Ghost Town Games is really onto something with this cutesy little kitchen game. I’ll admit, when my buddy reached past Guns, Gore & Cannoli (review coming soon), and Wulverblade (review here) to grab Overcooked, I gave him the ol’ side-eye. What the hell, man? You wanna trade tommy guns and headshots for pots and pans? Flambés instead of Viking freedom? When he insisted, I mentally checked myself, and decided that the least I could do was humor him. It was his console, after all. Two hours later, his wife was yelling at us from the kitchen, something about how there was plenty of cooking to do right there in the real world, and could one of us give her a hand? Gleefully, we declined; our digital soup was about to burn, orders were up, and we had customers to satisfy.
Overcooked is a blast. It’s a chaotic, at times graceful battle against time, each other, and yourself. The game is extremely simple; you are a cook, and you have to prepare food and get the dishes to customers in a set amount of time. There are really only two buttons, one that handles chopping, picking things up and setting them down, and a boost button. This was fine, I thought; no problem. I’ve been a server, a bartender, a cook… you name it. I know the game. But what begins as a calm endeavor, with a lot of “Aaaaand, soup’s up… go ahead and grab it, thanks… I’ll just wash this plate… go ahead and chop me some mushrooms… thank you very much…” turns rapidly into “Fu*! this, f@C& you, I dropped the damned ingredients and I need-no, I need the, no, hand me- TOMATOS! GET ME SOME TOMATOS! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I NEED A DISH, OH FOR THE LOVE OF- ARE THERE ANY CLEAN PLATES?? WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING OVER THERE!? It’s fast, frenetic and most of all, a ton of fun to play.
The Story & Flow
The game is light on story, but what is there is quirky and funny, involving talking food and time travel. I was pleased that they put attention and fun into the story, mainly because the game doesn’t necessarily even need one. You are cooking food in a restaurant, and that premise doesn’t require a ton of backstory. What is here kept me grinning till the end, and the animation perfectly fits the light-hearted, silly tale.
The game starts simply enough, letting you learn the ropes before ramping up the insanity. You begin with, say, two types of soup. One soup needs three mushrooms, the other three tomatoes. You and your partner scurry around a cramped kitchen, trying to stay out of each other’s way, chopping and cooking the meal, and above all, trying to keep everything flowing without dropping a plate, burning a dish, or taking too long to deliver the food. One of you will be chopping mushrooms, the other setting a pot on the fire, grabbing and adding the mushrooms, keeping an eye on the cooking time and so on. The game’s initial levels perfectly allow you to learn the nuances, while not shying away from the challenge right out of the gate.
Before you know it, that challenge has ramped way up, and much like a real restaurant on a busy Friday night, you’re almost immediately in over your head. Ingredients and recipes quickly become more complex, and even putting together something as simple as a burger, which requires lettuce, cooked meat, a slice of tomato and a slice of onion becomes a stressful event, as you try to get the right ingredients, the right amount of ingredients, everything chopped, manage your counter-space, keep plates clean and (literally) put out fires. Yeah, there’s a fire extinguisher in every kitchen, and you’re going to need it.
The kitchens themselves are their own obstacle. Not only are they all relatively cramped, some interesting design choices has you fighting your actual cook-space, from a kitchen on the deck of a listing pirate ship that physically changes as things slide across the deck, to a kitchen on a public street where you have to dodge pedestrians and jugglers. Every kitchen presents unique challenges, and you’ll constantly be retrying levels to find ways to shave off a precious second here or there, chasing the top honor of a three star rating.
The only place I can find real fault with the game is the solo mode. A lot is lost when you are controlling two cooks, switching between them to prepare your food and get things out on time. With no partner to cooperate with (or yell at), the whole affair just becomes slightly tedious, and the excitement drops through the floor. Then again, this is clearly a co-op affair, and if you wanted to play solo, you’d probably just choose some other game entirely. This is a game to play with friends over a couple beers, and there is a great sense of accomplishment when you and a buddy have your little kitchen smoothly humming along.
Graphics & Sound
The graphics are nothing technically impressive, but they fit perfectly. Your cooks are cartoony and a bit ridiculous, and everything in the game world pops with bright colors and soft edges. The sound is satisfying, especially the chopping sound as you rapidly thunk your cleaver against the cutting board. The music is well-suited, ramping up when things get tense and staying pleasantly low-key when you are just scuttling around the kitchen.