Overcooked! quickly became my favourite couch co-op of recent years. I found the quirky cooking game after a period of some studios moving away from local multiplayer to a more online-focused experience; it was a breath of fresh air and led to me purchasing the game not just once, but also a second time when it became available for Nintendo Switch. The premise sounds simple enough - it's essentially a fine-tuned Mario Party minigame - but play it with a couple of friends and your group quickly succumbs to the chaos. Newly added to Overcooked! 2 are two online modes, enabling you to play with or against your friends from far away, or with a complete group of strangers. The series benefits from having online multiplayer, but the game loses some magic when you're not playing together with your friends in your living room.
Like the first game, Overcooked! 2 has you and your friends complete a dinner service and collect as many points as possible before the timer hits zero. You get more points by how quickly each order is served and lose points by having orders take too long to go out. Each level has three goals and you're rewarded with up to three stars depending on how many points you total at the end of the level. The mechanics are simple: cut the raw ingredients, cook the cut-up pieces, plate, serve, rinse the dishes, and repeat. Overcooked! is something you have to experience to appreciate and it's hard to completely understand just by reading about it. The controls are a great example of this; they're not super-tight like most games, but they add to the pandemonium and overall experience.
Overcooked! 2 will be instantly recognizable to fans of the first game, while also adding a couple of extra features in the form of the online multiplayer modes and a snazzy new mechanic: you can now throw ingredients across the kitchen to other players. The throwing of ingredients is a really smart way to improve on something that was already solid; it complements the gameplay without taking much away from the original feel. However, there's a catch: the ingredients thrown cannot be in a pan or on a plate - in other words, they cannot be cooked. Many of the levels require this throwing mechanic by splitting the level into sections with an impassable barrier. Ingredients can be thrown onto counters, into cooking pans, and to other players, making clear and concise communication even more vital than the previous game. Overcooked! 2 also comes with newer, sometimes more complex recipes and ways of preparing food; only some of the previous game's recipes make a return, which is slightly disappointing.
Quite a few of the levels revolve around the throwing mechanic. I found myself disappointed with the direction the developers went in regard to the level design in comparison to the first. Sure, the conveyor belts are back, and a lot of levels contain even more extras to ensure each level feels unique in difficulty, but Overcooked! is at its best when you and your friends are working together like a well-oiled machine, solving the "puzzle" of each level, and a huge part of that satisfaction comes from figuring out how to obtain three stars; most of the time, when I received three stars, it seemed like a total fluke. In addition, some of the levels in Overcooked! 2 seemed to be made for more than two people; this isn't normally an issue, but because the developers have put a clear focus on making each level online-accessible, it can make local play a little less enjoyable than it should be. The levels in the first game had that "puzzle" feeling I spoke of, and it was solvable with any number of participants. This concept was missing in many of Overcooked! 2's levels, and while the game is still fun, I don't think it's as good as the first one for that reason.
The two new online modes are a versus mode - which speaks for itself - and an arcade mode in which you work together with other players. I've played about two dozen online games, which have been relatively lag-free on most occasions. I've only been able to play in a group of four people a handful of times, as the online lobby moves quickly and only gives 30 seconds before the game starts. All of the levels are available to play, but apart from picking the theme of the level you want to play, you don't get to choose the specific stage; it's not a big deal, but like most people, I like as much choice as I can get in situations like this. Another small gripe lies in the character selection, as rather than picking your character before jumping into each level, you now have to select your chef at the title screen, and can't change without going back. This is a tiny detail, obviously added because of the online modes and to help make transitioning a little easier, but the old way worked so well - why change what isn't broken?
I sound somewhat harsh about Overcooked! 2, but it's only because the first Overcooked! was so incredible and special. Overcooked! 2 had some massive shoes to fill, and even though the game hits many marks, it's simply not as good as the first. If you haven't played the first game, you will love the second; when buying on Nintendo Switch, the first game comes with two pieces of free DLC, and I'm hard-pressed to recommend the sequel over the original because of this. If you don't have anyone to play with at home, though, Overcooked! 2 will fill the void of not being able to experience this wonderful series.
Second opinion by Catarina White
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (code provided)
I absolutely adore Overcooked 2. I had zero expectations and no idea what to expect from the story or gameplay. Within five minutes of starting the game, I was addicted. The story is incredibly simple but entertaining and humorous: you become a two-person team of chefs-turned-heroes who must save the Onion Kingdom from the terrible Unbread (zombie bread!). Immediately you set out into the kingdom in your fun little food truck as you travel from level to level, with each providing a new cooking challenge for your duo. The challenges become more elaborate and challenging as you progress, but I never found the difficulty increase frustrating. There are a huge variety of very cool kitchens, and numerous recipes to learn and master. The online play options are more than adequate. From cooking on a flaming hot air balloon to a kitchen where the floor has holes that dissolve your chef if you fall in, I had an absolute blast trying to earn enough stars from each level to progress. I beat this game in three nights because I couldn't stop playing it. I can't recommend this game highly enough.