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The original Overcooked! is simultaneously one of the best and worst video games I have ever played in my life. It has taken me to dizzying heights, and truly crushing lows.
I was first turned onto Ghost Town Games' delightful indie party gem while visiting a friend. They playfully warned it had caused a fair few arguments between them and their partner, but I laughed it off and was sold pretty much right away. Multiplayer culinary fun in which a talking onion king and his pet dog Kevin send you on a quest around the world to become the best chef there is? How wonderfully whimsical.
But anyone who has actually played Overcooked! will know that the soothing acoustic music and folksy aesthetic is nothing more than a front for one of the most savage and relentlessly demanding co-op experiences ever conceived. Having played through the entirety of both Overcooked! and Overcooked! 2 with my wife, I can confirm that Ghost Town Games nearly destroyed my marriage. You can imagine how glad I am that Overcooked! All You Can Eat has arrived in my life, then.
Originally released for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X late last year, Overcooked! All You Can Eat is essentially a greatest hits package that combines all of the content from the first two games. That's more than 200 levels, including their DLC packs, as well as seven new kitchens, and three new chefs. There's also a fantastic new assist mode that makes playing solo infinitely more bearable and finally allows all players to see through each game's charming story (yes, they each have a story) to the end. In short, All You Can Eat is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam, and Nintendo Switch, and is without a doubt the best way to experience Overcooked.
For those who have never experienced the uniquely frustrating rush of an Overcooked game, the premise is simple enough. Playing alone or with up to three friends online or locally, you must work together across a series of top-down kitchen environments to prepare and cook a series of orders as they come in.
Each game starts off simply enough, typically asking you to do nothing more taxing than prepare a set number of salads in a bog-standard kitchen. It's here that you'll slowly learn the best path to victory is to work together. One of your team can chop the tomatoes and lettuce, for example, while the other handles plating up the food and getting it out to the customers. These early levels have a pleasingly sedate rhythm, as Ghost Town Games tricks you into feeling like a culinary superstar.
Before long, however, the heat begins to turn up and the relationships you once assumed were rock-solid burn like the fish you left in the fryer. Levels become increasingly complex, introducing variables like moving platforms and conveyor belts that force you to constantly change up your approach on the fly. All the while, there's a constant stream of new recipes to master, all with their own variants or twists. One level might see you attempting to build burgers to spec in a haunted house where the grill keeps flying around, while another sees you trying to prepare fish and chips in the back of a moving van. Oh, and you'll have to make sure dishes are kept clean so you can actually get the food out... and leaving certain foods cooking for too long will result in fires.
It's completely unhinged, but it's in the most intense moments that Overcooked! is at its absolute best. Each level typically lasts about two to three minutes, and each one offers an anarchic, exhilarating burst of utter carnage. There are moments in which you and your fellow players lock into a state of perfect synergy, smashing out order after order even as the world around you falls apart. These are, without doubt, among the most satisfying moments I have ever experienced in a video game. Like taking down a boss in Dark Souls or finding a secret area in Super Mario 64, it just feels good to be good at Overcooked! In these moments, I feel connected with my fellow players, and ready to take on the world.
Unfortunately, things can just as easily go wrong and send you into a complete spiral of accusations and in-fighting. All it takes is for one messed up order or change to the level to completely shake you out of your carefully developed groove, and before you know it you're stood there screaming at one another for having not provided enough clean dishes to complete the orders as the timer ticks down and the grill merrily spits out piping hot flames that consume the surrounding area and ruins everything. This, of course, makes it all the sweeter when you simply compose yourself, jump back in, and go again.
Really, the only people I would hesitate to recommend All You Can Eat to are the ones that have already conquered both games in the series. There isn't quite enough new content to encourage forking out for this double pack. But for everyone else? All You Can Eat is clearly the ultimate Overcooked! experience, and one I would urge anyone who has yet to dive into its delectable series of ingeniously designed challenges to check out. Similarly, if you've just played Overcooked! or Overcooked! 2, this is a must-buy since you won't have seen half of what All You Can Eat has to offer.
Pros: A terrifying lead character, controls unlike anything I've ever experienced, plenty of brutal combat with lots of ways to engage
Cons: Single-player is a genuinely fiddly experience that won't be for everyone, you will become furious at your partner, maybe not quite enough new content for veterans
For fans of: Moving Out, Fall Guys, pretty much any Nintendo party game
Overcooked! All You Can Eat was tested on PlayStation 4 with code supplied by the publisher. The game is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, PC, and Nintendo Switch. Read a guide to our review scores here.
Featured Image Credit: Team17/Ghost Town Games