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How much do you value your friendships? That's the first question you should ask yourself before popping in Overcooked 2 at a party. It's a game that will show you which of your friends are morons, jerks, or saints, and who among them you never want to speak with again.
I often measure couch multiplayer games by how likely they are to ruin a friendship. Ghost Town Games' unexpected hit Overcooked has remained steady in my rotation for when friends visit, alongside Jackbox Party Pack collections, Nidhogg, Mario Kart 8, and more. Regardless of who's visiting or what gaming experience they have, when Overcooked is played the room erupts into yelling and chaos. I'm pleased to affirm that Overcooked 2 is no exception.
Overcooked 2 builds on the solid foundation of its predecessor. But from the start, Overcooked 2 is more ambitious. Its story mode is deeper, with levels following a clear arc over its stages. Its world map is far more colorful, and its little van transforms into a boat or plane when on certain areas, which is a sweet little touch. While there's still some technical hiccups and hitches, likely due to the Switch version I reviewed on, it runs mostly well. With Joy-Cons slipped out of the Switch, you can play with one person on each controller, making for a great on-the-go multiplayer experience.
One big change that I surprisingly found essential to a successful cook off is the renewed ability to throw food. And I mean really throw it, not fumble it with a well-timed dash as in the original game. In Overcooked 2 you can catch and receive raw ingredients—sliced or not. You can even throw things directly onto a pan or pot, so you don't even need the other character to catch it immediately. The only catch with throwing is that you cannot throw pots, pans, or plated food. After all, the plate could break or something. (But food on the ground? That's still a-okay, edible, and totally not a health code violation!) Some levels are even constructed with this in mind, with conveyor belts for pot and plate-passing needs.
Sometimes though, Overcooked 2's newfound ambition gets in the way of its stages, overcomplicating things. Whenever I ran into a level with levers or buttons as a central conceit, it usually served as a tedious addition rather than a new instrument to creatively think around. The more tedious gimmicks skip the playfulness of dodging cars when crossing an impractically placed street, or a hot air balloon crashing down onto an earlier level—a sushi restaurant—after a lightning storm zapped it. In the latter instance, the level got even more chaotic, but in a joyful way. There wasn't the added annoyance of directing a character or fellow player to go stand on a platform so you could move them around to another area.
Overcooked 2 is built on both of these sorts of experiences: the fun ones and the groan-worthy ones. No matter what though, it's always a good time when there's another player along for the ride with you. Over the weekend, I luckily had some friends staying over. Usually when I review games, they're largely played in solitude—even the multiplayer ones. But an exception had to be made for Overcooked 2. It wouldn't feel like a complete review without swearing at your friends for leaving the meat on the stove for too long, would it?
Overcooked 2 even introduces online multiplayer, which at the time of writing this review, I have not been able to try due to matchmaking not quite connecting. (Likely due to the small review pool of players.) Still, there's something lonely (and inherently more difficult) about playing Overcooked 2 solo, without buddies alongside you on a couch. That's because it's not a game designed to be enjoyed in solitary. Switching back and forth between characters, even when one is perpetually chopping something, still feels like you're not utilizing your time to its full potential. In some of the harder levels, particularly the bonus ones that introduce bamboo steamers to the mix, I found myself wishing there was a better way to utilize both characters at once. Or that I had someone to play with me.
The story mode, similar to the first game, also has a tedious structure in the late game levels. If you haven't been consistently getting three stars on levels, you'll likely hit a wall at some point and have to backtrack to old levels to try and get more stars to unlock the latest spot on the world map. Luckily, I found that when returning to early levels I struggled on I was much better. I had become a seasoned chef now, with expert food throwing and time juggling abilities. It's still a bummer though, having to grind out earlier levels in the hopes of turning a two-star level into a three-star level, to get enough to unlock stage 6-4 or whatever.
If you were a fan of the first Overcooked, I can guarantee you'll find something to love here. With more characters, levels, gimmicks (even if some are on the annoying side), and recipes to dive into (for some reason, Overcooked 2 is really into sushi and dim sum), Overcooked 2 will likely replace the original game in your party game rotation. Just be prepared for a couple of headaches along the way, and some wrecked friendships in your wake.
Overcooked is the sort of game that inspires everyone to channel their inner Gordon Ramsay, and its chaotic sequel is no exception. It has notable improvements, from throwing and catching food to some ludicrous and creative levels. It also has its downsides when some gimmicks get in the way of a good time. It's not the sort of game that'll be enjoyed much if played solo; but if you're on the lookout for the next great party game to strain all your friendships, then look no further than Overcooked 2.
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