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Overcooked! was one of my favorite co-op games of 2018 (full review here ). The game’s chaotic, cooperative kitchen gameplay was as fun to learn and play as it was to master. I held off from picking up Overcooked! 2 at launch, though, after reading online that its gameplay was more reliant on shifting, puzzle-style levels than on the process of preparing orders and delivering them on time. I’ve been hesitant since, but luckily, the game recently made its way to the Game Pass library, leaving me with no excuse to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
The criticism that Overcooked! 2 is more reliant on zany, puzzle-style levels than its predecessor is fair. More than fair, probably. The game’s primary challenge comes from understanding not how to quickly assemble orders, but in learning the layout and mechanics of each individual level. Some levels require the use of conveyor belts to transfer materials between workstations; sometimes these conveyor belts have switches that toggle their orientations, minecart-style, and sometimes the food placed on them has to be retrieved quickly before it falls into a trash can. Some levels necessitate navigating through magic portals to get from workstation to workstation, and sometimes those portals move over pits of doom, leading to
photorealistic death a five-second respawn timer. And sometimes, the ground disappears from under you, either becoming submerged in a lake of acid or falling away into space. In the context of the game, the challenge of cooking, mixing, and collecting ingredients pales against the need to overcome the obstacles presented by each map.
What’s more, Overcooked! 2 isn’t afraid to pile several new mechanics on in one level. With limited learning time, you and your partner(s) may be required to learn a new recipe, understand a new gameplay mechanic (conveyor belts, moving workstations, portals), and take in the design of the level itself. Doing all of this is possible in most or all of Overcooked! 2’s levels, but doing it masterfully, at least for me, wasn’t. Achieving the three star ranking in each level usually took at least two, if not three or four attempts later on in the game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — I wouldn’t expect the difference between “beating” and “mastering” a level to be negligible.
After beating the game, though, an additional level of difficulty is introduced: the fourth star. Before then, moving from one star to two or three involves a pretty minor-to-moderate jump in skill requirement. The leap between three to four stars is comparatively… insane. For example, the game’s first level, World 1-1, requires 20 points for one star, 160 for two, 300 for three, and 2650 for four. For some folks, that insane challenge jump is appetizing. For me, the additional investment the game is asking for a perfect score in each level is too much. Ardent, hardcore perfectionists may be pleased, but your average co-op pair probably won’t be.
Underneath the criticism I have for the game’s reliance on level-shuffling and its intense spike in late-game difficulty, Overcooked! 2 is a tremendously fun cooperative experience. Understanding and accommodating to the complexities of each level is more fun than I expected it to be, and the new recipes are fun to learn, offering a continuing degree of challenge in finding the most efficient way to complete them.
In my review of the original game, I called it “an exercise in high-stakes teamwork masquerading as an arcadey cooking game”. Overcooked! 2 takes that label and runs with it. The game isn’t so intense that it’ll tear up relationships, but going into each level without a verbally agreed-upon strategy and playing through each stage without constant communication are both likely to burn you. In my experience, Overcooked! 2 also ups the ante with the number of asymmetric levels that require a lot more role designation. Sometimes, that’s “you make this dish, I’ll make this one”, but sometimes it’s finding something to occupy your time with productively while your partner does… pretty much everything. Expect each first attempt at a level to go more poorly than you had hoped, and be ready to forgive and be forgiven. Or fight. I don’t know you.
Adorning its chaotic gameplay, the visual and auditory aesthetic of the game creates a joyful, fun atmosphere that offsets the mayhem and disorder of its levels. The game boasts a varied assortment of skins that can be swapped in and out on the fly between levels, adding an additional level of cute, graphical diversity to your team.
The game’s story is as basic as the first. Expecting deep, fleshed out characters will leave you disappointed, but nothing about its aesthetic and gameplay should have led you to that expectation to begin with. The story is simple, but it’s really all it needs; adding in-depth lore explanations for why you’re cooking in the game’s take on Hogwarts or on the surface of Mars feels like it would remove something from Overcooked! 2’s nonsensical magic.
As a co-op experience, Overcooked! 2 is a blast. Each level provides enough challenge that trying it again to nab that third star is enticing, but not so much that it’ll burn you out. I played through the whole game with my girlfriend over a few days, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, maybe even more than we’d enjoyed the first.
The game comes with a pretty sizeable collection of DLC, none of which I’ve played, save for the free, holiday additions to the game’s Arcade mode, a series of more challenging levels that we did not do well at. Game Pass owners, as usual, shouldn’t expect the paid DLC to be included or added to the Game Pass version of the game.
Game: Overcooked! 2
Made by: Team17, Ghost Town Games
Published by: Team17
Available for: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Mac OS, Linux, Xbox One
Content: No notable content concerns
- Co-operative Gameplay (2-4 players)
- Couch/Local Co-op
- Diverse array of levels
- You can throw things now
WHAT I LIKED
- Fun, well-designed co-op experience
- Neat, cartoony aesthetic
- Strategic, teamwork-focused gameplay
- Reliance on level variation over culinary challenge
- Capacity to end friendships
WHO’S IT FOR?
If you’re looking for a teamwork-driven co-op game and don’t mind verbally working through puzzles and strategic decisions, Overcooked! 2 is easy to recommend. Alternatively, if you’re not interested in any of that but are looking for a chaotic way to sow discord among friends, it’ll suit that purpose too.
If you’re here looking for a relaxing co-op experience, in-depth simulation (or any-depth simulation) of culinary life, or a lengthy, narrative-driven game, try elsewhere.
From Steamspy unless otherwise noted.
Average Playtime*: 7.25 hours
Average Cost per Hour**: $3.45
Median Playtime*: 5 hours
Median Cost per Hour**: $4.99
* Playtime rounded to the nearest quarter-hour
**Costs calculated using a price of $24.99