Have you ever wanted to be on Hell's Kitchen? Well, look no further than the couch cooperation (or competitive) cooking game Overcooked, as it has everything but Chef Gordon Ramsay. Heck, it even includes a button to swear—though no foul language is actually uttered but instead comes out in symbols much like the classic Q-bert.
If you've got friends that actually come over to your house, then Overcooked will be a blast. However, playing alone is both dull and difficult. You see, when playing with multiple people you can easily split up the tasks, as the entire game revolves around chopping, frying, and serving food and washing plates. When playing by yourself you've got to control two characters that you can swap between, or if you're a talented multitasker you can play as both at the same time by splitting your controller in half, with the each side controlling a different character. I could not manage to do this, and eventually had to get my boyfriend to come help me complete the levels.
The game is frantic at all times, like a kitchen during rush hour or a holiday. Depending on the type of person you are, this may be overwhelming to you. To make matters worse, you're going to have to three-star most of the levels to be able to complete the game, which requires near perfect cooking sessions and can be problematic. Each level gives you one to three stars depending on your score, and while most games with this kind of system would allow you to continue with one or two, the late game in Overcooked requires you have three starred nearly everything. For a game that is clearly meant to be a party game and offer some casual fun, I can easily see it becoming too frustrating for most people due to the pressure of achieving a high score to advance. This is a real shame because the core gameplay and presentation are fantastic.
When feeling less competitive you can jump into the versus mode—which has most of its content locked behind the difficult story mode—and take on your friends in the kitchen competing for high scores in some levels from the story mode. If only these levels were unlocked from the start, because this is where the game shines brightest, as it is just pick up and play with no score requirement bearing down upon you.
Overcooked is one of the most beautiful and charming games I've seen this year, and perhaps ever on the Unity engine. The cartoony style and characters are just so darned cute, and the musical score gets the heart racing, especially when it speeds up near the end of levels. It comes together in a concoction that would make most players kiss their fingers and say 'muah' as if they just cooked the world's most delicious pizza.
If you've got some dedicated (and local) friends that are skilled gamers and aren't afraid to come to your house, then Overcooked is easily recommendable. You might pull your hair out trying to complete the story mode, but you'll have a blast doing it. If your friends are more casual players, then you might have a tough time unlocking content for the versus mode, unless the developer decides to tweak the requirements to advance or unlock content. It is by no means a bad game, just a bit too much pressure for most players including myself.