Living in Arizona, it’s become increasingly clear that safely going out and about won’t be happening anytime in the near future as the swift shedding of precautions and care from the general public and state government has led to a massive spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitals once again near capacity.
Now a good three months into some form of quarantine life, many of us have found ourselves creating and settling into a new routine for this new normal, both with regards to work and free time. It’s also meant finding new escapes from that routine in an effort to shake free from stagnation that seems so easy to slip into right now. For my fiancee and I, that’s meant exploring a bit deeper into the Nintendo Switch catalog to find some games that can bridge the divide of our otherwise very different video game preferences.
I almost exclusively play sports games and always have. I’ve never been interested in — and have always been terrible at — first-person shooters, and have never had the attention span for games that require you to log long hours to complete. My fiancee, while an avid sports fan, never really played sports games growing up and has little interest in them, instead preferring games like Spyro and other quest-type adventures. Finding games we can both play can be a bit of a challenge, but we were able to bridge that gap — and test our communication skills and patience — with the equal parts frustrating and hilarious 2016 title Overcooked, which also has a sequel from 2018.
The premise of Overcooked is pretty simple, you run a kitchen to put together plates in the right order while battling various obstacles of increasing difficulty in different locations before time runs out. It is part puzzle, part quest, and part competition, which gave us a rare game that crossed over into both of our gaming interests — also while only taking about 12 hours to get through, but with imminent replayability.
As you go through the worlds, you encounter different obstacles that require you to crack the code for how to most efficiently get food chopped, cooked, on the plate, and out the window. Sometimes that means you’re on a boat, where the counters slide as the boat rocks, changing who has to be in charge of what. Sometimes you’re in space and have to cooperate on opening doors for the other person so they can get to ingredients. Sometimes your kitchen is split in half, separated by a river that you have to cross ice flows to reach the other side. All of them will test your relationship with your partner (or roommate or whomever else you’re playing with), and whether you can effectively communicate what you need and where you need help.
There were moments where I wanted to snap my Joy-con in half after being unable to figure out how the hell we could get enough points for three stars after a 10th attempt at a level. Other times, we had to pause the game because we couldn’t stop laughing because my wheelchair-bound raccoon chef slid off an iceberg, resulting in a kitchen fire because something didn’t get pulled from a deep fryer soon enough, erupting into flames while I helplessly waited to re-spawn. Throughout it all, we had to collaborate on a plan, communicate when things went awry, and cover for the other when one of us inevitably screwed up.
On its face, it’s a silly game about cooking burgers and soups and fish and chips under disastrous and absurd circumstances, but there’s a depth to the game that I absolutely wasn’t expecting when we downloaded it because it was on sale for $7 on the Switch store and sounded kinda fun. A couple hours a night melted off the clock as we laughed and cursed at this increasingly and infuriatingly tricky game, and in the process helped force us to articulate frustrations and thoughts because it was the only way to achieve success.
Overcooked is an absurd, yet perfect test of your relationship’s communication skills, cloaked in the facade of lakes of lava, haunted kitchens, and a literal spaghetti monster threatening the apocalypse if you don’t feed it fast enough.