When it all goes wrong it’s often hilarious as people try to carry on cooking while others are fighting fires and some are just running around in circles in the corner. With four players this is often how things go and it definitely feels like two players is the sweet spot, but as long as you’re not on your own it’s always fun.
There’s a lengthy campaign but in addition as you go you unlock versus modes where you split into teams and try to do the challenges faster than your opponents. This is a lot of fun and being split-screen you can always see how they’re getting on and steal their ideas if you think they’re doing something better than you are. Sadly there is no online functionality at all, and while we can understand that couch co-op really brings out the best in this game, it would be nice to be able to try and use voice chat to organise things or at least to have some leaderboards to compete against others. Ah well, here’s hoping for a sequel!
Overall Overcooked is easily one of the most compelling split-screen experiences on offer on current-generation consoles, and there does seem to be a real scarcity of quality games that can keep people entertained. Don’t be put off by the cooking theme or the fairly basic-looking graphics, the gameplay here is genius and for the money Overcooked can provide hours of fun.