Overcooked E3 hands-on preview: Cooking up a storm at E3

Every E3, there’s always one or two titles that stick in your mind longer than you would have expected them to. Last year, it was both Abzu and Rocket League – with the latter going on to be a smash hit and the former set to hit shelves in early August. This E3, the two games were Sloclap’s Absolver and a simple cooperative cooking game named Overcooked.

Tucked away in publisher Team17’s meeting room, Overcooked – the sum of Ghost Town Games, a two-person development team based in England – is perhaps an unlikely candidate to get such a personal accolade. After all, what’s so engaging about this particular cooking concept above the likes of Order Up! or Cooking Mama?

Devilishly simplistic in its makeup, the game revolves around taking orders from hungry restaurant patrons and delivering the food in a timely manner. Success is achieved by figuring out what each dish constitutes, assembling and preparing said ingredients, cooking and then serving onto a conveyor belt. And while its premise seems run of the mill, when you add more than one player into the mix things become a little more frenetic. Supporting up to four players simultaneously, Overcooked is as much about perfecting a particular meal as it is about being mindful of both your surroundings and your teammates.

Each of the stages is uniquely laid out and presents different obstacles to stand in front of you achieving the task. For instance, one of the kitchens is on a cruise ship, meaning counters sway back and forth, cutting you off from certain areas of the workplace momentarily. Another involves two speeding pickup trucks that need to align so that you can cross and complete the dish in time. Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce, sorry) as we’ve been promised a slew of wacky, and frankly improbable, kitchens to negotiate.

What’s brilliant about how dynamic the areas are is that it encourages on-the-spot thinking and communication when there’s two or more friends playing at once. If you’re briefly cut off from an area of the kitchen that’s necessary for you to complete the request in time, you’ll need your partner to stop what he or she is doing and assist in a timely manner. Failing to do so will impact your all-important ranking at the end of the round and that’s something that nobody wants to see. To add a little more chaos to the mix, you yourself can control two characters at once if you so choose – à la the dual-thumbstick workings of Brothers: Tale of Two Sons – and as one would predict, the results are spectacular. What’s most surprising is that we’ve manage to uncover a common ground between the likes of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Overcooked. High praise, indeed – no matter how trivial the comparison.

As for content, we’ve been told to expect new chefs, competitive modes, and, of course, a plethora of levels to chomp through. There is a story of sorts at the heart of the game involving car-based traversal through the aptly-titled Onion Kingdom and its zaniness will surely be informed by the increasingly bizarre kitchens. Either way, there’ll be soup for everyone. All in all, Overcooked can be defined as a video game in its purest form. An addicting, couch co-op experience that revels in harking back to a bygone era where games were incredibly easy to pick up but challenging to master; games that were best served up with a boatload of friends in the same room and a healthy dollop of competitiveness to boot. Like Psyonix’s Rocket League before it, it’s tough to bet against Overcooked being one of the surprise hits of the year. Its charm simply won’t allow otherwise.