The original Overcooked was many things. It wanted to make sure you knew how to accurately follow instructions. It tested people’s teamwork. It demanded you make the most of your problem-solving skills in the moment. Most importantly, it was a lot of fun to play with friends in your living room (when you were not being frustrated by them). Overcooked 2 is a return to the formula. Not too much has changed here. Yes, there are new kitchens to encounter, different recipes to create, and a throwing mechanic that absolutely makes a difference when you are down to the wire. It can feel like Overcooked 2 is the same delicious dish as before, just with extra garnishes and flourishes on the side. Not that this is a bad thing! It is great for those who enjoyed the original game and are ready for seconds.
Overcooked 2 picks up where the original left off. All is well in the Onion Kingdom. In fact, the Onion King has found the fabled Necro-Nomnom-Icon. Unfortunately, he decides to read from it, even though his faithful dog, Kevin, tries to warn him. His recitations end up waking the Unbread, starving undead pieces of bread. Your initial chefs attempt to satiate the horde’s hunger, but they are too inexperienced and the enemy’s ranks are too great. You have to go on a road trip around the kingdom, learning new recipes and cooking in new kitchens as you do, so you can be prepared to face the foe again. The story is as goofy as ever, complete with food puns. It is just enough to give you an excuse to go cooking around the country, but does not detract from what matters: the gameplay.
There are multiple ways to play Overcooked 2, though some are more ideal than others. The Campaign mode can be played with between one and four players locally. A single player swaps between two chefs by pressing the shoulder button, but do not do this. It is an option, but it is definitely not the best way or recommended way to play the game. Going through the Campaign or an Arcade or Versus level with four people is the best way to play, though having only three in Campaign or Arcade is enough to get by. It is possible to go online in Campaign or Versus, but being able to communicate with the other people in the room is critical.
This is because Overcooked 2 lives and dies by its communication. There are more tasks that ever before. You can be chopping, frying, cooking, steaming, blending, collecting, plating, delivering, and washing, all while dealing with kitchens blocking off certain players in certain areas, having conveyor belts to direct food, and dealing with NPCs getting in your way. Every kitchen is a flurry of activity, even early on. One of the first sushi kitchens has NPCs walking back and forth through the kitchen as you cook. One kitchen takes place on hot air balloons, which float over the sky and separate, meaning you have to take care to ensure the right chefs are in the right spaces. Then, there’s the new throwing mechanic.
Throwing is a game-changer in Overcooked 2. Appropriately enough, the game has levels where using the technique is critical to your success. Let’s take the river raft stage as an example. There is a raft on the river separated by water, with two chefs on each side. The people on the raft near the top of the screen cut chicken and fries. The ones on the raft below need to toss chicken and potatoes to them, then gather the prepared food to place in fryers. Fortunately, you do not have to worry about cleaning plates in, say, the Arcade version of this level. Still, timing it so food lands in the right spot, perhaps even even in the other chef’s own hands, can help save crucial seconds. Fortunately, catching doesn’t involve pressing any buttons. You just have to be in the right place at the right time with nothing in your character’s hands.
The levels in Overcooked 2 also present these situations that get increasingly intricate. While the sushi kitchens and rafting session seem designed to teach you basic skills, others present different problems and ask you to figure out ways to manage them. One hot air balloon level will have different baskets moving, limiting access to certain ingredients, chopping stations, and delivery sections. Birds will fly overhead, blocking your view. There is a mine area that is all about coordination, as the chefs are on a platform over a pit. One character can control a switch to move the platform to different areas, where people can load up the main platform with different food items. Then, you need to take them to the cutting, boiling, frying, washing, and delivery stations in turn. This section is all about staying coordinated, making sure everyone has a task and sticks to it, so you can maximize time spent with the platform in each area. The stages, both in the Campaign and Arcade, gradually amp up the number of tasks and challenge ahead of your group as you attempt to complete a successful service.
I did notice a few issues when playing Overcooked 2 on the Nintendo Switch ahead of the version 1.0.1 patch. (I only played with the system in its dock.) Namely, it was not as smooth as the original Overcooked was when I played it on the PC. Any time there was a kitchen with a lot of activity occurring and four chefs present, I had to be aware of some lag. This typically happened if all four people were moving, perhaps throwing or dashing, while a stage mechanic also was making an area move. For example, if I had someone moving a mine level’s platform while the other chefs were also moving or one of the hot air balloon kitchen’s platforms were moving while everyone was engaged, things might slow down. The loading screens were also a bit longer than I remembered the original’s being. Keep in mind, a day one patch has been released since I played, so Overcooked 2 could be a bit smoother on the Nintendo Switch after updates.
It really feels like Overcooked 2 tries to make things a little more complicated, but still very doable if you work well with others. The different stages gradually bring up new ideas or elements, so you learn how to handle moving kitchens, station assignments, and gimmicks like moving areas over gaps. It helps you understand the importance of throwing by putting you in stages where you need to toss items, so hopefully it is second nature when you get to more complicated areas. It also has hidden stages to find and extra chefs to unlock in the campaign. It is more of what worked before, which means people who are considering picking it up should get a group of friends together for some local cooking adventures.
Overcooked 2 is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.