CHENNAI : Some games have a really great hook — someone can describe their premise in a single line, and that’s enough to grab your attention and get you interested. Overcooked is not one of those games. “You’re chefs running around trying to fulfil orders in the worst kitchens ever designed? Okay…” Don’t let that put you off though, because Overcooked is one of the best couch co-op games around.
Apart from moving around, there are only two buttons you need to use to play Overcooked — one that lets you interact with stuff (think chopping vegetables, washing dishes, etc.) and one that lets you pick up things and put them down. Armed with those, you’ll set out to do battle with a series of hungry customers in the most improbable cooking environments possible.
Each level of Overcooked takes place within a given time limit. Fresh orders come in periodically — maybe there’s one for onion soup, or fish and chips, or a burrito. Whatever it is, you’ll have to fly into action to grab the necessary ingredients, prepare them as appropriate, cook them, plate them and serve them before the customer gets angry. This never-ending loop is only broken by moments of panic — such as when you realize that you’re completely out of clean plates because nobody was washing up, or when something was left to cook for too long and it’s now caught fire — and getting in each other’s way.
Because it’s a co-op game, almost everybody will decide to tackle Overcooked the same way initially — division of labour. I’ll handle the fetching and chopping of ingredients, while you take care of cooking and plating, they might say. However, your carefully-laid plans will inevitably meet their Waterloo when you encounter the kitchen you’re up against. The kitchens are the true monsters of Overcooked, never mind the customers.
They’re inefficient, unintuitive and cramped; and that’s at their very best. At their worst...one kitchen is on a road, where passing pedestrians will shove you as you try to move past them. Another’s split between two trucks that only occasionally move close enough that you can move between them. Many of them split the players up, trapping you in various sections and forcing you to use conveyor belts to get what you need where you need it. And the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned iceberg levels, where you slip and slide across the ice and frequently into the water (inevitably while holding a fully prepared dish).
Through it all, Overcooked is nothing short of hilarious. Each level starts with a certain amount of trepidation, waiting for the other shoe to drop. As soon as the level’s particular complication is revealed, there’s almost a sense of relief — “Right, now let’s get on with it!”.
It’s the incessant comic relief that keeps Overcooked’s trials from feeling too punishing and ensuring that players come back to it; watching your friends yell as they try to navigate the hazards of a given kitchen is laugh-out-loud funny, albeit tempered with the realization that the roles will soon be reversed. It’s an unending sequence of hilarity and pitfalls, and it’s some of the best fun you can have if you’re looking for a local multiplayer game.