Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale serves up four-player cooperative action on Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift today. Should you grab your apron? Find out in our Cook-Out review!
You might not hear it over the racket of rhythm games, but VR has a secret love affair with the cooking genre. It seems like every other week we’re hearing about a new indie hopeful, looking to claim the crown as a proper Overcooked replacement for headsets. Of all of them, though, Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale comes closest to earning a Michelin Star. Or four of them.
Cook-Out’s four-player cooperative campaign deftly handles the delicate balance between hectic fun and overwhelming mess. The objective is simple; orders come in and you must stack the right ingredients in the right order, serving them up before diners get impatient. In execution, of course, it’s anything but basic, getting players to shout over each other as the orders mount, time runs thin and, in all likelihood, something catches on fire.
But, more importantly, Cook-Out is a thoughtful, VR-first take on what’s become a staple party game formula, switching out mad dashes across kitchen floors for expedited physicality. Onions must be chopped, dishes scrubbed and plates aligned with both precision and haste. These are all actions that would be allocated a simple button press in a traditional game, but take on a hurried new form in VR. Things start out reassuringly manageable, with simple orders that are quickly handled. Level-by-level, though, new and more chaotic elements are introduced.
New types of customers bring increasingly stressful demands. Werewolves, for example, order huge piles of food that make filling an order a war of attrition, while cats require their sandwiches to be perfectly aligned, getting you to place ingredients on plates with care. Eventually, you’ll encounter raccoons that are out to steal food and unlock dish-cleaning and food-grilling mechanics. It isn’t long, then, before the game reaches the desired level of riotous anarchy, with tensions and voices rising, escalating into shrieks of panicked commands and cries of concern as timers run down. Every time it threatens to tip over into oblivion, though, there are time-saving potions that speed up chopping or washing to help you out – a handy if slightly inelegant solution to sudden difficulty curves.
What works best in VR is the silly stuff. It’s hilarious to toss toasted bagels onto plates, steal ingredients from other players and fire projectile ketchup across the room. To that point, it’s a shame more gold hasn’t been mined by adding more cooking elements beyond chopping and grilling, too. Flipping pancakes, spit-roasting meat or peeling vegetables – there are plenty of other interactions that could have made Cook-Out all the richer. As it stands, though, there is a hearty recipe for fun here.
Developer Resolution Games is no stranger to the joys of casual VR multiplayer of course, but what places Cook-Out above last year’s also-enjoyable Acron is structure. There’s not just a set of party modes in place here but a full, multi-hour campaign across three main areas with a healthy number of levels, each with three separate stages to perfect. Cook-Out doesn’t risk falling into the same trap so many other VR party games do – a fun core mechanic with no longevity to anchor it – there’s plenty of reasons to return here to see the story through to completion. And, after that, there are the expected extras like an Endless Mode to enjoy too.
It’s best seen – and most cohesive – with four players, but you can make do with a party of two or three. Solo-play with an AI companion is an option but rather defeats the point a bit.
Even with all these elements, what Cook-Out doesn’t quite have is the erratic unpredictability of Overcooked, a game where new environmental designs twisted the core mechanics on their head on a routine basis. Different types of customers might have different demands for their dishes, but each still requires the same basic process, and I can’t help but wonder what kind of game Cook-Out would be if its physics adhered more closely to the laws of nature, having you accidentally slice the tops off of ketchup bottles or maybe even making sure you don’t catch your own fingers when using a knife. Needless to say, there’s plenty to build on from this solid foundation.
Where it does match its clear inspirations is its aesthetic. Cook-Out boasts a fun fairytale of a kitchen, with appreciated details fleshing out the world around you. Werewolves overbear on you menacingly with hungry grins, while rabbits straight out of Wonderland impatiently wait on food. As you play you’ll unlock new cosmetics for your knife, leading up to a disturbingly demonic cleaver.
Cook-Out Review Final Impressions
Cook-Out has all the ingredients for a good time in social VR, then, even if it isn’t especially original. A hectic, multi-hour campaign anchors some of the most engaging, demanding and frantically brilliant party gameplay you’ll find in VR. I wish it had gone deeper with its best ideas and embraced the platform more holistically, but you won’t find a better tribute to Overcooked anywhere else inside a headset. Compliments to the chef.