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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Developer: Ghost Town Games
Release Date: Aug. 3, 2016


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Overcooked'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 5, 2016 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Working as a team, you and your fellow chefs must prepare, cook and serve up a variety of tasty orders before the baying customers storm out in a huff.

The kitchen is a chef's kingdom. We've all known someone who gets exceedingly annoyed when you move things, put something back in the wrong place, or get in the way while they're trying to prepare dinner. Overcooked is that simple frustration transformed into something that's exceedingly over-the-top. The concept is as straightforward as it is wacky. A terrible monster wants to be fed, and some woefully unprepared chefs discover they can't feed him fast enough to satiate his hunger. Fortunately, they're given a chance to go back in time and hone their quick order skills, giving them a chance to save themselves and good taste.

In Overcooked, up to four chefs are thrown into a kitchen together and have to prepare food. You grab an ingredient, stick it on the correct cooking instrument, mash a button, and you're good to go. You have to keep in mind that your kitchen layout means even this simple task involves time. It takes time to grab an onion, walk to a chopping board, chop them, and then walk back to the stove. This is where the cooperative element comes in, allowing you to juggle items between the various players. One person might focus on chopping, another might focus on cooking, one might have to clean the dishes, and more. In single-player, one player can swap between two characters.

Cooking starts off simply, but recipes get more complex. To make soup, cut some onions, stick them in a pot, and let it cook. What happens when people request onion soup, tomato soup and mushroom soup at different times, forcing you to keep a steady supply of each boiling on the stove? Later recipes involve a lot more than just chopping one ingredient. To cook a simple hamburger, you have to get the meat, tenderize the meat, cook the meat, get lettuce, prepare lettuce, get tomatoes, prepare tomatoes, get a bun, and put it all together before your customers get annoyed and leave a bad tip. Certain customers might want their hamburger without lettuce, so you can't just go on autopilot and give them the same things over and over again, but have to pay close attention to what the customers are requesting. Your reputation (and maybe your life) is on the line.

Sure, it's easy enough to cook a good hamburger when everything's peaceful and calm. What we saw is that "peaceful and calm" isn't the name of the game at all. Starting early on, the stages themselves will begin to work against you. You might be tasked with cooking on a ship, so the entire kitchen slides back and forth randomly, changing its position and forcing players to adapt to a new situation. In another example, the kitchen was situated on the back of two moving trucks on a highway. You can quickly dart between the trucks when they're driving alongside one another, and cooks would find themselves split and forced to make do with half of their supplies until the trucks moved back together. We're told the later stages involve everything from volcanoes to space, and each will add a twist on the core gameplay.

From what we played, Overcooked is absurdly fast, fun and frantic. The core idea is simple enough, but as the orders start piling up and the stages begin to throw curveballs at you, it gets increasingly frantic. We played a few rounds, and even the basic stages were intense and exciting. It sounds easy, but it doesn't take long to get overwhelmed. Focus too much on preparing ingredients, and your meal might catch on fire, forcing you to grab the fire extinguisher before your kitchen burns down. Focus so much on cooking that you forget to clean the plates, and you'll have plenty of food but nothing to serve it on. Even with only two players working on conjunction, it's a charmingly wacky cooperative title.

Overcooked is a great example of how simple can still be fun. While the game is currently in development, every bit we played was some of the most fun we had at E3 2016. The fast and frantic back-and-forth cooking gameplay makes Overcooked an excellent game for cooperative play for players of all ages, and the simple mechanics work well with the increased complexity of the stages. Overcooked is due out later this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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