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Review: Overcooked! 2 (Nintendo Switch)By The Strat Man At 07.08.2018 16:44

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Certainly, at a glance, there's not much separating Overcooked! 2 from the original instalment. It utilises the same charming mix of cartoonish qualities, juxtaposed with more grounded textures, environments, and visual elements, like rain, thunderstorms, and fire. Sensibly, the distinct aesthetic the original had has come to be known for has not been tampered with for the sequel. It does, however, make use of more taxing effects, features a much more elaborate navigable world-map, and the story-mode cut-scenes push the boat out in terms of detail. So, while there's no major visual upgrade to speak of, certain nuances elevate Overcooked 2 just a tad over the first instalment in terms of its polish. The title certainly highlights the strengths of the Unity engine far better than the original in this regard. That's also true for performance reasons, something that Switch owners will be anxious to hear about.

Overcooked suffered from some very disappointing frame-rate issues on the Switch at launch, languishing as low as 20 frames-per-second at certain moments, until a patch improved the situation. Thankfully, Overcooked 2 is a far more stable experience across the chopping board. While there is an occasional stutter during some of the more grandiose level transitions, it provides a solid-enough thirty frames-per-second at large, whether playing handheld or docked. This may leave a sour taste for some, since all other platforms target an extra fluid sixty frames-per-second, which would have been a nice luxury for docked mode. However, nothing is lost due to this lower benchmark, and that's important. Considering how under-powered the Switch is by comparison, not to mention the original's performance issues, it's wise for Ghost Town Games to have prioritised a consistent and reliable experience.

So, what new territory does Overcooked 2 explore? Perhaps not that much. It's mostly a case of doubling down on the chaos in terms of actual gameplay. Levels are even more unpredictable and dynamic, featuring a lot more transitions. The cooking process might start on a relaxed note, like onboard a hot air balloon on a calm day. Soon enough, however, it passes through a thunderstorm and crash-lands inside a sushi restaurant! Other stages evolve less, but feature unique challenges that will test the patience of you and your friends. For example, a restaurant situated by a mine, where the central kitchen is a platform suspended above a chasm, which is moved around by the player via a crane, to reach the pots, pans, fryers and ingredients that line the outside periphery. The initial first world of the story-mode starts off with simpler courses, to get players accustomed to its mechanics, but it ups the ante rather rapidly.

The main new feature in the way of core gameplay mechanics is the ability to throw ingredients. These can be chucked directly into pans, blenders and whatever else, or directly into other cooks' hands. They can also end up on the floor, should the player have a poor aim. While this might not be a major addition, it does allow for new types of stages, which are frequently more intricate. It also enhances the flow of things, especially during the inevitably chaotic final countdown. In the original, there was nothing worse than frantically mustering up that one last order, only for time to be called when the player is two-steps from the serving counter. When used thoughtfully, throwing ingredients saves a heap of precious seconds, allowing for greater efficiency. If only it was also possible to launch a prepared meal across the kitchen. Not only would this have been quite funny, it might have added an extra layer of risk-reward, as failing to make the catch would (presumably) result in a wasted meal.

How else does Overcooked 2 distinguish itself? Ironically, the most meaningful way it achieves this end is simply by adding online multiplayer, something fans were bitterly disappointed not to see in the original. There's absolutely no doubt that Overcooked 2, once again, is best absorbed with up to four friends through its local multiplayer. However, it's a huge advantage to be able to link-up with friends in an online space. It makes it that much easier to sneak a session in, as sometimes getting together is difficult to arrange. More importantly, the ability to play online with others rebalances the single player experience, which is something of a sticking point. Although one can play as a lone individual, using the shoulder buttons to switch between the cooks, it's incredibly difficult and overwhelming in the wrong way. Since Ghost Town Games never really intended this to be a single-player experience, it's a relief that cooks without company can discover the true spirit of this title online.

Impressively, the story mode can be played through in its entirety through online co-op. It's great that lone individuals will get a full-blown co-operative experience in this domain, before graduating onto arcade and versus modes, which provides the bulk of the longevity once the story is finished. That said, within the story mode there are tons of extra-levels to unlock, which will keep players occupied for quite a long time. Earning a three-star rank on some stages is also devilishly difficult. They quickly become an addictive pursuit too, since players will always tend to remember one or two moments where they dropped the ball and could have got their order out quicker! It's better, in this regard, to be playing with folk you know, since players can then attack these challenges with evolving strategies, rather than just go in all-guns blazing with a stranger. It's quite difficult to orchestrate things efficiently with the latter.

Although there is an emote system that allows players to indicate their intentions, as well as express dissatisfaction with their partner, it's just not the clearest of systems and is no substitute for a mic. Unfortunately, on the Switch, there doesn't seem to be any mic-support, which inevitably makes online a slightly inferior way to play, secondary to sitting amongst friends on the couch. Considering the co-ordination required to succeed at Overcooked 2, it's a shame that this couldn't be addressed. Although it's obviously not the developers' fault that the system relies on smart-phone interaction for that feature. Thankfully, however, it's by no means a game-breaking issue, just a minor-irritation. That said, here's hoping that mic-support for the Switch can be introduced further down the line, because it certainly would improve the quality of online multiplayer if it was available.

While the Switch version might have some drawbacks due to the lack of mic-support and the slightly lower performance standards, it's still arguably the superior version of Overcooked 2. Why? Because the Switch is the perfect platform to emphasize its local multiplayer core experience two-fold. Detaching the joycon and passing them around works a treat, and the title's controls are simple enough for new players to find a footing exceedingly quickly. Some players complained that the analogue stick in the original felt a bit unresponsive and behaved more like a d-pad, causing frustration, but that issue seems to have been addressed for the sequel. The analogue controls seem tighter and more responsive this time around, meaning it's a great multiplayer experience all round. Having four-players huddled around the handheld screen, of course, is bound to strain the eyes, but in docked mode it's a pleasure to bask in the culinary chaos!

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Final Score
[i]Overcooked 2[/i] is more of a second helping than a brand new concoction, but that's not to be sniffed at. It features more dynamic levels, with better scope, a wide array of new restaurant themes, recipes and chef costumes, not to mention another very meaty story mode. The real evolution, however, comes in simply addressing the biggest failing of the original - its lack of online multiplayer. This addition expands things significantly in terms of its longevity, allowing friends and strangers to gather when a local session isn't on the cards. Moreover, it enables lone cooks to experience the true core experience, specifically, the unique brand of chaos that comes with running a kitchen co-operatively. [i]Overcooked 2[/i] is a fantastic combination of excellent music and vibrant visuals, with gameplay that is as addictive as it is dizzying. While it's not a huge leap beyond the original menu, it brings plenty to the table.

8

/10

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