E3 2016: Overcooked is a rare treat

In the soup of E3 big budget AAA sequels that can feel a little like ‘reheated’ leftovers, Ghost Town Games’ indie charmer Overcooked takes the cake. That’s probably as many cooking references as I can fit comfortably into a sentence.

After about 20 minutes of hands-on play at E3’s Indie Mix event, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Overcooked is a nigh perfect recipe of charm, silliness, and pure unadulterated fun.

Overcooked may be either the perfect game for building communication and team work, or a relationship wrecking ball wrapped in a deceptively cute and highly accessible game.

This is the sort of fare that is Nintendo’s family-friendly bread and butter—but it’s coming to Steam (first).

Up to 4 players join forces in the kitchen to create and deliver meals to a world-invading monster that looks like the bastard offspring of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Earth is on the menu. Desperate times call for desperate measures. In preparation for the final feast-off, you must hone your skills in the world’s craziest kitchens, which includes busy streets, moving trucks, pirate ships, outer space, and even Hell. (This serves as the ‘story’ for Overcooked. It’s not a game that requires a complex narrative.)

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Working together, a successful team of chefs must gather and prepare ingredients, create meals, and then deliver the finished meals to a conveyor belt. The game is played on a single screen, ideally with 3-4 players. Co-op and head to head modes will also be available.

Communication and teamwork are essential to successfully and efficiently gather and deliver dishes, gather and prepare ingredients, and finally build and deliver the finished meal, all within a time limit. Wait too long to pull your creation off the stove, and you’ll burn (lose) the ingredients or meal, for example.

In early levels the recipes and the kitchens in which you prepare them are relatively simple. Tomato soup, for example, only requires you to gather 3 tomatoes, chop them, and then drop them in a pot for simmering. Once simmered, you deliver the soup to the conveyor belt.

Time is your true enemy, because your goal is to deliver as many completed meals as possible within the level’s time limit.

Communication and teamwork are vital to success, andOvercooked’s recipe creates frantic, chaotic, and hilarious fun.

And it only gets better as recipes get more complicated and the kitchens get trickier, adding new wrinkles to the formula.

Don’t let that soup get cold!

It’s time to get things started

“The Muppets were actually inspirational in the character design.”
Phil Duncan, developer for Overcooked.

It’s possible I’m misquoting him slightly, because I was frantically tenderizing and cooking meat for burritos (in outer space—probably for propulsion purposes). Also, I’m working mostly from memory because I didn’t have a notebook. It was a party. There was drinking involved. But I’m positive Phil Duncan expressed admiration/inspiration for the Muppets in some capacity. He said other interesting things too. I’m sure some of them were important. But mostly we were talking about getting tomatoes, chopping onions, and tenderizing hamburger.

Play starts with selecting a chef, each of which looks like either a cute animal or a refugee from the Muppet show (all in chef’s outfits of course). Controls are minimal—you only need to move around the kitchen (thumbstick) and pick up and put down items—which means it takes the all of about 3-5 minutes to learn how to play the game. I

t’s probably one of the few times I didn’t grumble about having to use a game controller in lieu of mouse and keyboard. (My experience with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was much less agreeable and involved considerably more profanity.)

Who the f*ck put this kitchen here?!

The early levels are simple, with meals requiring few ingredients and kitchens that are straightforward. The difficulty ramps up slowly, and while the game can be challenging it is never punishing—and it’s always entertaining. You get ample time to learn and adapt just before a new twist gets thrown into the formula.

But recipes gradually get more complicated and the kitchens get zanier, forcing you to deal with new navigation and timing wrinkles. Soup may only require 3 chopped and simmered tomatoes, but making a proper burrito requires tenderized and cooked meat placed in a tortilla with rice and chopped tomatoes.

I got to see about 4 of the game’s many different kitchens (some of which you can see in the video and screen gallery).

  • The pirate ship sways left to right periodically, sliding the entire kitchen along with it and changing its configuration, which in turn forces you to change your work patterns.
  • In an outer space kitchen, the kitchen is divided in half. And each half has a hatch that only opens when a player in the other half steps on a pressure plate.
  • And yet another level takes place on the back of moving trucks, each of which comprises half of the kitchen, and each of which moves and sways on the highway, only periodically meeting so you can cross from one half of the kitchen to the other. Fall off the truck, and you’re ‘out’ for a few seconds before respawning in the kitchen.

Although at this point Overcooked is only a bit more than half-baked, I can honestly say that I was hooked and played it with the developer for a solid 20 minutes or more at the E3 Indie mixer where I found it. Overcooked definitely deserves to be on your watch list, as long as you’ve got enough game controllers and friends and family to play with. I suspect it would make a hilarious drinking/party game too, similar to Gang Beasts.

Overcooked is coming to Steam in Q3 from publisher Team 17 and developer Ghost Town Games.

(And don’t worry—rest assured a console version will be arriving too.)

Overcooked Steam Page

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