Following 2016's co-op cooking hit, Overcooked 2 introduces a fresh set of kitchens and recipes to conquer. Like in the first game, simple controls and a cute, cartoony style lend levity to intense dinner rushes where one mistake can lead to culinary disaster. The fun and chaos of playing with friends is preserved in the sequel, as is the far less exciting reality of playing solo. And while the added online play can't compare to in-person antics, the new throwing mechanic and a host of ridiculous kitchen layouts make for a delightfully frenetic follow-up to a couch co-op favorite.
Like the original, Overcooked 2 takes you from one poorly laid out kitchen to the next, tasking you with cooking as many dishes as possible within a set time limit. Whether alone or with friends, each kitchen poses its own set of problems and hurdles; conveyor belts make basic movement more difficult, floating rafts and hot air balloons cause kitchens to shift under your feet, and the sink is usually nowhere near the dirty plates. It can be hard to figure out how to approach each level, but it's very easy for even the best strategies to devolve into chaos.
Failing is just as fun as success, and Overcooked 2 still serves both the party crowd and more competitive players beautifully. Nothing about cooking is simple except for the controls--each task, like chopping ingredients or washing dishes, requires a single button. The rest is a balancing act that demands precise communication as well as adaptability, because things usually go wrong. The urgent beeping of food that's about to burn can quickly turn into panicked yelling and possibly a fire. It's often a comedy of errors, especially with the max of four people, and successfully serving up dishes at all is a triumph worth celebrating.
Once you get past the initial stress of cooking in a nonsensical kitchen, you can actually start to strategize. With two players, you'll probably put more mental energy toward juggling various tasks, while with more co-chefs, you'll need to be careful not to run into anyone else. There's a very different kind of satisfaction in settling into a groove with your team, timing things perfectly, and maximizing your score. (Plus, calling out "Order up!" just doesn't get old.) It's also an enticing reason to chase higher and higher scores in the arcade mode and challenge another experienced two-person team in the versus mode.
While much of the basic formula remains the same, Overcooked 2 adds the ability to throw raw ingredients. It's a relatively small addition, but it smartly adds to the chaos without overcomplicating it. A block of cheese flying by as you're chopping a tomato makes the kitchen feel more hectic, but it's actually extremely efficient--you can throw meat directly into a frying pan to save time or toss some fish across a moving platform that's blocking your path. Many of the levels take full advantage of the new mechanic, with kitchens split into two parts that intermittently come together. It often makes more sense to station one team member in one part of the kitchen, tossing ingredients over as needed, so you don't run the risk of trapping everyone in one area while things shift.
Overcooked 2 also adds online play, a fine idea that's far less compatible with the best parts of the game. It's a different kind of challenge to cook with limited communication--especially on Switch, thanks to the lack of built-in voice chat--but playing online lacks the urgency of playing with people in the same room. A bit of lag, too, can ruin the flow or cause you to misclick. It's a welcome feature if your co-op partner is far away, though, and better suited for completionists rather than those looking to goof off.
Playing alone is also the domain of completionists, as it's kind of a chore--you switch between two chefs, and it's a matter of smart task management without the fun of communicating and screwing up with other people. While the more complicated kitchens seem impossible to tackle on your own, a lower score threshold means you can still get the full three stars even if you only served a few dishes. Nothing is out of your reach alone, but success just isn't as satisfying.
Overcooked 2 undoubtedly shines in local co-op and the versus arcade modes. New recipes and obstacles provide a fresh challenge for veterans, but it remains approachable for new players with simple controls and short playtimes. The new throwing mechanic, too, adds a new dimension to both strategy and the inevitable chaos without overcomplicating things. It's a strong foundation, and with the right friends, Overcooked 2 is one of the best couch co-op games around.