Overcooked 2 world-premiere hands-on: Crazier levels, more speed, finally online

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—Nintendo kept the hits and surprises (er, no-longer-surprises) coming during today’s E3-affiliated, Switch-crazy Nintendo Direct video special. In addition to major first- and third-party announcements, it also included a long-awaited look at a sequel to one of 2016’s biggest indie surprises: .

Weeks before Nintendo’s unveil, the game’s handlers at Team 17 invited select members of the press to sit with a largely complete version of the co-op cooking sequel.

It didn’t take long for my opinion of the gameplay to transform from “why isn’t this an expansion pack?” to “awesome bona fide upgrade.”

A “throw” button!

Just like the original game, includes a semblance of a plot in which an anxious king asks you to feed a terrifying, hungry monster scourge (in this case, zombie bread known as the, ugh, “unbread”) and save a kingdom. You do this by playing through a series of kitchen-related challenges, where you must fulfill diners’ orders by preparing dishes that they order. The challenge, again, comes from bizarre kitchen layouts that force 2-4 chefs to divide tasks like fetching ingredients, chopping, heating, plating, and serving. (And the game’s challenges are still designed so that solo players must swap between multiple chefs, though this kind of solo play is still easier to account for this awkward juggle.)

The gameplay is instantly familiar in spite of the opening sequences changing up required recipes. Sushi is now a hot-ticket item, and ‘s variety of sushi dishes includes raw (fish, seaweed) and cooked (rice) elements. This is an early-game hint that later, more difficult levels will force players to be mindful of when to cook or  cook certain ingredients when taking orders.

After a few familiar cooking-challenge levels, I began to wonder whether this was just a remix of the original only with new sushi and pasta dishes. Anyone who has worn out the first game knows that different dishes don’t necessarily transform the gameplay (although later-game hints of elaborate pastries got my chef-gameplay mouth watering). That’s when the game’s developers at Ghost Town Games started tearing the sequel’s mechanics apart—literally.

Levels in are now far, far more dynamic. The most awesome one I saw in my testing started as a hot air balloon restaurant, which had various parts of the kitchen separating while in mid-air. Roughly halfway through the round’s timer, everything around my quartet began to dive toward the ground. Our kitchen crash-landed! And yet we somehow not only survived unscathed but had to navigate a remixed version of our kitchen, now full of conveyor belts, that was positioned conveniently next to a new hungry restaurant. (It’s a living.)

Team 17 hinted to more kinds of dynamic levels to come in the final version of the game, including kitchens that rush around on whitewater rapids and mine carts. While I didn’t get to play in those other described levels, I was already excited about them because of a new maneuver: throwing. With a single button tap, chefs can now toss an ingredient in a straight line (aimed by a dotted-line indicator) across a kitchen. At the most basic level, this is a fun way to speed up the standard gameplay mechanic of passing ingredients and plates. At a higher level, this means levels can now dynamically fall apart without necessarily leaving chefs stranded.

Of course, throwing objects isn’t some failsafe solution to tough puzzles. Players will still have to contend with issues like environmental blocks or clueless friends walking in the way of a thrown object, for starters.

Online, finally!

‘s reveal trailer hints at even more wacky gameplay possibilities in these newly dynamic levels, including magic mirrors that warp chefs across a kitchen and button-activated bridges. But its arguably most attractive upgrade receives a brief-but-tantalizing mention: finally brings the series online. We don’t yet know whether online sessions will allow, for example, two players per team to hook up or if every online player will be isolated. But we’re hopeful that the netcode is up to the series’ twitchy, ingredient-slinging snuff.

Best of all, we’ll find out pretty soon, as is slated to launch on Switch, PS4, XB1, and Windows on August 7 for $29.99/£19.99/€24.99.

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