Being stuck at home isn't always fun, so you have to take the moments of joy wherever you can find them. And lately, with the UK limping through its third major lockdown, I've found rather a lot of those joyful moments playing Overcooked! All You Can Eat on PS5.
If you're unfamiliar, All You Can Eat is a next-gen bundle that brings together all the content from 2016's Overcooked and 2018's Overcooked 2 in a shiny new package for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Developed once again by the folks at Team17, All You Can Eat is a timely reminder of why both of those culinary co-op games were so beloved in the before-times, with a lot of extra bells and whistles added to make them even more enjoyable this time around. (The improvements include 60FPS, 4K resolutions and faster loading times.)
So whether you're new to the franchise or coming back for seconds, here's why we think that Overcooked! All You Can Eat is the perfect game to nourish your soul through lockdown...
A buffet of possibilities
Right now, people around the globe are struggling to find new ways of keeping themselves entertained. With lockdowns stretching on while vaccines roll out, the hunt for engaging content just never seems to end. Of course, this is hardly the biggest problem in the world right now, but lethargy does creep in when you're facing yet another evening at home and haven't got a clue what to do with it.
If your household is anything like mine, you'll be burning through Netflix series at an alarming rate, and you might have already polished off a number of sizeable games since the original lockdowns of March 2020. Heck, you might have even delved back into your DVD collection in search of dust-laden treasures to keep you occupied through the weekends.
If you're beginning to feel a bit burned out by all that, it's time to download Overcooked! All You Can Eat. By packaging together the two original games, all their DLC chapters and some new levels as well, this bundle has amassed an impressive total of over 200 levels.
Even just talking from a logistical perspective, that should be enough to keep you occupied for a very long time. There are multiple worlds to explore, new recipes to learn, avatars to unlock and even those tricky three-star ratings to aim for.
Want more? Well, you can even unlock a fourth star to aim for when you get into New Game Plus at the end. And besides that giant buffet of content, there's also something bigger and more intangible to enjoy...
A pot of purpose
When you're in lockdown, there are so many decisions that you have to make. What should we eat today? What are we going to do this evening? Where can we walk for our daily exercise that we haven't already been a thousand times? And, for some people, how on Earth are we meant to home school these kids?
One of the great joys of playing Overcooked right now is that it tells you what to do. The decision, for once, is out of your hands. If you've played the game before, you'll know that the premise puts you and your co-op pal inside a restaurant's kitchen, where there's always a steady stream of orders that you need to fulfil.
The game tells you what to chop, what to cook, and which orders are most urgent. To be slightly dramatic about it, the game gives you purpose, through a clear list of pre-ordained things to do, which is something that is usually lacking in this listless lockdown life.
For a few glorious minutes at a time, the pressure of real-life decision-making is no longer yours to worry about. You can focus on zipping around the virtual kitchen, contending with each level's unique challenges, and working together with your partner to try and get a high enough score to open up the next level. (Note: the game supports multiplayer online and locally, but you can also play on your own if you prefer.)
Those levels, as pre-existing fans will already know, are pretty much brilliantly designed across the board. From spooky haunted houses to wanderlust-inducing beachside resorts, each level has something uniquely quirky to offer, although it is a wonder how any of these restaurants got planning permission.
A sprinkle of stress
Okay, yes, I know I just said that Overcooked removes the stress of decision-making from your life, but I'd be lying to you if I said that the game was a stress-free zone. In fact, at points, it's quite the opposite. But somehow that's a good thing.
A bit of context might be handy here. My fiancee and I live together, on our own, meaning we've spent the majority of minutes since March 2020 in very close proximity to each other (and literally no one else). We've had highs and lows in that time, but we've pulled together and got each other through this weird year. Like most people, though, we're both carrying a fair bit of worry and uncertainty about the world and the future.
Working as a co-op unit in Overcooked has really helped us blow off some steam. Yes, we've raged at ourselves and each other when things have gone wrong (I'll never hear the end of the incident where Steph wanted a taco and I threw rice at her instead), but we can always laugh at it afterwards. Eventually.
It's been brilliant to have a distraction that we can share, both fully engrossed in the same challenge at the same time. Laughing together, raging together, and forgetting about COVID for a few seconds. It really is soul-nourishing stuff, and we're currently feasting away on a second playthrough! Nom nom nom. Tasty content. Would recommend.
Ooh, one final thing: Any game which has two trophies about petting the dog is alright by me! Did I mention that it's a cute game, too?