Overcooked 2 taught me an important lesson: Gordon Ramsay has it pretty easy. I mean, sure, the sweary chef has had to put up with a lot in his time: irate customers, incompetent staff, and messy kitchens, but has he ever had to cook a meal on a hot air balloon in the middle of a storm?
Unsurprisingly, developer Ghost Town Games hasn’t really messed with what made the original Overcooked so special. It’s still bat-shit crazy, it’ll still piss you off at times, but above all, you probably won’t find anything more rewarding and downright fun for a long time.
Bizarrely enough, there is a story that punctuates the culinary challenges that make up Overcooked’s core experience. Well, sort of. You’re in Onion Kingdom, and the unbread (zombie bread, which is just bloody awesome and should definitely have their own game) have started rising from their graves. The King, who is a talking onion, obviously, commands you to help satiate the unbread’s hunger by cooking as much grub as possible. And, well, that’s pretty much all the excuse you need to start rustling up some five-star treats.
Overcooked 2 adds some subtle yet impactful wrinkles to the original’s polished paradigm. You’ll still be competing against the perennial ticking of a clock in the bottom right of your screen, but the action flows much quicker. For starters, you can now lob ingredients across the screen to your partner, which, aside from raising serious concerns for food hygiene (three-second rule be damned), keeps the action fast-paced – and actually becomes a vital tool in later stages, which I’ll come to later.
You’ll still be dashing about the place like a madman though. Everything from cheese, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, chicken, and beef, need to be chopped; and burgers, pizza dough, bread, and the like need to be cooked. Indeed, controlled chaos would be a good way to describe Overcooked 2. My kitchen was a bloody mess at times – dirty plates piling up, random bits of grub lying on the floor, and food sizzling over – yet I never once felt like it wasn’t in my power to get shit right. That’s the beauty of Overcooked 2.
No matter how manic the situation gets, it never feels unfair or overwhelming to the extent that you want to chuck your controller through the TV screen. Yes, you’ll get pissed, but more so at your own mistakes.
In fact, some of the game’s best moments come from things going tits up. At one point, a pan of chips caught on fire, which subsequently set ablaze a section of the kitchen, leading to a panic-induced session with the fire extinguisher. Even my freshly-chopped lettuce went up like a Christmas Tree – it was hilarious.
Overcooked 2 isn’t just about satisfying hungry bellies though. You’ll have three score parameters to reach, each one awarding a set number of stars, which are in turn used to unlock new stages. This lends the proceedings not only a strong sense of accomplishment when you manage to nail the top three-star reward, but more importantly, gives you something to aim for beyond just scraping through a stage. Meals get progressively more difficult too; it’s fine serving a plate of fried chicken or fish, but when you’re rustling up pizzas or burgers, which are made up of three-four different food types, things get real manic.
One thing that Overcooked 2 makes emphatically clear is that it’s a co-op game. Yes, there’s single-player, and it’s not too bad, but it loses much of its strategic edge when you’re flying solo. Switching between the two chefs with L1 is simple enough, but the action doesn’t flow quite as nicely; more often than not, it becomes frustrating with bigger meals, and at times a stage makes you realise that you really need someone helping out. There’s nothing quite like barking orders at your mate to chop the meat or stick on the rice while you’re both legging it around a kitchen against the clock, and it’s here that Overcooked 2 is, unequivocally, at its strongest. Even better is the fact you can do this online, too, and not just old-fashioned couch co-op.
There’s a brilliant cohesion and rhythm to the proceedings as you double-team ingredients, chucking veggies across to each other, prepping stuff in the cooker, washing up plates and flinging stuff onto conveyor belts. And that’s just on a regular stage; when Overcooked 2 throws all sorts of barmy locations your way, teamwork becomes even more paramount to success than before. Kitchen counters will sway back and forth, blocking off your path while you’re rustling up sushi on an airship; disappearing stairs in a wizard-themed stage force you to take alternate routes through magic mirrors; racing down the rapids on two separate kitchen worktops requires some pinpoint accuracy as you chuck ingredients across to each other; and speeding cars won’t give a toss about the freshly-baked pizza you are lugging around as you attempt to dash across the road to serve up to punters.
It’s all completely bonkers, but it’s great stuff, and forces you to really think on your feet.
, injecting even more of a strategic layer into the mix as you try to circumvent the various roadblocks on your path. As I said, Ramsay’s got nothing on these guys.
While the story is pretty meaty on its own and should keep you busy across its 36 stages, you can plump for Arcade or Versus mode to further your culinary skills. Arcade plonks you in random maps plucked from each world (you can choose a stage but it’s much more fun when you don’t know what challenge awaits), while Versus does what it says on the tin and works bloody marvelous; competing against human players really adds a new dimension to the core loop, and if you’re anything like me you’ll have a right laugh at your opponent making a pig’s ear of their meals. My opponent happened to be my girlfriend, so I was obviously not up to bragging aloud for fear of real-life sharp implements.
At the end of the day, Overcooked 2 is pretty much what you’d expect from a sequel. It’s core basics are just as manic and outright entertaining as they’ve always been, but the extra bits and bobs thrown into the mix keep things fresh, frantic, and help add a more nuanced, tactical edge to the action. Single-player isn’t anywhere near as fun as co-op, but thanks to online you won’t have any trouble finding someone to help you slice up sausages and potentially burn the whole place down.
More of the same? Yep. Still fun though? Absolutely.
Developer: Ghost Town Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Release date: August 7, 2018