Overcooked is a well-tuned intersection between charming and challenging. Using up to four players at a time, it’s a neat, entertaining little game in which teamwork is vital to the team’s success.
In Overcooked, players work together to run a successful dining room. Much of it is standard cooking game time and item management; orders come in with very specific ingredients, timers tick down as customers wait longer and longer for their order fulfillments, and players have to make calculated dashes between food prep, delivery, and cleaning up the mess left behind.
Its mixture of Diner Dash and Cooking Mama elements are blended together in a fun way, always pushing the objective forward and encouraging players to utilize new strategies in order to cope with the changes inherent in every level.
At the start, Overcooked is basic. In my demo, it opened in a small restaurant dining room where my cooperative partner and I had to work together to make a handful of basic soups. We had a decent pattern down; I removed the mushrooms and tomatoes from their respective storage crates, passed them over to him so he could chop them up, then collected them, cooked them in a pot on the stove, emptied the contents into a bowl, and delivered it to the pickup window.
This carried on for a few minutes, our successful teamwork racking up more and more money in generous tips based on our wise use of time, space, and resources. Finally, the restaurant closed, and we were onto a new location.
The beauty of Overcooked lies in its simplicity. It’s not a mechanically deep game, but it is well honed to the point of being—as the cliche puts it—easy to learn, difficult to master.
Things are switched up through steady recipe complexity and level design. Our first round took place in a stationary, basic restaurant kitchen. Our second was on a pirate ship, constantly moving between shifting boxes that periodically changed the layout of the level’s prep area. It forced both me and my co-op partner to change roles amidst the chaos, adding a new layer of challenge.
Another level took place across two different food trucks, whose respective beds each made up one half of the full kitchen area. While driving in traffic, the trucks occasionally would touch, during which time my partner and I scrambled madly to exchange items and work to get the new lineup of burger orders successfully out the door.
Overcooked may be small, but it is no less noteworthy. It’s clever and smart, made up of a neat little ideas that, when put together, form one of the more adorably fun cooperative games in recent memory. Those who enjoy cooperative couch play with friends would be remiss to not check it out upon launch sometime in 2016 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.