Team 17 have, up to now, been best known for making and publishing the Worms franchise of games. However, over the last few years their name has evolved into that of a full-blown publishing house, picking up little games from little publishers and helping them grow to fruition. Overcooked is their latest baby, coming from the two-person team at Ghost Town Games.
We’ve had the opportunity to play through the first two main areas of the game, and honestly, we’re impressed!
The premise is simultaneously both incredibly simple and incredibly complicated. Up to four players work together to cook meals for your “customers” before they decide to go elsewhere (or destroy the world). It’s a simple idea, but the complexity comes from figuring out the perfect strategy in order to successfully create meals within the time limit, as each kitchen only has a certain number of plates, chopping boards, ingredient stations, sinks and cookers.
The various orders you need to fulfil appear in the top left corner with a simple-to-understand coloured bar, which slowly shrinks and turns from green to red, showing you how much time you have left. Whilst (at present) each level generally deals with a single kind of food, you find small variations; in a soup level, you have different flavours, and in a burger level you could be asked for varying degrees of salad.
As an example of how this could get a little crazy, imagine this; it’s a circular kitchen with very narrow walkways. All of the above are scattered around the room, with tomatoes and onions for the soups next to each other. Because of the narrow corridors, players can’t easily pass each other (without belting them backwards,) so you’re left with a choice; either designate different recipes to different players and impose a one-way system, or pass things along as a conveyor belt. Either way, things will go wrong and soon you’ll all be running around like headless chickens.
Because of this you constantly need to stay on the ball, shouting to your partners in increasing tones. There’s a huge element of co-op frustration, but it’s good natured, going so far as to have a designated “swear button” for your character.
It’s constantly challenging, containing a good selection of varied kitchens and recipes to play. Occasionally, the game mixes up the formula by adding a new gimmick, keeping the gameplay fresh and unique; such as cooking on two moving trucks, and having to move between the two as they race down the road.
Whilst there are a few control issues in the preview at the minute (It doesn’t tell you the PC or PS4 controls; only XBOX, and there is no key-rebinding) it does generally play really well, even as a PC co-op game. It also seems really accessible for inexperienced gamers, with my partner picking up the controls and strategies quickly; even if she did call me a few choice names! My only worry is that the ability to play with from 1-4 players may have left it a little unbalanced, as we were consistently getting 2/3 stars as a duo. This does leave me to wonder if it may be too easy as a foursome, or too difficult as a loner.
The main campaign mode is where you’ll find the most meat. The King of the Onion Kingdom; finding his kingdom besieged by a giant meatball monster, tasks your small team with going back in time and becoming professional chefs in order to satisfy the beast’s hunger. What ensues is a whistle-stop tour of the kingdom and around 28 levels of increasing difficulty.
In terms of presentation, it’s shaping up nicely with a charming, cartoony aesthetic which will appeal to everyone, and a good selection of themes and diverse characters to play as; we particularly liked the Racoon in a wheelchair, as it showed that the developers are thinking about making sure they have a diverse cast to choose from.
All in all, it’s shaping up to be an amazing experience, taking ideas from a variety of different sources and refining them into a recipe for success. Overcooked may have been some of the most concentrated gaming fun I’ve had so far this year; It left both myself and Katie gagging for more levels, which realistically is the best outcome you could hope for. Whilst there are some minor problems with the control systems and the odd bug here and there, I can see it being of the co-op highlights of the year!
We’ll be bringing you our full review shortly before release on August 3rd.