Picture an absurd scene – a kitchen located within old mine workings, crystalline ore hanging out of the rock faces, bottomless edges next to sinks and workbenches, and a cooking station that rotates on an old train line turntable. Your task is to make burgers – it seems so simple, yet your surrounds are so convoluted, what is this sauce-ery? You and up to 3 other friends can help you to accomplish what should be a nice and easy assignment, but it almost always turns into a chaotic, culinary catastrophe! Albeit a very fun and often swear-ridden one!
This is a game of cooperation and coordination, your timing and organization skills are pushed to their limits and you and your teammates can either make or break the harmonious mastery of your kitchen. Ghost Town Games have brought an intense, hectic single or multiplayer experience that is balanced so well that it provides such entertaining enjoyment, it is at times a marvel. But beware, your close friendships may show signs of cracking after prolonged spells of “STOP RUNNING INTO ME”, “QUICK, QUICK, CHOP UP A DAMN TOMATO, NOW” to “WHY HASN’T ANYONE DONE THE WASHING UP YET?” being hurled at one another.
THE QUEST FOR CUISINE COMMAND
It is a stormy, moonlit night in the Onion Kingdom, the Onion King has waited for this moment to bake a lavish loaf to win the noble prize. Kevin seems excited, until he glimpses the recipe in the Kings old copy of the Necro-nomnom-icon, and sees immanent danger in the frightening formula. The King is blinded by his zeal to reach culinary greatness, “And allow…to…RISE!!!” he bellows. And the Un-bread do indeed rise, a horde of hungry, zombified bread slices begin attempting to break into the castle. Your first taste of the game is to feed them as quickly as possible to fend them off from entering the Kings residence. “The horde is too ravenous” cries the King.
The King sends you on your way to save the Onion Kingdom while he vows to keep them from breaching the walls, you must learn to co-operate and discover new recipes to achieve sizzling stardom. You and a second chef (in single player, up to 4 in multiplayer) set out to 6 different locales, in which you will find yourself in many bizarre and evolving situations where you must cook a variety of dishes within a time limit. You traverse an adorable and intricate overworld map between different kitchens in a compact little camper-van – the Food Truckster 500 – which can turn into a plane, a hovercraft and more when required, obviously.
Completing levels will lead you to numerous new worlds spread out within the overworld map, they are amazingly detailed and set the tone of the levels you will enter within them. Each level is essentially a new kitchen with a different design and layout, and all containing a multitude of wacky stage hazards.There are an ever evolving combination of divine delights that need your chef expertise to rustle up and can often require a bit of figuring out just to be able to put a dish together. It is certainly more thought provoking than the first game and the level design is smarter and definitely more enjoyable. After each world is complete, you return to the King Onion to have an update on the story and a respite from all the madness you’ve just endured.
I have to admit, it is all very similar to the first game and it still feels as disjointed and incoherent as before. I feel that with a little more time they could have jelled these inconsistencies better, but in it’s own way there is a bit of charm to the haphazard and fragmentary experience.
Overcooked! 2 was developed using the Unity engine, just like the first Overcooked! game and like many other games found on the Nintendo Switch (Hollow Knight, Yooka-Laylee and Mr. Shifty to name a few). From what I have read, the early Unity support for the Switch was poor and this lead to some early games performing badly. This was readily apparent with some of the games I mentioned above having performance issues. This hasn’t been fully ironed out but Overcooked! 2 performs very nicely on the Nintendo Switch. Curiously, during the intro cut scene (with the Un-bread in the graveyard) there are flashes of alpha effects along with the lightning and there is visual slowdown in each of these moments. During gameplay, things are much smoother and tick along at a steady 30 frames per second (fps) with no slowdowns that I have noticed. In docked mode the game resolution is 1920 x 1080 and in portable mode it matches the native screen resolution at 1280 x 720.
So the game is pretty crisp looking, but if you’re looking for a 60 fps experience then I believe the Xbox One, PC and PS4 all offer this over the Switch.
The graphics are fairly simple, but the art style shines through and is coupled with some lovely animation. The birds that fly over, the opening-up of new areas in the overworld map to the bewildering little details in some of the kitchens. It is really nicely done and is evidently more polished than the previous game.
