The team from Ghost Town Games clearly know that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, so its of little surprise that their first cooperative kitchen strategy game ran away with everybody’s hearts. Overcooked! had all of the right ingredients for success. Effectively designed levels created challenges that were simple enough to overcome with a enough communication of your couch co-op partners, but actually mastering each level with all three stars meant that you and your fellow chefs were really going to have to work together if you wanted to get those hamburgers off the line in record time. The story was quirky and charming, with characters like the Onion King and Kevin the dog. Still, it’s been two years since Overcooked! had us screaming at the other people in the room with us grab the meat off the burner before we start a fire in order to save the planet.
Much like the original game, Overcooked! 2, the world is in danger thanks to the antics of the Onion King. This time, despite Kevin’s best advice (bark!), The Onion King has gotten his hands on the necro-nomnom-icon and accidentally raised an army of the Unbread. The only way to stop the Unbread from destroying the Onion Kingdom is by filling them full of warm, delicious meals. For the main campaign, Overcooked! 2 keeps in line with its predecessor and lays out different levels across a world map that can be navigated by driving around a little bus. Each level is marked off with a little flag that indicates how many of the three available stars the player(s) have achieved.
Starting a level presents the players with a precariously laid out restaurant that they must familiarize themselves with quickly as meal orders start to rack up at the top of the screen. Players need to cooperate with each other to find and prepare ingredients, assemble meals, rush them out to the waiting patrons (and hopefully in the order received if you want a tip), and then cleaning up plates to do it again. All of this while having to cope with sudden changed in the level like fire outbreaks, shifting ingredient crates, portals, and even cars that can mow you down while crossing the street. The final few seconds of every level is always a breathtaking, heart pounding moment where you’re just hoping you have enough orders filled to carry on to the next level. Players are rewarded with tips for getting orders out in the pattern they were received, and penalized if an order is lost because it wasn’t fulfilled in time. Each of a level’s three stars are assigned a score goal to meet in order to acquire it. Most of these goals are fairly attainable, and even three stars can be reached on the majority of levels with a few mistakes being made.
The kicker, however, is that some levels have a hidden objective that will unlock the super secret Kevin challenges. For some levels this can be as simple as getting every order out without losing any, or never needing to throw away any ingredients. The downside to the hidden objective is that it is never revealed to players at all. Even after three starring a level its possible not to complete the hidden objective and unlock the nearby Kevin challenge. There’s no way to find out what the mystery objective is, and even when you’ve completed the challenge to unlock a bonus level you may not even know what you did to accomplish it. While it’s understandable for the developers to want these bonus levels to be a challenge to unlock for the sake of increased replayability, it can be incredibly frustrating to replay a level you’ve already mastered multiple times without any idea of what your actual objective is in order for you to progress. Something as simple as making the bonus objective visible somewhere on the loading screen before starting a level after it has already been three starred could go a long way to relieving that frustration.
While the base formula for Overcooked! 2 is ripped straight from its predecessor, there is one major shake up to the game. Perhaps Ghost Town Games suspected that too many people would have alienated their potential couch coop partners when the kitchen got too hot in Overcooked, and chose to widen the field for potential chefs to add to your team by adding online multiplayer functionality. For the sake of the campaign, players can invite any combination of local and online players to create a team of four. Local coop partners can plug in a secondary controller, as is to be expected, or you can even choose to split a controller if you’re in a pinch and only own one. Sharing the controller is a method of playing that can get a little crowded, but works if it is your only option.
The addition of online multiplayer opens up additional gameplay modes to be added to Overcooked! 2. Alongside the standard campaign which features more than forty levels, there is also an arcade mode where players can tackle random levels cooperatively and a versus mode. Playing versus mode with two players pits them against one another, with each player having control of two chefs. Much like when playing the campaign solo, one player can control both chefs by switching between them with the left bumper or the associated thumbstick if in split controller mode. When playing with four players the game splits into teams of two. One team is assigned the color red, and the other is assigned the color blue. Just like the rest of the game, its up to the players to fumble their way through the orders while overcoming the ever changing status of the level. Versus levels do vary from the cooperative levels we see in campaign, however, throwing in extra challenges like locking down chefs to certain areas or forcing opponents to share cutting boards (creating the potential for sabotage when players steal necessary ingredients from their foes!) that make them feel fresh. Despite being a new addition to the game, online multiplayer in Overcooked! 2 felt like it had always been a part of the franchise. Games were always smooth and lag free, even when players who were controller sharing joined online lobbies.