The concept of taking the base structure of Diner Dash and adding in a 4 player co-op element, seems like it should work. You can have multiple people manning the different tasks throughout the kitchen, all while communicating with your friends as to what exactly needs to be done. It could be a hectic, fun experience for all and at its best, Overcooked is exactly that. However, any less than 4 players can be a complete chore.
Overcooked starts at the end. Specifically, the end of the world. The Beast has come and it demands food. You quickly realize you are overwhelmed, though, and with the help of the Onion King (a literal onion in a crown) you travel back over 20 years to learn how to cook under the most intense of circumstances.
These include cooking on trucks, on ice flows and on pirate ships. These environments are designed to challenge you and test how well you can communicate with a team. As you go through the game, you will be forced into a narrow hallway to cook in a straight line or your entire kitchen will shift as a boat rocks along in the sea. These environments are, in theory, really cool to play on. They each offer their own challenge specific to the level and when you are playing with a team, the chaos can be incredible.
However, the big caveat of everything in Overcooked is that you need a team to play it. If you are playing single player, you will take control of two chefs with one controller. This method is messy at best, leading to a lot of low scores. Even if you and a friend take control of two chefs, you will quickly get overworked and likely not hit a good score. The ideal, and potentially only way worth playing is with four players.
The biggest problem with playing with any fewer players is simple: there is no score scaling in place. If you and your partner feel like you are doing really good, you will likely only get one star on a level. You could fulfill every order, feel like you’ve done perfectly and still wind up short. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if the game didn’t gate progress behind getting a set amount of stars. This leads to you returning to levels multiple times and hoping you can get one more star just to progress.
You can activate four chefs with two players, but the steps behind it are convoluted at best. You can select to have two chefs on a single controller. In this case, one side of your controller will control one chef, the other side controls the other. This is confusing and a chore for most of the time.
The real issue is that there is already a better control system in place for the versus mode. In versus, if you only have two players, you can hit one of the bumpers to switch characters. This means you put one character doing one task, hit the bumper and activate the other character to do another task. There is a freedom to this method and you can quickly get used to this method of playing. Sadly, this option is only available in the versus mode, because if it was in the main game, it would be a welcome addition.
It’s a simple solution to a complex problem and that is what makes Overcooked so frustrating. There is a charm to the art style and the act of working with another player is fun. Playing as a wheelchair-bound racoon and cat, cooking burgers in the middle of the street is an enjoyable experience.
There are also a variety of different recipes to be made throughout, and as the game begins to mix and match them, it becomes insane. You can be working on soup while another person is making pizzas. That part of the game, where there is a bunch of hectic stuff going on, is incredibly fun.
It just needs to have some amount of balance for groups of less than four players. Especially with the star-rating system in place, it can be frustrating. Underneath all of these issues, there is an especially fun multiplayer game but only, right now, if you are playing with a group.
SCORE: 6.5 out of 10
A code for Overcooked was provided to Pixel Related for review.