Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
My partner and I are only two “worlds” into Overcooked 2, but here’s a quick rundown of all the places where we’ve been forced to cooperatively cook during its whirlwind culinary tour: Crashing hot air balloons. White water rafts. Railroad turntables. Burning buildings. And an Evil Dead-esque haunted castle, complete with nefarious, cannibalistic baked goods that the game gleefully insists on referring to as “the unbread.” Along the way, we’ve cooked sushi, burgers, burritos, steamed dumplings, and more, all with the same engaging, slightly loose arcade controls that made the 2016 original such a joyful fixture in our home.
It’s the rare sequel where “more of the same” is not only “good enough,” but actually absolutely welcome, but, then, few games are as wonderfully, infectiously chaotic as Overcooked—the couch co-op cooking simulator that’s just as likely to ask you to launch yourself between two speeding trucks, basket of fries gripped in hand, as it is to set up a workable mise en place. There’s not much “new” in its recently released sequel—you can throw food now, and there are more adorable chefs to take control of—but it doesn’t really matter, not once you’re plugged back into the game’s steadily rising feeling of situations spiraling delightfully out of control.
Amid the chaos, though, is some very smart design work, reinforcing the pleasures of the game’s whacked-out play. Level goals are always pitched to be just a tad more doable than they seem, leading to the inevitable moment when the orders are slamming down and the kitchen is about to catch fire, right before you ultimately pull through for a three-star finish. There’s also a fancy new emote system, not necessarily all that useful for communicating with someone seated right next to you, but invaluable for the new online multiplayer. (Which, in a stroke of unorthodox genius, doesn’t seem to include voice chat at all; I can’t imagine how much it would ruin my little chef cat’s day to hear internet randos scream racial slurs down the line while he’s whipping up a soufflé.)
Still, Overcooked 2 is at its best in the flesh, when the gently rising sense of collaborative panic really starts to kick in. “Onions!” you might find yourself screaming, largely unprompted. “Dishes! Do them! I will!” you get back in reply, the rest of the meaning coming across through a sort of frenetic, bonding telepathy. None of it makes sense, but you’re so far down in the co-op zone that it hardly matters. The sequel’s greatest victory might be making all of us as adorably crazy as itself.