The Sweet Smell Of Success
HIGH Running over ‘Unbread’ in the overworld.
LOW Occasional Lag.
WTF The multi-stage levels.
It won’t surprise anyone that Overcooked! 2 is the sequel to Overcooked! by Ghost Town Games – the original was a cheery-looking cooking title where the player was required to run around preparing meals on a top-down plane, but the upbeat art style disguised the fiendishly tense content. This time new levels, new recipes, and — crucially — online multiplayer have been added to broaden the audience.
For context, I loved the first installment, I chose it as one of my top games of 2017, and reviewed it here. Frankly, I had no idea what could be added to improve on its already-great formula.
Ghost Town had ideas, though, starting with expanding the content by offering six worlds featuring six levels each. The point of play is to deliver properly ‘cooked’ meals promptly and earn points. Delivering incorrectly-made meals nets no points, and failing to deliver meals on time earns fewer points. There’s a scoring system that metes out between 0 to 3 stars, and earning stars is required to unlock levels.
In singleplayer, there are two chefs to switch between, but moving, performing an action, and picking things up are the only actions that a player must figure out. These are sensibly mapped to two face buttons on the controller — one to pick up plates and pots, another to execute a contextual action such as ‘wash a plate’ or ‘knead dough’. The complexity comes in timing and coordination, as each workstation or oven is positioned in a different place, and there are hazards the player must negotiate between different points. In co-op this becomes a case of each player controlling one chef, and in versus there are two teams of two competing.
In terms of mechanics, the devs astutely decided not to change their streamlined formula — the only new verb introduced is the ability to throw raw materials, but not plates or cooked goods. It may seem like a small adjustment, but it allows for level designs to change markedly — negotiating a precipice while one teammate chops a lettuce before throwing it across a gap is a nice challenge. Doing so while also dealing with moving platforms, teleporters and disappearing chairs requires mastery.
Having said that, I found the first ten levels to be a light and excellent introduction to other new elements besides throwing, such as new hazards – teleporters, player-controlled platforms and disappearing walkways – and new multi-stage levels. Halfway through one of these, an event might occur that requires players to rethink their strategies completely. I ran through some of the early levels with inexperienced players in co-op and we were soon three-starring many on our first try, but the difficulty does ramp up. Even a veteran chef’s skills will be taxed.
Despite the challenge of quick cooking, cooperation will always prevail by figuring out each player’s personal strengths, establishing organization systems, and sharpening up reactions and accuracy. The tension here is the same as the first, in that a minor slip like a mistimed throw or a poorly-navigated platform will result in a lost dish and a rating of less than three stars. A successful round of Overcooked! requires players to talk to each other constantly in order to negotiate obstacles in a coordinated way. As such, it’s no stranger to making friends get extremely terse, and sometimes partners must step away for a few minutes, especially near the end — the final few levels are as stressful as anything from the first game.
Since cooperation and teamwork are the key to success, the biggest addition to Overcooked! 2 is ostensibly the online functionality, and I’m happy to say that it works — for the most part. Sometimes the game lagged at a key moment and I’d drop to my death, but overall the connection was stable and it was easy to course-correct for other hiccups. However, I can’t imagine playing this with strangers, as the tension generated among friends is already high enough. Trying to do the same with someone who has no shared history or personal filters? No thanks.
So, here is where I need to justify my score – anyone reading this will see I plagiarised my own review of the previous installment to describe the gameplay because this is a title that has improved as an iteration rather than as an evolution. That said, it didn’t need a huge overhaul. The single new mechanic makes it different to play in a smart way, and also allows for level design and tactics to change drastically while keeping the spirit of the first. The easing of difficulty in the early game makes it far more accessible, and if asked, I’d recommend Overcooked! 2 over the first to newcomers for these changes, as well as the online features that let distant friends enjoy the multiplayer. To dock points off a title that continues to be perfect would be a bit like punishing a kid that aced their SATs after getting straight As.
Overcooked! 2 is the perfect sequel that manages to improve on its predecessor in every way, and it’s easily one of the best games of 2018.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Ghost Town Games and published by Team 17. It is currently available on PS4, PC, XBO, and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the XBO-X. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 12 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. The game contains basic cartoon violence, but there is nothing that younger audiences will find disturbing, in many ways this second installment is a better entry point for kids as they have introduced endless modes and no fail states.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All of the story is delivered by text, the UI clearly indicates threats, the game is fully playable without sound. The text size cannot be altered. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable. They do offer two options, a controller share option (two players on one controller, allowing for 4 players with only two controllers) or a single player option.