Culinary chaos in a co-op kitchen: You should be playing Overcooked

What is it?

Cartoon chefs must work together to survive in the fast-paced - and dangerous! - world of on-demand dining.

Play it if you like...

Party games you play with (and don't mind yelling at) your friends like Mario Party

  • Format: PC / PS4 / Xbox One
  • Price: $16.99 / £12.99
  • Release date: Out now

Everyone who's worked in the food industry knows it’s stressful. You've got to remember everyone's order and get it to them on time, preparing and assembling each ingredient as fast as you can, then passing it off to others and trusting them to do their part. And then, of course, you've got those darn pirate ships, penguins, trucks racing down the highway, and anthropomorphic cats to worry about.

Sorry, some of those last few items might've been from a video game.

Overcooked from Ghost Town Games takes the pressure to perform, that frantic back-and-forth pace inherent in real-world cooking, and adds some cartoonish spice. The concept can be broken down into four steps: check your customer's order, prepare the ingredients, assemble the pieces together, and place it on a conveyer belt to send it on its way. A timer counts down on each item you're to prepare, and space on the counters is limited, so you'll need to coordinate with your fellow chefs to meet the flood of incoming orders on time. There simply isn't enough time or kitchen real estate for you to be playing lone fry cook.

Things start easy, with players passing ingredients between themselves to effectively multi-task in the kitchen - you decide that you'll fry up a filet of fish while another player is heating soup, for example. Soon however, you'll be placed onto a pirate ship, where the waves rock the boat back and forth, causing entire walls to slide across the deck. Or you'll be tossing items between two trucks speeding down the highway. Or leaping Frogger-style across ice floes in the Antarctic.

Thankfully, every mechanic is easily learned. Your character moves with a jaunty little bounce, the controls smooth and satisfying. Cutting, cooking, picking up plates, and everything else you'll need to do in the kitchen is mapped to one button. Recipes change between levels, adding more and more ingredients, but assembling more complicated dishes need not be done in a particular sequence. This means you can create a burger by placing tomatoes, buns, cheese, patty, and lettuce on a plate, in that order or any order. In short, the fun and challenge is not in creating the perfect meal, but in managing the culinary chaos.

While there is a single-player mode, co-op is where Overcooked is truly al dente. Effective communication is key if you want to win the best prizes (like new chefs to play as) and claim the highest scores, but shouting "gimme the lettuce, gimme the lettuce, dear god give me the BLEEPING lettuce the trucks are coming apart!" is way more fun. And when you finally surmount the challenge laid before you, you'll be so overcome with joy and a sense of accomplishment you'll want to give your partner the greatest high-five the world has ever known. And you can, because it's couch co-op.

That physicality, that sense of presence that can only come from playing with a friend sitting on the seat next to you, is Overcooked's secret ingredient. Oh sure, there's the cutesy visuals, the catchy music, the frantic pace and puzzles to solve. But what Overcooked really brings to the table is you.

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Sam Prell

Sam is a former News Editor here at GamesRadar. His expert words have appeared on many of the web's well-known gaming sites, including Joystiq, Penny Arcade, Destructoid, and G4 Media, among others. Sam has a serious soft spot for MOBAs, MMOs, and emo music. Forever a farm boy, forever a '90s kid.