Ghost Town Games' chaotic debut has all the ingredients of an addictive multiplayer experience and sees you and your friends battle against a ticking clock to meet the demands of a sea of restless customers. Developed by a modest team of two, Overcooked works to recreate the magic of classic local multiplayer games.
In the not-so-distant future the whimsical world of The Onion Kingdom is under siege, fireballs rain from skies cluttered with thick black smoke and a seemingly unstoppable beast aptly named the Ever Peckish threatens total destruction. In order to quench the beast's unrelenting hunger the land's finest chefs assemble, uniting their talents and serving up their most palatable dishes. However, it soon becomes obvious that their efforts won't suffice and their master, the Onion King, summons a time portal transporting them back to the year 1993 to refine their culinary skills. Advancing through the decades you must become the master of your craft, learning all new recipes and operating in restaurants suspended on the back of trucks, floating on sheets of ice, and drifting in outer space.
Gameplay is charmingly simplistic allowing even the most inexperienced of chefs to take the reins with ease. On the top left of the screen customer orders will come flooding in, detailing the required ingredients to be prepared and appearing in order of priority. Points are accumulated by delivering the correct dish on time and there's even the chance to score tips if you're extra speedy. But if you trail too far behind you'll be met with a hefty points penalty and your customers will storm out of the restaurant disgusted by your efforts. To secure the optimum three stars on a stage you need to be both swift and vigilant, which in itself can be quite a challenge.
There are a total of 30 kitchens to master across your culinary quest, and each one provides its own quirky twists and innovations. Whilst preparing meals growing in complexity you'll have to fend off hungry cockroaches, cautiously glide across icy platforms, and fumble in the dark to find concealed ingredients. This emulates the feeling of working in an actual kitchen as new elements force you to operate under pressure and adapt to unforeseen changes. Its solid foundation of core elements ensured that new mechanics felt completely organic and nothing stood out as feeling too busy.
A ticking clock, a mounting pile of orders, and a kitchen teeming with hazards are certainly a recipe for disaster. Whilst scrambling across the kitchen floor and juggling a mountain of objectives the occasional blunder is bound to arise, costing you valuable seconds or worse, leaving your kitchen completely engulfed in flames. It's a tricky balance to master as you need to remain cautious whilst also maintaining a brisk pace. This makes communication imperative to your success as you'll need to carefully co-ordinate tasks between your team to ensure that things run smoothly
While it can be enjoyed in single-player, cooperative play remains at the heart of the experience. Having to self-manage and continually alternate between two chefs feels slightly sluggish and lacks flow in comparison to playing with a friend. That being said, there are a few perks to playing solo, as the maximum three stars seems much easier to achieve and kitchen catastrophes are less likely to occur. The option to pair with others online would have been greatly appreciated, as competitive mode is completely off-limits when playing alone and having a partner present significantly helps to manage the workload.
Presented in quirky cartoonish style, Overcooked's cheery visuals are suitably fitting for a party game catered to a more casual crowd. Its soundtrack also equals in excellence, providing an assortment of jaunty tracks that compliment the game's various motifs. Its two button control scheme is the hallmark of a solid party game as it's easily accessible, allowing anybody to pick up the controller and play. Even for those playing alone, things are pretty straight forward as you can simply press L1 to alternate between chefs.
Competitive mode sees you engage in all-out kitchen warfare, competing against your friends and swiftly racing against the clock in an effort to fulfil the most orders. While it does provide a fresh deviation from the main campaign, it's hampered by a lack of playable stages and the absence of online functionality. Although the action remains firmly rooted in local play, the thought of battling it out with opposing teams online to be crowned cooking champion feels enticing and stands out as a missed opportunity.
Serving up an addictive slice of couch co-op madness, Ghost Town Games' first outing is one that truly took us by surprise. It's simple controls make it easy for anybody to pick up and play, and the action remains fresh throughout thanks to a slew of new environments and mechanics. The single-player experience may pale in comparison and there is a complete absence of online modes, but this still doesn't prevent Overcooked from being a culinary feast.