When Overcooked released last year it surprised everyone with its addictive cooperative gameplay and cooking antics – and it scooped a Eurogamer Recommended review. It’s a great little game – one that felt like a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch. Now, almost one year after its original launch date, Overcooked has finally made its way to Nintendo’s console hybrid platform. Unfortunately, the end results are – dare we say it – somewhat undercooked.
That’s not to say that there aren’t good points to the Switch release. Docked mode delivers a full 1080p image that closely matches existing versions of the game. Visually speaking, Overcooked isn’t the most complex game but it’s nice to see that it even matches the PC version when it comes to presentation, with only a slight reduction in shadow quality. It boasts a simple, clean design that holds up nicely whether you’re playing on an HDTV or in mobile mode, where – as expected – the game shifts to a native 720p pixel-count. Also worthy of praise is the developer’s implementation of the HD rumble feature on the Joycons, which works well when chopping ingredients.
Unfortunately, beyond that, things trail off quickly. Overcooked on Switch currently suffers from some serious performance problems. It never runs at anything approaching a consistent frame-rate, and there are two key issues here that compromise the title’s fluidity. First up, while Overcooked targets 30 frames per second (in line with other console releases), it spends the overwhelming majority of its time well below that level. In fact, most of the game is played at roughly 23-24fps and only in very select instances do we see results that come close to holding 30fps.
While the gameplay seems simple, the reality is that Overcooked is very fast-paced and requires precision movement to trigger the actions. At a higher, more stable frame-rate it feels great to play. Fast and responsive, it’s easy to quickly juggle tasks and earn those stars. However, on Switch, the inherent jerkiness interferes with this aspect of the gameplay and it becomes more difficult to smoothly transition between jobs. Picking ingredients out from the bin is easy but targeting them and engaging with them really isn’t. That’s the main issue here then – the gameplay just isn’t smooth enough.
The second problem, though, is one inherent to the game. Even on PC, there is an issue here with judder. We’ve seen this unfixable issue in smaller scale games like Grow Home, Roundabout, Galak-Z, Syberia 3, Ziggurat and the like – Overcooked is simply a part of the judder club. Now, in the case of Switch, we have that same judder compounded by the introduction of bad frame-pacing. When you combine the performance drops, judder and bad frame-pacing into a single recipe the results aren’t good: even in those rare moments when the game does manage to reach its target frame-rate, the experience just isn’t very smooth.
The results here are disappointing and it’s perhaps easy to jump to conclusions about the fact that the title runs on Unity, a game engine that has historically been associated with performance issues in certain console titles. Yes, Undercooked is a Unity-powered game, but based on discussions with other developers working with Unity on the Switch, most of them are seeing good results. Super Bomberman R is an interesting example as well – it launched at 30fps, albeit a stable 30fps, but was later patched to target 60fps gameplay. Yes, the resolution was dropped a little but the massive gain in performance really enhanced the experience. Snipperclips is another Switch title on Unity that runs very smoothly, by and large.
It’s examples like this that leave us with some hope. We first saw Overcooked running on Switch back at EGX Rezzed earlier this year and that build was significantly worse than the final product. That’s often true with early software, of course, but we’re talking results that appeared 50 per cent slower than the final release. We contacted Team 17 about the issues in the current build of the game and we were told that the developers are “currently working on an update to improve the frame-rate issues folks have been seeing and [we’re] hoping to roll out any changes as soon as we’re able to.”
So that’s that situation right now: to put it frankly, Overcooked on Switch isn’t in a great spot and it’s hard to recommend a release that really should have had its performance issues addressed before release, not after. However, if the development team can correct and improve upon these issues, this could wind up being a good version of a recommended title but for now, we’d consider looking towards other systems to see this cool game running at its best.