Local coop games have been making somewhat of a comeback recently. These games are typically made for console, but with the surge of indie games on steam, anything is possible. Overcooked is one of the best local coop games I have played in quite some time. I feel that this can stack up to the greats, things like Smash, Mario Party, etc. Now this blog is going to be fairly biased when it comes to my opinion of certain games, so obviously take it with a grain of salt. Maybe even a chunk of rock salt if that’s more your style. Anywho, these games have fallen out of the AAA industry as they don’t exactly sell as well as singleplayer games. This is to be expected, as you need 2+ people to play one game on the same machine, so why would both of those players both purchase the game? This goes for many different games, and without any real single player differences (besides the time it takes to do things like chop and cook), there isn’t any reason that it would sell as much as a singleplayer game of the same quality. Now the part where it gets interesting is the praise that this game has gotten over the past couple of months.
For context, Overcooked is a chaotic cooking game that plays best with four local players. I was speaking with somebody from EA who mentioned something called ‘lean back’ and ‘lean forward’ gaming. I can’t remember if that was the exact term he used, but it’s the same essentially and it means exactly what you think it means. They are games where you lean back while playing, implying more casual games versus games while leaning forward imply games that make you ‘try hard’. While I wouldn’t exactly call the chaos of Overcooked a lean back style of game, I still feel that it is not exactly lean forward. That would imply some sense of focus, where the best part of the game, at least for me, is that you cannot focus on anything. The point of all this is that when you are creating a local coop game, you have to think about if the players will interact as one, or interact as their own units who just happen to be working in the same place. This can make the difference between lean forward and lean back and the difference between a good local coop game and a local game with multiple players.
The bad side of local coop are games like rocket league. While this game isn’t known for being a local coop game, it captures the essence of the point I am trying to make anyways. Split screen games typically have this weird concept of having each player play their own game, just with other players. The other players will hardly interact with each other, essentially creating a system where multiple players are playing their own game. This isn’t exactly what I believe the point of a local coop game to be. If the players don’t influence each other’s games, then what is the difference between those players playing on the same screen or playing by themselves back home behind their own screens? Not much. This is where I feel the local coop genre suffers.