Continuing on from the first title is the excellent soundtrack. The various tracks, from the menu music to those during gameplay, are brilliantly composed, catchy and often nicely represent the theme in which they are set. I do miss the original games’ title track, but the new songs are equally impressive and once you’ve played a few hours they will be locked into memory.
The ambient sounds from cooking, the level morphing and the noises in the background are also implemented really well. You feel like you are in a chaotic universe, it is perfectly fitting (yet unspectacular) and always adds to the experience in a positive way. One sound that will raise the blood pressure and cause panic among the chefs is the alarm that goes off when your cooking is in peril, and may cause a fire. This is a great little touch and I am pleased that they kept is similar to the original game as it works so well.
If anyone recalls the release of the original Overcooked! on Switch, you will likely remember the clunky nature of the analogue controls, resembling some 8 direction-like movement vs the true 360 degree movement in the other versions. That version was fixed in an update, and I can happily say that the experience is further improved upon in Overcooked! 2. The controls are smooth and responsive, definitely playable using the Joy-Con and even nicer on the Pro Controller.
Your navigation through a kitchen is simple, your default movement is a quick walk and you have a boost-like run which you can use to traverse your area in more rapid, yet often more haphazard fashion. You can pick up plates, food and objects and you can chop and prepare food ready to be cooked or placed on a plate. If there is a bench dividing your two or more players you can pass things back and forth by placing an item on that bench. Your chefs come equipped with an ability to throw your items around the kitchen and to one another, something not found in the first game and is a much needed addition. It definitely adds a nice strategy element to levels which split in two or require passing items over a worktop. In single player you can also switch between your players to multitask, an effective means of playing but I found it trickier on more occasions than having two actual people. You have full collision mechanics between players, meaning that if your boost your way into a teammate who is happily preparing his food, you will knock them away from that job and you may well receive a few choice words from your teammate in return. It also means that you have to navigate yourself around each other, which can be fun…
Complicating matters are the level designs, from being narrow which means players cannot pass one another to the levels moving around or even breaking apart. This can dynamically change how you prioritise your platter preparation and housekeeping – mild levels of frustration to high levels of panic within the team is a guarantee, but it is how you adapt to this change in arrangement that really allows you to achieve the Holy Grail, 3 star rating. It’s a fascinating puzzle like concept that really adds depth and replayability to the game.
In story mode, your progression requires you to achieve a star rating to pass each level, and your progress will be halted later on if you only get 1 of 3 stars for the majority of them. That’s where this replayability comes back into the fray, I understand that the trickier levels can be annoying to beat but the difficulty curve in the game is nowhere near as punishing as the original.
TO TOP IT OFF
If you are looking for an amazing multiplayer experience for Switch, you have to look no further than Overcooked! 2. There are hours of endless fun to be had with friends, but I found that I couldn’t sit playing this for as long as Mario Kart, Halo or Super Smash Bros. It is definitely a more intense experience I found better to be played in bite-sized chunks.
If you’re looking to pick this up to play on your own, you will get many hours out of the main campaign, especially if you try to 100% each kitchen with a 3 star rating and complete all of the extra levels dotted around the Onion Kingdom. The game also gets very challenging, and with the more complex dishes to create and quite elaborate level designs, you can find yourself struggling in the latter kitchens in the game. Saying that, if you’re accustomed with the first game, you’ll definitely find the challenge easier and that the difficulty curve is more balanced throughout.
There are also Arcade and Online modes too, which definitely add more to the game. I didn’t delve into these for very long, but the online worked just fine in my short experience. One thing that was slightly frustrating was that the new emote feature doesn’t actually allow you to communicate well with your partner. And with no voice chat or text prompts for instructions, it can be a chore to effectively complete difficult tasks with others. It isn’t the most polished or well thought out game when it comes to the campaign either, and there are definite downsides compared to the more high-fidelity options on other consoles. Priced at $59 in Australia, it is perhaps a bit dear for what seems more like additional DLC to the first game, rather than a fully fledged sequel. That being said, if you don’t own Overcooked, it is worth picking up the sequel first as it’s a highly refined and more complete game. Looks out for a sale!