When it comes to fun and inventive co-op gameplay, Overcooked is certainly high up on the list. Ghost Town Games’ winning recipe went down well with fans and critics alike when it was unleashed back in 2016, and despite the occasional difficulty spike, there was no denying it of either its originality or its value. Now, two years later, the Onion Kingdom is back via Overcooked! 2 and it’s bigger, better and tastier than ever before. The sequel stays very much inline with the concept of its predecessor, yet goes on to shine brighter thanks to a collection of improvements and new additions across the board.
Those of you that enjoyed the first outing will know exactly what to expect. Overcooked! 2 takes players through a range of dangerous, fantastical and whimsical kitchens as they’re tasked with preparing, cooking and serving food against a timer. The game does an excellent job at feeding you into the basics of play, giving you a firm understanding as to how everything functions from the get-go. The story doesn’t demand too much of your attention, which is fine because the gameplay is where the meat of the matter is, so to speak. Nevertheless, there’s a plot and however light it may be, it’s still quite endearing.
Called back to the Onion Kingdom after dealing with the Ever Peckish from the first game, a new threat in the form of the Unbread has surfaced and it falls to you to stave off their hunger. This typically amounts to little more than visiting a set location every few levels or so to push the story along, but indeed the writing and the presentation gets the job done nicely regardless. It’s hardly a groundbreaking story, but there would be less meat on Overcooked! 2’s bones without it. It’s just there and it serves its purpose to tie everything together in a way that gamers of all ages can soak up and understand.
By and large, Overcooked! 2 offers up more content than its predecessor. There’s new kitchens, new recipes, new chefs, new mechanics, new game modes and above all else, online multiplayer support. The aim of the game is relatively simple to soak up; check your tickets, grab the ingredients, make a meal from them and then serve. Sounds simple on paper, right? Well, believe me when I say that in practice, it’s an entirely different beast. Grabbing cheese, tomato and dough isn’t so simplistic when you’re in a haunted kitchen and (seemingly) ghosts keep levitating your cooking tools and sideboards to different locations.
Still, that’s the charming thing about Overcooked. It may well be frustrating at times, but it’s hard to stay mad at it for too long. Starting with the story, the game has a nice difficulty curve that gradually climbs in complexity as you move through the worlds within. To begin with, you’re tasked with serving up meals that a monkey could pull off, but before long, you’ll be preparing sushi in the comfort of a kitchen that’s situated in a hot air balloon that’s crashing down to the planet. There’s no shortage of obstacles that the game throws in your path at a regular pace, constantly doing all that it can to hinder your serving time.
As aforementioned, tickets will appear at the top left of the screen. These tickets relay what dish you need to serve, what ingredients you’ll need to use and what tools you’ll need to use to prepare the food. There’s also a mini-timer for each ticket and depending on how fast you can prep and serve that specific meal, will determine how much coin you receive from it. However, if you allow that timer to count down completely, you’ll take a hit to the coins that you’ve gathered so far. These coins will collectively add up and contribute to the game’s three star rating for each level. Now, it’s worth noting that stars are important here.
Progress in Overcooked! 2’s story is tied to these stars, being that access to specific levels will require that you’ve gathered enough stars beforehand. Should you find that you’ve come up against the proverbial brick wall because you haven’t earned enough stars to access world three, for example, you’ll need to go back and replay some of the previous levels to bump up that star count. It’s a simple yet effective system that bolsters the game’s replay value. On top of the ticket times, each level also has an overall timer counting down, meaning that you’ll need to serve as many meals as possible before this timer hits zero.
The many, many inventive kitchens that you’ll be subject to are all presented on a single-screen. Whether you’re playing online co-op or local co-op, you’ll thank this design choice, you may even worship it by the game’s end. Though with that said, many of the kitchens house their own unique challenges that will periodically test your reflexes, your skills and your patience. The game, much like the first, can at times become too taxing, but some time and perseverance will see you through. I’ve already given two examples above, but take my word, Overcooked! 2 knows how to throw you under the bus at all the wrong moments.
Whether it’s access stairs being removed and placed elsewhere, sideboards rolling side to side across the screen, fires needing to be put out or worse, entire sections of the kitchen being pulled apart, Overcooked! 2 keeps you on your toes. This is where its important to apply coordination. Playing alone is fun, but bringing up to three other players along for the ride is a problem shared three ways. It also helps that additional chefs can throw food across the kitchen, which especially comes in handy when you find that you no longer have access to certain stations due to the kitchen being gated by the game’s clever mechanics.
When playing solo, the game will allow you to fast-swap between chefs in order to achieve this outcome. There’s more Kevin this time around too, with some truly tricky Kevin-based levels thrown in for good measure. Irrespective as to how you play or who you play with, Overcooked! 2 is an absolute blast. When you’re done with the game’s story, there’s still things to do elsewhere. Arcade mode is likely where much of the post-plot action will sit at. Here, players can swiftly dive into a random kitchen to test their multi-tasking might. It’s hardly a huge side-step from the story, but the quick-easy access to the action is a nice touch.
New chefs will gradually unlock as you make progress, and although they’re purely cosmetic, it’s fun to watch the character pool grow and then use them in the game’s Versus mode for those bragging rights. When all is said and done, Overcooked! 2 is a step up from the first game in nearly every way. This is exactly what a sequel should be, taking everything that worked before and refining it with new additions and twists. To be expected, Overcooked! 2’s visuals are charming and well detailed, with heaps of diversity and character across the board. This is further upheld by the game’s wonderful and well struck soundtrack.
The Onion Kingdom is bigger, better and more detailed than ever before. Overcooked! 2 takes its compelling concept to the next level through added mechanics, new additions and heaps of clever functionalities. The game’s difficulty may spike from time to time, but nevertheless, it goes without saying that Overcooked! 2 offers a robust co-op centric experience that rarely gets old, with online multiplayer to boot.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.