Not Too Forking Bad

HIGH Playing creative levels with friends.

LOW Playing alone.

WTF Watching the forklift fly across the screen when the physics glitch out.

When playing What the Fork, it’s impossible not to notice the similarity to Team 17’s Overcooked series, just with forklifts instead of chefs.

Both drop up to four players into creative overhead-perspective levels. In Overcooked, the goal is to combine different raw materials into delicious meals and get them out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. In What the Fork, the goal is to load trucks as fast as possible with the right items. Both games even have themed areas and a hub the player returns to after clearing a level.

Overcooked’s obvious influence means that What the Fork has big shoes to fill, and while it’s not nearly as good, it is an enjoyable, if inconsistent take on the formula that Team 17 established.

The story is simple — drones from a rival company are threatening to put forklifts out of business, so Boss Fork (yes, really) tasks players with out-delivering them to re-establish forklift superiority. The writing is intended to be funny, but it only has one joke – using “fork” and “forking” in places where other f-words would normally be – and insists on telling it over and over again. It has its moments, but wears out its welcome quickly. Really, the story is just there to give players a reason to move from one level to the next, but anyone taking even a cursory glance at screenshots probably knows what they’re in for.

The goal in any given level is to move a number of colored boxes – red, blue, green, or yellow – into their corresponding trucks. Doing so builds up a multiplier that increases the player’s final score. Levels award between zero and three golden boxes based on that score, and these are used to unlock new forklifts and more levels.

Once a truck is fully loaded, it leaves and another one takes its place. Getting a high score means getting a high multiplier and loading as many trucks as possible. This is easy early on — the player moves their forklift to the right box, raises its fork to the appropriate height, picks it up and drops it off. Players can also dash and drop or throw boxes, with the range on the latter determined by both the height of the fork and whether the forklift is moving. Solo players will find themselves controlling two forklifts that they can switch between. In co-op and multiplayer, each player controls their own fork.

The levels here are appealing, and the real draw. Some will separate the player’s forks from one another, requiring them to traverse environmental hazards, throw boxes across gaps, or make use of switches, conveyor belts, energy fields that transform one type of box into another, and cannons to get the cargo where it needs to go. The best levels combine several of these ideas.

In one area, a player takes boxes through teleporters and drops them to another standing on the other side of an energy field so the box retains its original color. In a different section, one player retrieves boxes from a lower level and gets them across a wall to the other, while that player uses a switch to control the first player’s elevator and to fire the boxes into the trucks with a cannon. At its best, What the Fork combines clever and varied level design that tests the player’s knowledge of the mechanics while introducing new twists and integrates them into compelling puzzles.

…But What the Fork isn’t always at its best.

The tutorials are delivered by simple pictures and don’t come with any text, so it’s sometimes unclear as to what the player is supposed to do. Certain levels compound this by being difficult to solve, especially alone. What the Fork is clearly meant to be a co-op game — and that’s fine — but some challenges simply don’t work well for a system that only allows the player to control one fork at a time.

Other levels have extremely stringent timing requirements or use camera angles that make it hard to see. What the Fork also features frequent load times and poor control choices. Dash and select are the same button on the world map, so it’s possible to enter a level by trying to dash, and since players don’t press a button to drop off boxes, it’s often possible to put them into a truck or cannon by mistake.

Then there are the bugs. What the Fork sometimes crashes after levels, though progress is preserved. At other times, the player’s fork will be sent flying because it got where it wasn’t supposed to, or was too close to a truck that was leaving. Physics glitches like these are funny, but they can mess up a run and ruin any chance of a high score. The game also stutters in spots, and there are often spelling or grammar errors in Boss Fork’s dialogue.

Still, despite these rough edges, the best bits of What the Fork are quite good. It isn’t a long game — there are thirty missions in the story mode, but each is three minutes long. As such, it’s possible to complete the entire campaign in under two hours. Players looking for more can replay levels for more boxes and better scores, or they can check out the free play or versus modes. There are more forklifts to unlock, but it’s hard to imagine that being a huge motivator for someone who’s done everything else.

What the Fork is a flawed title that takes clear inspiration from another, but remains a compelling and often clever experience. It’s not Overcooked, but those willing to overlook its issues will find a good time that could have been something special with a bit more polish.

Rating: 6 out of 10

— Will Borger

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Bit2Good. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately four hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Three hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Suggestive Themes.  There’s some mild swearing and innuendo, but no violence. It’s safe for kids and would be a great family game.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. Almost every aspect of What the Fork involves visual and audio cues, but the only thing Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers might miss is the sound for picking up a box, which is helpful if a fork is facing away from the camera and harder to see.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but movement is on the left stick. Camera is the right stick. Jumping is X. Using items is Circle. Shooting is R1. etc. etc.

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