Overcooked is a 1-4 player co-op game in which you control a team of chefs to collaboratively assemble food in a frantic setting. The single-player campaign seems sad and lonely, so it’s really more of a 2-4 player game.
In my play-through of it, I played it with my friend Clelia from start to the end of World 3. The control system was very intuitive and easy to grasp, and the game itself is easy to understand and begin to play. The challenge and the fun in it is the deluge of tasks that you have to work together to have any hope of fulfilling in time. The mechanics that really worked for us were the adrenaline/stress of having to jump around and continually organise ourselves spatially. The surprising number of interactions and ways to cook/organise in the game were enjoyable too and it didn’t feel like there were artificial barriers to increase difficulty or create stress — apart from the levels. From the start the co-op experience is extremely fun, high-strung and stress-filled. It keeps you filled with adrenaline but is really well punctuated by relief at having completed a level. The levels mostly lend themselves well to quickly thought up strategy expressed through swearing and shouting and are fun to play, even if you end up doing terrible on the first run.
Some of the levels had gimmicky design that I felt more as a random annoyance or busywork taking me out of stress-fun-zone than being a natural ramping up of difficulty. However, Clelia feels that she “enjoyed the levels that [I felt were more gimmicky], although they might not stand up to repeated playthroughs”, but also that “the logic of the game is less visible when there are those barriers, which can turn the fun spatial movement into just running around for no reason”. We also liked the first level being a tutorial without it actually saying THIS IS THE TUTORIAL.
I didn’t really get the scoring and it seemed to vary somewhat arbitrarily over the levels. Overall (neglecting the scoring), the difficulty of the levels seemed to be well set — e.g, it’s mostly possible to scrape or come just below a 1 star (the amount needed to pass a level) on the first try, on the subsequent tries if you plan and strategise during the inter-level wait it’s easily possible to do far better and get a 2 star, and to get the best rating requires practice and high-strung organisation to not make a single mistake.
Overall the co-op experience was really, really fun and energetic, and the difficulty and core mechanics of the game are well thought out. The graphics are very cute and the interactions are really well fleshed out, and there’s a ton of visual and gameplay variety to the levels (sans the gimmicks). The single-player seemed kinda boring from the very little I played of it, and some of the levels seem to have annoying mechanics that feel like artificial difficulty barriers rather than well thought out design, but the rest of the game-play still makes up for it.
Here is a video of someone else playing it:
Context & Reception
The developers are British, but there isn’t really a way to tell that from the game. The publishers are the same ones as the Worms series, so it’s really good to see that someone is keeping the local couch co-op torch lit. The critical reception seems overwhelming positive for the co-op aspect of it, and most people seem to enjoy the levels and the gimmicky aspects of some of them. The single-player seems mostly panned, and the developers themselves say that the first and foremost wanted to make a co-op game. It’s really sad that games having local co-op are rare now.