I’ve been trying to find a way to call the couch co-op task management genre in a single word without calling it Overcookedean. Alas, as it is the gateway franchise to this style of game – I’ll get it out of the way early on. Shakes on a Plane is a bit like Overcooked if you were air-hostesses on crazy planes. To leave it at that would be a gross misjudgement though as some of the best elements of Shakes on a Plane come from when it tries new things with the formula.
One to four players can tackle these crazy challenges that spend the first half of the game introducing you to new mechanics and things to look out for. Each of the characters you can choose from has a special move that helps you on your quest to keep passengers happy on their flight. They’ll ask for food, drink, pudding, rubbish disposal and sick bags. You’ll need to prepare the items and then deliver them in time before the meter on the passenger runs out. The guest will then use the item and want their rubbish put in the bin. It isn’t until that’s done that you can assume they are happy.
To do this you’ll be running between item stations, throwing items between each other and trying to avoid the planes moving parts in each layout. Every level is unique and consists of the most inefficient way to keep passengers happy as possible. You’ll need to overcome these barriers and do it quickly. A few levels into the game, passengers start to get up and mill about in the isles. This means when turbulence hits, if you don’t literally throw them back in their chair in time, they’ll be injured and unhappy. Shakes on a Plane excels at finding new layouts and ways to cause havoc. Flying trolleys, conveyor belts, open hatches and UFO silliness with warp holes – its all here.
To pass a level you just need to collect one star of the three available but sometimes even that is tricky. This is because whilst all happy customers increase your score, unhappy ones decrease it. Thankfully this has been rebalanced a bit since launch making it less harsh but getting three stars from level 10 and beyond is a tricky problem I rarely managed. the ones I did do well on though were the baggage levels. Here instead of serving food, you’ve got to locate luggage for passengers parachuting out the door in time for their drops. This is as much a memory game as it is dexterity and teamwork and was a really welcome switch up. Special abilities can help too although I often forgot to trigger them in the chaos. One character can scream and send everyone in front of her back to their chair. Another can be invincible in a dash for a second. All the moves were handy to use and help a lot when you keep them in mind.
Less handy to use are the controls. Often item stations are close together with tables and trays. You need to use trays to carry multiple food items but often when confronted with things right next to each other, your character picks up the wrong thing in the wrong order. You’ll pick up a tray, then instead of adding the food on, you put the tray down, then pick up the food, put the food down, then pick up the tray and then the food. This weird cycle seemed to happen to us quite often as if the game’s logic struggles to understand the players’ context. When every second counts, you don’t need to button mash extra times to do something. It was so prevalent that we ended up button mashing expecting it and then the game’s logic would work and we’d just pressed too many buttons. Gah.
This brings me to the reality that Shakes on a Plane is great fun to play but it is also a little rough in places. The logic example is one area of roughness. The single player difficulty was another until it was addressed as it was overly hard. The graphics also have some jagged issues at times too which items sometimes getting stuck or falling between tables. Did it make our overall experience poor? No. Did it make us appreciate just how sublime and precise Moving Out, Overcooked 2 and Tools Up are? yes.
Given a little more polish, Shakes on a Plane could easily join the top tier of this genre. At the moment it sits just a little below them but it is still very worthy of your time. The RRP is also at a slightly lower price point too. I take note that patches have been coming out regularly since release and so if they can just tighten the control logic – this will be golden.
Review code provided by publisher.
Shakes on a Plane
Rough around the edges but steadily improving. Fans of couch co-op chaos will enjoy this. Just beware of a few awkward quirks going on and you'll be fine.
Every level is different.
Constantly adds new ideas and challenges into the mix.
Requires co-op tactics to really do well.
Steeper difficulty curve than other couch co-op games in the genre makes it less of a pick up and play.
Some really annoying logic issues with picking up some items.
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