It's not a huge stretch to say that Overcooked, the maniacal party game about setting your friend's risotto on fire, might be the best thing Team17 has published since the original Worms games. Unsurprisingly, Overcooked 2 is equally entertaining - provided you have friends.
If you've missed Overcooked, the basic premise is simple: you control one of up to four chefs from a top-down view, handling the various duties of preparing meals in a kitchen. Orders appear at the top of the screen, and you interact with various elements of the kitchen - picking up ingredients, chopping, washing plates, picking up pots, the fire extinguisher - with two buttons.
It's a straightforward game complicated largely by the levels - which place ingredients, plates, conveyor belts, sometimes fire, in awkward places - and for the most part, other people. If you're alone, multi-tasking is the killer, since you can only move one chef at a time.
The original Overcooked offered all of this, in a slightly less feature-filled package. It was still hilariously chaotic, and one of the best couch co-op games of 2016. But there was a very good, very genuine reason why people wouldn't have picked it up.
Unlike the original, Overcooked 2 ships with online co-op out of the box. It's basically the main reason people wouldn't have bought Overcooked in the past: if you didn't have friends around regularly, or people nearby to play with consistently, all Overcooked had to offer was a solo experience.
Overcooked should not be played alone.
It's a flaw the sequel suffers from too. Developers Ghost Town have done a much better job of balancing the levels around multiple player counts. The original Overcooked could be downright impossible with one person, and two people could run into trouble if they weren't well coordinated.
With Overcooked 2, the game is at least a fraction fairer from the off. The levels get progressively harder regardless of whether you're playing solo or with friends, but when playing alone your capacity to manage all of this is greatly reduced.
Eventually, the levels become complex enough that it's simply not fun - or fair - when playing alone. It's not so bad when the levels resemble the original, but once the kitchens become split and you have to start throwing ingredients from side to side and the kitchen starts moving, you're pretty much against it.
A shot of one of the earlier levels, before things get truly chaotic, in solo play.
So Overcooked 2 should really only be enjoyed with friends. That's easier to do with the inclusion of online co-op, and there's also an online versus mode where up to four chefs share a kitchen and battle it out to complete orders as fast as possible. (If you're by yourself, you can still play the versus mode, but you'll be controlling two chefs.)
The online performance, mind you, is a bit hit and miss. The Steam forums are filled with complaints about laggy multiplayer lobbies and dropped connections. Given that Overcooked 2 is essentially a grid-based map, it can be frustrating when you're warping around the map trying to drop an ingredient onto a plate - and not the garbage bin immediately next to it.
So for now, couch co-op will be the most reliable experience. And if you missed out on the original Overcooked, it's absolutely worth picking up. It's a game about the chaos of people, rather than the gameplay itself. That's why it'll always be better as a shared experience, but especially with people you know (and even moreso when you're all in the same room).
If you've already played Overcooked, Overcooked 2 doesn't have quite as much to offer. Being able to throw ingredients is great, but you can't throw plates - which means you get shafted in some instances where the levels shift and there's no way to physically get the finished dish to the pass. The game's also lacking some basic quality-of-life touches: you can't remap buttons on the PC version; co-op play only progresses the career for the lobby host, but not all the other players; and the game doesn't scale particularly well with four chefs in the kitchen.
The developers have announced a New Game+ mode, which will add a fourth star to each level and give some replayability to those who worked their way through the original Overcooked. It's a touch that really should be in the main game, but it's nice that it's being added at all.
Regardless, Overcooked 2 is still good fun. It doesn't have as much to offer to fans of the original, and it's still a horribly imbalanced solo experience. But the game's launch on the Switch (along with all the other platforms) means there should be plenty of people discovering the series for the first time - and for them, many a good night awaits.