Time management games are nothing new to the video game world. In fact, some of the best mobile games have been of the type where you have to run a salon or a kitchen and manage your resources to keep the customers happy. That’s why when Overcooked arrived on the scene last year for the Switch, I was of the mindset of “Oh, another one of these types of games”. But, what I didn’t know until I invited some friends over to try it out was that the magical ingredient that makes everything work so well is the multiplayer component, which is the essential thing missing from those earlier cell phone experiences. With Overcooked 2, the insanity is ratcheted up further by even crazier level designs, more recipes, and an online mode that will unite and divide friends no matter the distance.
Just like the original game there is an outrageously strange story setup for the sequel. I’m not going to go too far into it, just know that it involves resurrecting slices of bread (The Unbread) and, yeah, I’ll let you soak up the rest as you play through the campaign. Although you can totally play the game solo, the game’s real strength lies in its multiplayer. However, if you want to go it alone, it’s totally doable, although in my opinion it’s even more stressful because you have to alternate controlling two separate chefs. It’s exceedingly hard to multitask with no one else there to help you in the kitchen.
Perhaps I should backtrack for a moment to explain exactly how the game plays. If you’ve played the first title, you’ll know the drill, but for newcomers it’s not that difficult of a concept to learn. You play as one of the kitchen chefs that must gather up the required ingredients to create the specific dishes ordered by customers. These appear in order along the upper left side of the screen. So, for example, let’s say you need to make a salad. There will be different types with different ingredients, but most of them are going to involve lettuce, of which you grab a whole head at a time. You must then take the head of lettuce to the cutting board and chop it up, which takes a little bit of time. From there you’ll need to place it on a clean plate and you may need to add other elements, like sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Since the game shows off multiple upcoming orders at a time, it’s possible for someone to get ahead of the curve and prepare several dishes at once. However, you’ll need to be careful to send the right order out or it’s all for nothing. After a dish is served, the dirty dishes will return and that’s just one more task that needs to be handled before concocting the next meal.
As you can imagine, all of this food prep takes time and it’s a lot for just one person to handle. That’s why the game is best played with friends, of which the game supports up to four chefs at once. For true coordination I found it best to play with just one other person, as it was much easier to divvy up the tasks and to effectively communicate with one another. As soon as you balloon to a bigger group confusion and chaos reigns supreme and before long people are shouting over each other. Don’t get me wrong, this is also a great deal of fun and part of the game’s appeal, but if you’re looking to get a 3 star ranking on each level, I found it easier to accomplish with two versus four players.
Adding to the challenge are the various kitchen layouts. These are deviously designed to create maximum chaos. If you thought the first game featured outrageous scenarios, you haven’t seen anything yet! There’s one level that takes place aboard several hot air balloons and the kitchen breaks apart. Luckily you have a new gameplay mechanic in your arsenal – the ability to throw raw ingredients (food fight!). This means you can toss slabs of raw meat across to your friends so they can cook them up. Of course even if the kitchen is all in one room this new throwing move comes in handy to sort of build up a bunch of food for easy access. Or you can just do it to annoy your friends – I’m almost positive that’s exactly what mine were doing on a regular basis. It’s a good thing the game didn’t allow me to take my knife and stab my friends in the back or the kitchen would have ended up a crime scene.
As if the kitchens weren’t enough to up the challenge factor (magical portals, floating kitchen rafts, and rotating stovetops to name a few), the recipes are more complicated to boot. Sure, the game starts off all innocent with easy ones, but it’s not long before you’re required to put in some serious legwork to make your masterpieces. Some recipes require you to boil, fry, and mix ingredients – sometimes a mixture of them. This can become crazy real fast because you’re trying to multitask multiple projects at the same time. To make matters worse, if you leave something on the stove or in the mixer for too long, the timer starts beeping and if you don’t get there soon enough to attend to it there’ll be a nasty kitchen fire to contend with. This can all come apart at the seams if you’re not properly communicating and delegating specific tasks to each team member. Even if you’ve planned accordingly, random things will come along to undo your preparations and all of a sudden all four chefs are standing in the same corner arguing over who’s doing what. That’s the joy and stress of playing Overcooked 2!
Developing a sequel is always a risky affair. Deviate too far from the original and fans might not be happy, but keep it too similar and fans might become bored. Overcooked 2 is a safe sequel that keeps most of the gameplay nearly identical to the original. Where it switches things up is with the newly designed kitchens and worlds as well as improved visuals. The game is more colorful and runs smoother than the original did. The music is almost identical and still does a great job of matching the on-screen chaos that usually unfolds. As the timer counts down, the music increases tempo, creating a sense of urgency that usually spills over into outright panic. Fans of the original will no doubt really like what’s on offer here, but if you didn’t find the first game all that appealing there’s nothing here that will change your mind. I will say that if you’ve never played the first one, there’s little need to do so and I’d just hop on in with this one.
Overcooked 2 is a great multiplayer game on the Switch. Not only can you play with a single Joy-Con, but also the game has multiple modes of play to make accessing levels easier than ever before so you can hop right in without needing to unlock a bunch of stuff. The game looks better than the original did and retains all of the silly gameplay that was so memorable. If you’re looking for that special something to play in a group setting, this one’s an essential purchase.
Overcooked 2 was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.