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Unique. Fun. Frustrating.

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    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    Unique. Fun. Frustrating.

    Overcooked is an indie game that seems to have grown in popularity since its initial launch. It has quickly earned a reputation as being one of the stronger local co-op experiences available on modern gaming hardware, and while that is certainly true, its level progression holds it back from reaching its full potential.

    Overcooked is built entirely around the concept of co-op play, allowing up to four players to work into a kitchen together. The commitment the developers have made to making it an accessible co-op experience is apparent. For example, all players can earn achievements unlike some other co-op games, and it’s even possible to do two players with one controller and four players with two controllers.

    The core gameplay in Overcooked is rather fantastic and addicting. Players have to work together to prepare a variety of meals of increasing difficulty while dealing with time limits to make sure the food is sent out of the kitchen on time. Players are scored based mainly on how many meals they are able to complete and send out before the time runs out, and points are lost if meals take too long to deliver.

    Overcooked is segmented into distinct worlds with different themes that introduce new gameplay mechanics to the game. For example, there is an ice world that has players sliding across the floor, which has obvious implications for preparing food. Another level adds lava to the mix, tasking players with creatively bypassing it in order to prepare the meals they need to make.

    As the levels increase in complexity, Overcooked demands more cooperation between players. This can lead to some frustration as players have to be very coordinated to succeed in some of the game’s more challenging levels, and so players have to lean heavily on their teammates if they want to progress.

    Speaking of progression, the way players progress through Overcooked’s stages is plenty frustrating in and of itself. The game uses a star system so that players have to earn a certain number of stars before they can unlock the next stage. This can become frustrating later on as it forces players to return to older levels and master them to see what’s next in the story. And since Overcooked is such a co-op heavy experience, players have to also convince their group of friends to replay older levels as well if they want to see the end of the game.

    Another bit of frustration comes with the controls. While Overcooked’s frantic pace certainly plays a role, there are times when the controls simply do not work as intended. It’s unclear if the game just requires a lot more precision than it should or if characters simply get confused when there’s too many objects on screen at once, but there are plenty of mishaps that happen in Overcooked that are not necessarily the fault of the player. As one can imagine, these moments can be supremely frustrating in a game like this.

    Annoyances aside, Overcooked’s gameplay is mostly superb and a great example of how to do co-op right. Mastering how to prepare each meal is a fun experience, and thinking a few steps ahead of the task at hand is a real challenge. And while progressing to the very end of story mode may be a bigger pain in the neck than some are willing to put up with, at least the gameplay will be mostly fun on the way.

    Besides story mode, there are a couple of other areas of interest in Overcooked as well. For example, there is a versus mode for local players that can be fun with the right people. There’s also some DLC built into this Gourmet Edition of the game, though the DLC levels are not quite as fun as the core set of stages.

    Overcooked is a prime example of a local co-op game done right. Unfortunately, the game does not seem to have an online versus multiplayer or co-op options. I have always been quick to criticize online-only games for forgoing local options, and so the opposite of that should be criticized as well. Perhaps online gameplay wouldn’t lend itself well to Overcooked’s style, but it would have been appreciated nevertheless.

    The lack of online gameplay does hurt Overcooked’s replayability quite a bit. That being said, the game is packed with content, but players can 100% the game without ever touching the DLC, which may make some hesitant in bothering with that content at all. It is relatively short and can be completed in just a few hours time, especially with people that pick up the game’s quirks early on.

    As for the rest of the game, Overcooked is mostly polished, with bugs and technical issues kept at a minimum. The graphics are delightful and cutesy, with endearing little characters and the like. The music is fine as well, though the sound effects for when characters talk can get annoying. They speak in Banjo-Kazooie style gibberish, and it’s just grating on the ears.

    Luckily players don’t have to sit and listen to too many characters in Overcooked. The game is fairly light on story, but the story that is there is actually kind of amusing, annoying voices aside. It’s all about stopping a world-ending threat, which is hilarious considering the game is about preparing meals.

    Overcooked is a quirky game that is one of the better local co-op experiences available on modern consoles. It has a few frustrating elements to it that hold it back from reaching its full potential, but the game is certainly worth looking into for anyone looking for a new couch co-op experience.

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