A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Overcooked is a downloadable arcade title clearly intended to be played by more than one person at the same time, even though there's a single-player segment. You play as one of many chefs or dogs trying to stay on top of orders coming in at a quickening pace. It sounds easy, but it quickly stacks up and makes for a fun and silly challenge.
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What's it about?
In OVERCOOKED, the Onion Kingdom -- a land consisting apparently of only kitchens -- is in great peril when an enormous monster with an even bigger appetite arrives and demands to be sated. When it turns out that the monster's hunger is too demanding even for the greatest talents of the Onion Kingdom, the king sends you back to 1993 to run the full gauntlet of every kitchen in town. The year is presumably a nod to classic video games of that time, including Super Mario Bros., which clearly has an influence on the setting for each kitchen: outer space, volcanoes, and traffic intersections are just a few examples. The goal is to master each level so that you can get another crack in the present at satisfying the hungry monster. The Nintendo Switch edition of the game includes the two downloadable content (DLC) packs for the game, The Lost Morsel and Festive Seasoning, which add new maps, chefs, vehicles, and recipes to the frantic cooking action.
Is it any good?
This arcade game about cooking is fast-paced, hilarious, and ridiculous. Although some will be upset by the lack of an online multiplayer mode (since the game hinges upon cooperation and collaboration), the fact that it's same-room co-op or single-player assures you'll be working with people you know and trust right out of the gate. Without that trust or ability to communicate effectively, Overcooked devolves into total chaos: Orders come up at a dizzying pace, and it isn't a matter of merely arranging the ingredients to satisfy each order. You'll need to cook dishes or ingredients once they've been prepped, keep an eye on pots and pans to make sure they don't burn the food or start a fire (necessitating quick use of the fire extinguisher), and scrub and clean the plates from orders that have come back after being eaten. If this weren't crazy enough, you'll also have to deal with environmental hazards; for example, on a pirate-ship kitchen, the ocean makes cannonballs and tables drift unexpectedly.
The game is goofy, fun, silly, and weird. At first glance, it seems ridiculous that on average difficulty, you'll only be able to get three or four orders out in three minutes. It seems like you'd be able to prepare more dishes, whether it's tomato soup or burgers. But, as in real life, multitasking deceptively spreads your attention and abilities thinner. Your chefs can only chop, grab ingredients, or saute. Or if they stop, the task is paused so that they can move around. The Nintendo Switch edition adds to the pressure of the kitchen with two new areas, more recipes, more chefs, and a higher challenge, but it also comes at a cost; the frame rate of the game tends to suffer when a lot of action is on-screen at once. Fortunately, the developers are aware of the problem and are working on a fix to this issue. Overcooked requires attention, patience, and the ability to stay calm under pressure. For that, it's a fun game to dive into, but it's also likely to rattle your nerves after marathon sessions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about communicating with others while maintaining hand-eye coordination on a task at hand. Aside from driving and cooking, what are other times in your day-to-day life you might need to call on that ability?
What do you think are the elements of cooking or of working in the culinary world that the game doesn't showcase or highlight?
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