A well played round of Overcooked feels like dancing in a graceful ballet, except missing a step means your burger burns, the kitchen lights on fire, and a raccoon in a wheelchair plummets into a lake of lava. Actually, maybe itís nothing like a ballet (although this gives me an idea for a fantastic ballet). But working with your teammates as a well-oiled machine to produce food for an insatiable demon is as rewarding as it is challenging. Overcooked remains one of the most fun couch co-op games Iíve played in years, despite some port problems that keep the Special Edition on the Switch from standing as the definitive version.
The local co-op cook-em-up poses the herculean challenge of asking up to four people to work together for three full minutes at a time, performing relatively simple cooking-related actions to fill food orders. Itís practically a two-button game: one to pick up things like ingredients, pans, or plates and the other to chop, cook, or wash them depending on the station you are standing in front of. But combine those simple controls with the stress of a ticking timer and cleverly designed levels made to mess with you at every possible turn and Overcooked becomes blissfully frantic.
Every stage is tailor-made to disrupt whatever game plan you may have, forcing your group to move around the map instead of just manning a single station for the whole round. The impulse at the start of most levels is to assign everyone a job Ė someone focuses on chopping, another person on cooking, while another handles moving plates and cleaning dishes. But what do we do when the pirate ship weíre cooking on shifts, causing the serving tables to slide, and suddenly the dishwasher is blocked off from the sink?
Those problem-solving moments are exhilarating, forcing us to swap roles on the fly.
Those problem-solving moments are exhilarating, forcing me and my teammates to swap roles on the fly without letting everything falling apart. That gets harder as stages get more elaborate and start involving more spectacular things like jumping between moving trucks or an earthquake literally splitting the kitchen in half.
Its unexpected and downright strange level design keeps Overcooked fun all the way through the 40+ stages. There are icy levels that ask you to slip across frozen rivers, large lava pools with your cooking stations spread across drifting rocks, and eventually even shifting kitchens in space. The included Festive Seasoning DLC levels proved to be some of the hardest available by introducing stew, a significantly more complex meal to prepare when you are juggling five different orders with varying recipe lists. It pushed my and my team to figure out how to be more efficient with our actions and communicate better.
Overcooked gets more enjoyable the more people you have playing it, up to the max of four. Itís a wonderfully ridiculous mess with three or four players that still somehow has room for strategy, but plans can be calmly executed as a more tactical game with only two. Playing alone, on the other hand, you have to control two chefs by yourself, swapping between them to multitask. Simply put, Overcooked just wasnít very much fun on my own Ė it turns into something more like an RTS than a party game and loses nearly all of the levity I usually love it for.
The low framerate is an annoying distraction in a game that rewards precision.
Because of that itís a bummer that Overcooked doesnít have online play, but, to be fair, even with voice chat it wouldnít be quite as much fun without the frantic shouting thatís only possible when sitting right next to your teammates. Equally disappointing is that Overcooked: Special Edition doesnít take advantage of the Switchís capability for local wireless multiplayer across consoles either, which it would have been well suited for.
On top of that, the transition to Switch seems have introduced a few other problems I wasnít expecting, the most glaring of which is its framerate. Overcooked is a colorful and fun-looking game, but itís not so intensive that a system that can run Zelda: Breath of the Wild should have problems running it smoothly. Yet the Switch version often runs at a noticeably low framerate, whether itís docked or undocked, in a level or on the map, and with any number of players. Thankfully it doesnít fluctuate or spike lower, but itís still an annoying distraction in a game that rewards quick and precise movements.
The controller rumble is also legitimately busted. Your controller will shake when you do things like chopping and washing, but for some baffling reason every other playerís controller will also rumble along with your actions. So if Iím chopping while using the left Joy-Con, my teammate using the right one will also feel that shake, and vice versa. That makes it all but useless as feedback to your actions, and outright confusing for newer plains.
These problems donít ruin Overcookedís Switch port, but they are distracting blemishes especially after having played a version without them. Even with the DLC included, Iíll undoubtedly be setting up the PC version (or at least the PS4 or Xbox One versions, which both run at a solid 30fps) next time Iím playing with friends at home thanks to the smoother framerate. On the road, of course, Iíll be grateful to have this with me.