If you’ve ever made dinner for two, you know cooking is… complicated. And if you’ve ever watched any cooking show, you know a professional kitchen brings it to a whole new level. It’s not only about how good are your knife skills, but how well you communicate with your peers and how much can you handle under pressure. But no matter how loud Gordon Ramsay screams, you know you’re not the one getting hurt.
It’s different when you actually are the person who’s getting screamed at. Not by Ramsay (I hope so), but by that sweet college friend, the quietest one in class. You know, the one who would always lend her notebook? What if she’s sitting next to you on the couch, telling you to hurry the f$#k up so she can deliver the cr!$@ing onion soup? I mean, you can chop an onion pretty fast, but what happens when there’s a pan catching fire while you do it?
What happens is Overcooked. Created by Ghost Town Games, it’s a take on a chef’s kitchen through the lens of great (GREAT) game design. Apart from directionals (which, oh yes, make your character move around), playing it only requires three buttons: one to grab/put stuff down, a second to do things like chop and clean the dishes and a third to… dash. That’s it. Even if you don’t have any experience with videogames, you can play it. The controls are simple enough to remember and won’t offer any big problem because, unlike real cooking, mastering the technique isn’t the issue.
The trick in Overcooked is learning how to cooperate. After all, not even Chuck Norris could run a restaurant by himself. You need a team. Not only that, you need to function as a team. Feel like chopping mushrooms? Too bad, your team needs you washing dishes to deliver one freshly squeezed tomato soup (the tomatoes were gathered from the floor, but who cares). If you’re not conscious of what your team needs, you won’t get ahead. In real life, this means your restaurant will close. In Overcooked, it translates to you-don’t-get-to-the-next-level. Both are quite terrible.
So even though you can navigate through the game pretty smoothly, there are a lot of strategies involved. Not only in dividing tasks, but also in adapting to scenery changes. Which changes, you may wonder? Well, let’s elaborate.
Imagine you’re cooking in a moving vehicle. There’s one truck with stoves and a sink, and another one with ingredients and chopping boards. You have to pick a piece of meat, chop chop chop, put it in a frying pan, cook, combine it with a loaf of bread and deliver your burguer. Simple enough, right? It’s just up and down, left and right, smashing buttons, easy peazy.
Now the trucks have split up.
The meat is far from the frying pan.
The bread is on the other truck, but it needs to get to the plates.
And oh, there are tomatoes and lettuce, which are close to the chopping boards but also far from the plates.
And ooops you didn’t know it was going to split right now so all of your team stayed in one truck and there was a piece of meat in the pan and there’s no one to take it out so now it’s catching fire where is the fire extinguisher
It turned into a mess.
Even though it seems simple, Overcooked takes some effort to get by. The beginning of the first game translates this pretty well: we start as little chefs in the middle of the apocalypse trying to feed a Spaghetti Monster. He’s really hungry, so we have to hurry. We have to work in teams, but we haven’t even figure out who will do what. We’ve never done this before, it’s too fast, there’s no way to beat him. It’s Armageddon! If we continue at this speed, we’ll fail.
So the Onion King takes us back in the past. In other words: he gives us time to learn. Because that’s what it takes to build something. Time. We aren’t born knowing how to communicate, nor is teamwork just built in our structure. We have to put some effort in order to be good at it. We have to practice. Essentially, Overcooked teaches us that becoming a team takes time, effort and communication. And yelling. A whole lot of yelling.