When I look back at my time playing Overcooked, I can’t help but have a bit of a dumb smile on my face, and also a tinge of sadness. It’s a combination between some of the most fun I’ve had in a game, and the saddest I’ve been it’s over. I played it first with my wife when it came out digitally, and we moved between what I want to call The Five Phases of Overcooked.
The first phase is confusion. What is this level? What sort of food am I making? This only happens early in the game. Later on, you can get the gist of a level just by looking at the first screen, and looking at the very first order gives you all the information you need about the orders you’ll be seeing, and just a glance will allow you to see all the necessary information: the sink, the food containers, the cutting board, the place to send your orders.
Every Overcooked level boils down to that, more or less. Every level has a gimmick, something to trip you up, such as rats stealing your food if you’re not careful, playing on a ship so the tables move to and fro, or ghosts moving the cutting boards about. You adapt really quickly to these obstacles, but when you see them they’ll really throw you for a loop.
The second phase is anger. This is usually fairly fleeting, it’ll happen if you don’t complete a level the first time through. Why didn’t I get that last order out? Why didn’t we adapt faster? Why did you chop that when I needed an onion badly? There’s always more tasks than you can handle in the game. Sure, one player can be fetching the ingredients and passing them to another whilst they chop them, but then who cooks them? Who is washing the plates, serving orders? And then the game throws its mechanic at you, and suddenly that job you were doing super competently is locked off, and you’re doing something else entirely. Communication is vital, because without it you’re floundering, and you’ll spend a lot of time waiting around for something to arrive and you’ll never get the joyous three stars you’re aching for.
Next up is bargaining. Maybe if we just did this differently, or maybe if I handle that soup order then we’ll get the clear. This again comes down to the communication. For the entire of the three or so minute stages, everything is frantic. Getting locked off from something is disastrous, so you’re often discussing roles on the fly. One level that springs to mind is one between two semi-trailers following each other, with another moving between them. Getting caught on the moving semi is awful, and makes you lose so much time, that this might actually cause players to regress to the second phase again, but it’s important not to play the Blame Game.
Now that you’re getting a grip on the way everything works and are taking big steps towards those three stars, you step into the fourth phase: depression. We’ll never complete this. The mechanics are too hard. I can’t get orders out fast enough. This happened to my wife and I; it happened a lot. Sometimes we put the game down, sometimes we’ll just give it a few more tries. For one level we had to go through this stage twice, and it was rough. Took us three nights of trying to complete one level until we got blessed with the third star, allowing us to progress. Stick with it though, everything clicks in place and you will finally reach…
Acceptance. This part is so damn joyous, I love it so much. It’s when you and your partner (I tried it solo, but it’s much more fun as a pair or more) finally work completely as a team, you blitz the mechanics, you nail all your orders, and everything just clicks. When you finally beat that score and get it all done, it’s just an amazing feeling. You surmounted the game and you came out on top.
Actually, as a super quick aside, if you bought this digitally at first launch, you don’t need this copy too, The Lost Morsel DLC is good, but I’m sure it’ll come to the game digitally eventually, and it’s only six levels.
I know this is kind of a weird way to review the game. To be honest, I hadn’t started out this way but you know? The game doesn’t need a real review. Sometimes the controls of grabbing and dropping items can be a bit of a pain, but you work around it. Every level is a load of fun, cooking as a team brings a tonne of enjoyment, and in the end, this is one of the greatest and most enjoyable co-op games I have ever played. I didn’t review it properly because everyone should play this game. Mic. Drop.
PS: Please make more. I need more.