E3 2018: Hands-on Overcooked 2

While sadly not an MMO, Overcooked was one of those games I knew many MMO players who aren’t exclusively into combat enjoyed. Limited to local multiplayer, the game was like small-scale raiding on steroids. Not communicating was not an option. Fires literally needed to be put out. Collision detection and narrow pathways forced you to play out proper routes. Customer orders forced to you pay attention to specific recipes rather than mass produce a basic one. Ingredients strewn about the level with inaccessible crafting stages added to the hectic frenzy because, buddy, your customers will only wait so long for their food, and failure to meet their expectations will cost you. To be blunt, this game tests friendships and relationships. And now we no longer have to limit ourselves to local multiplayer.

My demo occurred at the Nintendo booth with three Nintendo booth guides, one of which was a hardcore vet used to giving orders in the kitchen. Like a good raid leader, she’d call out what we needed to do and ask for people to take up assignments. While I’m no hardcore vet, I know my way around the kitchen, even with new recipes such as cucumber sushi rolls. Our newbie did her best, occasionally remembering to volunteer for tasks and communicate with us. Our opening night went spectacularly, earning one of the highest scores the booth attendants had seen, and towards the end of Day 3 of E3 to boot.

Our next level was a bit more hectic. Conveyor belts scattered the floor, forcing us to occasionally run so as to avoid letting the food burn or orders from expiring. Normally in Overcooked, running felt like a huge gamble that rarely paid off except on straightaways. Levels are filled with hazards, from simple gaps caused by your kitchen being built on top of two trucks in motion to moving platforms in a volcanic kitchen. Cooking Mama this is not.

While it’s nice that the developers addressed the niche feeling of dashing, the official addition of throwing adds significant depth and strategy to a game that’s already much harder than its adorable graphics and cute sounding gameplay conceal. In the original game, you could kind of throw items by releasing them while moving, causing the item to move a short distance. Throwing in Overcooked 2, however, allows you to toss ingredients over objects, including the counter, a hurdle that occasionally required Overcooked 1 players to run around the entire level to deal with. In addition to the ability to throw is to catch; It may sound small, but catching allows players to remove yet another step in the Hell’s Kitchen madness.

Rather than needing to pick raw chicken off the ground after it’s been hurled across the kitchen (the fact that animals are cooking without gloves further shows that the world of Overcooked has no food safety laws), tossed food can be caught, saving a button press and speeding up the cooking process. It can also be thrown directly into dishes. If your friend is on the other side of the chasm with some uncooked rice, you can simply catch it in the cooking pot, saving even more time. I play the game mostly for completion rather than high scores, but these small changes give players lots of new potential strategies, before considering the levels.

My demo ended in a sort of fantasty/sci-fi kitchen with three sections separated by two chasms. A magical bridge would connect the middle platform to one of the side platforms, but only one at a time. Ingredients and work stations, however, were spread among all three. In order to get from one side platform to the other, one had to use a portal. While that may sound simple enough, burning food and impatient customers caused panic, and we saw several food items (and chefs) plummet into the abyss. Luckily, Overcooked 2 is a family game with no permadeath, and fallen players simply sit out of the kitchen for a few seconds, robbing your co-workers of an extra set of hands/paws.

 

All of this can be enjoyed in local multiplayer, though Online multiplayer, especially if it lacks voice chat on the Switch, could make things difficult. I’ve played the original game on the PlayStation 4 using the Share Play feature, which allowed us to do voice chat, but only allowed us to play the game with two people and not the usual maximum of four. However, at least for the Nintendo Switch, the game has added emote systems based on your objectives. For example, if you’re making hamburgers, which require cut cheese, chopped beef, sliced tomatoes, cut lettuce, a cooked patty, and/or buns on a clean plate, you’re able to emote things like, “Cutting tomatoes” or “Washing dishes” so your fellow players at least know your role. Unless the game allows you to also draw pathways or call out sections of the map you’ll “patrol,’ I’m not sure it’ll be enough to make up for the lack of voice chat. I reached out to Nintendo post E3 to inquire more about online details, but we’ve sadly received no response yet.

Just the same, I thoroughly enjoyed my local-multiplayer demo. Like raiding, I feel like you learn a lot about someone from playing this game with them, which is one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about MMOs: finding a shared activity that allows people to show their thought process. I’m not sure how well Overcooked 2‘s emote system will fair in four player multiplayer without voice chat, but MMO players are no strangers to finding third party options to get over issues. The game is coming out on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One on August 7th, and preorders grant access to a bunch of new chefs, which are just for looks.

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