I have never watched that Gordon Ramsey show, but I doubt it’s self-titled “Hell’s Kitchen” can live up to the experience of playing Overcooked. This chaotic party game all about running a kitchen is pure chaos. Hilarious both to watch and play, even if it frequently leaves you screaming out of frustration.
I am combining both games into one review because there isn’t too much difference between the two, barring some slight mechanical changes and a different story. Both titles cast you and up to 3 friends as chefs charged with preventing an apocalyptic, food-themed scenario. The first game has a giant spaghetti monster with an insatiable appetite and the second game stars a horde of zombie unbread that must be stopped.
To prepare for a final battle, you journey to various themed areas and work your way through its levels. There you learn to cook certain meals and improve your coordination with your friends.
For, you see, this is not just a game about cooking food. Sure, you gotta make some tacos and pizzas and salads, and you are trying to keep up with a constant stream of orders that must be filled, but the focus is on the stages themselves. A kitchen in Overcooked can be anything. It might start out as just a room in which you cooperate with your team, but a later level might have a wall straight through the kitchen and force you to pass ingredients and plates around through a roundabout system of conveyor belts. After that you might have a kitchen spread out across two moving trucks where you can only cooperate or go between them in the brief moments where they drive close enough together. Even later, a kitchen might just be a few platforms in a lava lake that periodically submerges certain parts of it.
Overcooked gets very crazy and each stage brings in new mechanics and challenges to wrap your head around. Each new layout forces you to adapt, so you can never fall into a mindless lull where everybody takes on the same tasks no matter what kind of kitchen or menus you are faced with.
This makes the most of the chaotic appeal of a party game and truly motivates you to get good at communicating. Early on, I often found myself overwhelmed, standing still with a half-finished cheeseburger as I realized there wasn’t a clean plate to be found anywhere and one of my friends was already making a cheeseburger. Mistakes are oftentimes hilarious, but also very devastating. Everybody will have that one moment where they accidentally drop a completed meal into an abyss or add another egg to a pancake mix that was almost ready.
You gain points for each completed meal and that goes towards attaining the maximum of 3 stars that each stage allows you to get, which then unlock further levels. Customers get impatient, however, and failing to deliver an order in time will deduct a bunch of points as well. This can go downhill fast, making it quite the challenge to perfect each stage and walk away with 100% completion. Especially when the game then tosses even harder challenges and secret levels at you that spice things up further.
Surprisingly, there is the option to play the game solo, but it’s very much a last resort and kind of depressing, if I am honest. Optimally, I recommend playing it with close friends or family, though inexperienced gamers might wrestle with the controls and difficulty curve. It’s not the most complicated game to play, but it can be unclear why certain actions don’t work or the game will just misbehave at times.
You might also want to keep playing it once you have started. We took a bit of a break while playing Overcooked! 2, then found ourselves struggling to figure out how certain recipes worked again.
But yea, that’s as critical as I can get. Overcooked! is a lot of fun and it’s a refined, well-crafted experience that knows how to get people cooperating in the most fun way possible. It’s adorably cartoon-like, though the text dumps and story can be annoying interruptions, and there is a lot of content to be found both in the base games and DLC packages. If you can get a party of 4 together, then this is some of the best co-op fun around.