With Overcooked, Ghost Town Games landed upon a delicious recipe for co-operative cooking chaos that dished up a perfect helping of frantic fun. Although fairly short and straightforward in structure, the fiendishly designed levels meant players really did have to communicate effectively to succeed, and it's this that makes the game something special. Overcooked 2 largely sticks to the established formula, but a few new ingredients have been thrown into the mix to make it an even tastier co-op experience than its predecessor.
To recap, this series is all about making simple meals in not-so-simple kitchens alongside up to three of your pals. This involves preparing ingredients, cooking and assembling the food, and serving it up, with most levels also requiring you to wash dishes. Your aim is to serve as many completed orders as possible within the time limit, earning up to three stars depending on your team's performance. It's an incredibly easy premise to wrap your head around, but things can very quickly escalate in the kitchen, and these games aren't shy about throwing you a curve ball.
Whether you have a team of two, three, or four, players will quickly adopt a role in a given level and attempt to stick to it, but as most of the levels don't remain static, with ingredient crates swapping places or conveyor belts separating chefs, any established order can quickly and easily go out the window. Overcooked 2, just like the original, becomes a game as much about constant communication and micromanagement as it is about serving up burgers and pasta. Cooperation is essential, and can really mean the difference between success and failure.
This dynamic is very much intact and remains an absolute delight. Things can spiral out of control, sure, but few games can get a roomful of people whooping, laughing, and screaming as well as this. There are times when frustration can set in, but this is rarely the fault of the game itself, which operates with extremely simple controls and mechanics. It's ingenious.
But what new ideas does Overcooked 2 bring to the table? The major addition in the sequel is online play, which has necessitated an emote system to allow players to talk if chat isn't an option. It works pretty well, although the couple of instances we were able to play did suffer from lag in places, which isn't ideal, but this will obviously vary. This is definitely a game that thrives when played locally, but online multiplayer is a great option if you have friends around the globe.
You're also now able to throw and catch raw ingredients, which is a great addition to the gameplay that can help speed things up in a pinch. An arcade mode lets you hop into the action quickly, while the story mode returns with a brand new (and equally bonkers) narrative threading together all the kitchens. There are also a handful of new chefs to unlock, hidden levels to find on the world map, and even a platinum trophy to earn.
The whole game also benefits from a vastly improved level of polish. While it retains the simple, colourful style of the first game, the presentation is a real step up. For a game with a lot happening on screen at any given time, it's incredibly easy to read what's going on. Splitting the controller returns too, but the option is somewhat tricky to find (you need to press triangle on the main menu), which is an odd oversight given the title's other improvements to the UI.
But there are few bad things we can say about Overcooked 2, really. When it comes down to the game proper, you can't help but fall in love with its whimsical charm, and become enthralled by the double-edged knife of having a laugh with friends and barking orders at each other through gritted teeth. It's a co-op game in the truest sense, and with the enhancements the sequel adds to the recipe, it's never tasted better.
Despite one or two tiny issues, Overcooked 2 builds upon the success of the first game with smart gameplay additions and the ability to play online. This culinary co-op experience evolves the recipe in the right ways, and provides a fun and devilishly challenging array of kitchens to work through. Although it isn't doing anything wildly new, Ghost Town Games has cooked up a sequel that fans will adore, but that newcomers will also be able to enjoy from the off with its accessible controls and easy to grasp premise. If you played the first game, you know what you're in for, but for those coming to Overcooked fresh, this is the perfect time to bite.