The beauty of Overcooked 2’s level design is its ability to reveal the key to success when there are only 30 seconds left on the clock.
Overcooked 2, now available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, thrives in the stress of delegation. Each level gives you a few minutes to cook and deliver increasingly difficult-to-make meals to hungry patrons. With kitchens continually shifting and players constantly multitasking, the game is meant to overload chefs and leave you screaming at your partners to take the pasta off the boiler, take the pasta off the boiler, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TAKE THE PASTA OFF BEFORE IT SOMEHOW MANAGES TO LIGHT ON FIRE.
This makes Overcooked 2 both wonderful and terrible for roommates.
By all accounts, my roommates and I have a lovely relationship. We eat together when we can, we manage to keep the apartment clean and we actually enjoy each other’s company, which is a huge step up from some of the horror stories I hear from my friends’ living situations. But putting even the friendliest people together in Overcooked 2 has a chance to destroy those relationships.
On the surface, Overcooked 2 is a cooking game. In reality, it’s more of a highly stressful “escape the room”-style puzzle. The elements of throwing ingredients and kitchens changing midway through the level — gimmicks introduced in this game specifically — add an extra layer of planning for your team. If one player is stuck on a raft with chopping boards and ingredient bins, their entire job will be chopping and throwing ingredients. They could keep throwing ingredients constantly, or they could throw them when the ingredients are immediately necessary, keeping the other chefs from being overwhelmed.
Sure, if you’re good at mashing buttons and accurately placing chopped tomatoes, you’ll have an advantage in the game — much like you would in the original Overcooked, a frequent-party-favorite-slash-friendship-killer. But you won’t win unless you can communicate.
I’ve been playing through the beginning levels of Overcooked 2 with my two roommates, neither of whom are huge video game fans. The process of playing usually follows these steps:
- Play through the level once, yell about who needs to throw the chicken better and remark that this level must be impossible.
- Play through the level again, insist on only chopping the ingredients and yell about how washing the dishes wasn’t your job.
- Play through the level a few more times, get three stars and remark that this level was simple once we finally figured out how to be most effective together.
Overcooked 2 never allows you to do one job without caring about other aspects of the game. None of the kitchens are designed efficiently, and though my roommates and I can groan about why someone would put the sink so far away from the cutting boards, it forces you to change your task and pick up the slack if someone else has to focus on a different part of the recipe.
Though some moments have been tense (I fell out of a hot air balloon with a fully cooked steak pasta, and my roommate threatened to not renew our lease), we’ve gotten way better at talking about which tasks need to get done. It’s a bit early to tell, but it feels like we’re becoming more effective at asking for help around the apartment as well. One roommate texts that the cat has been fed in the morning, but we’ve run out of cat food. Another roommate picks up the food on their lunch break.
Though we still get testy while actually playing Overcooked 2, the out-of-game benefits seem to be a stronger chain of communication. And so far, our actual kitchen hasn’t caught on fire, which I’d call a success.