There's a very select group of games that qualify for the Christmas party treatment. Putting aside board games, which cause as many squabbles as they do genuine merriment, video games have been steadily increasing in relevance for family gatherings. After somewhat of a lull, the number of couch multiplayer titles has vastly grown over the last couple of years, meaning there are more opportunities for hilarious, and potentially embarrassing, Christmas gaming than ever. Your PlayStation 4 has the potential to bring everyone together, but as I said, there aren't many games that will entice your little cousin, your mum and your grandfather.
Enter Overcooked, the fantastic debut from Ghost Town Games. It is arguably the best game to play at Christmas since Buzz! went MIA. The genius of Overcooked starts with its simple premise: working together to complete recipes and serve them up without the kitchen spiralling into a fiery comedy of errors. Everyone will be able to grasp such a simple objective, and the brilliantly easy controls even out the playing field. With just an analogue stick and three face buttons to worry about, there's practically no barrier to entry.
Where you may come into some difficulty is in figuring out who does what in the kitchen. Overcooked is quintessentially a co-operative game. You will learn right from the first level that this game has no time for selfish play. Perhaps you could fetch the ingredients, mum can chop them up, your grandfather can cook, and your little cousin can plate and serve up. However things work out, you will all eventually form a working kitchen, uniformly preparing meal after meal and juggling jobs as they appear. Once you're all on the same page and working well, it's some of the most satisfying multiplayer the PS4 has to offer.
And with all your successes and failures, you'll all laugh together, because that competitive edge that threatens relationships elsewhere is simply not present in the main game. Of course, there's the risk that you'll be shouting at each other for missteps and mishaps, but frankly, messing up in Overcooked is all part of the fun. As long as everyone doesn't take it all too seriously, setting the kitchen on fire and seeing the chaos spread can be just as entertaining as earning those three gold stars for a job well done. There are competitive levels within the game, but they don't encourage the same communication and cooperation required in the regular mode.
With the free Festive Seasoning DLC recently released, it even has Christmas built in. The update brings eight new levels and two new recipes, alongside a handful of seasonal chefs to play with. The new levels are rather tricky, so it's well worth working through the main game first so everyone can learn the ropes. The winter stew recipe is similar to the simple soups of the early game, while the turkey dinner brings an all-new method of cooking: a flamethrower. While it's certainly time-efficient, this new tool can quickly cause havoc, as you may expect. It can burn ingredients as quickly as it cooks them, so you'll need to be careful where you aim the stream of flames. It all plays out on a new, snow-covered map, your van replaced with a snowplough, and is accompanied by a fittingly wintry soundtrack.
It's great to see Ghost Town Games embracing the holiday spirit with this seasonal update. In fact, the industry as a whole seems to be getting involved, with updates cropping up for several noteworthy games. However, whether you play these extra levels or not isn't the point. Simply put, Overcooked presents a fantastic opportunity to spend some quality time with your family and friends over the holiday. It promotes cooperation, creates togetherness, and provides plenty of laughs – all very positive things that bring everyone closer. By eliminating the weight of competition and offering easy-to-grasp gameplay, Overcooked could well become a go-to Christmas party game – as soon as everyone gets a taste for it.
Will you be dishing up a little Overcooked to your family and friends this festive season? Try not to leave the oven on in the comments section below.