It’s rare that I get to play video games with other people, but there’s little I enjoy more than sitting on the couch with a few friends, controllers in hands. Online multiplayer may be making games much more accessible, but it’s just not the same thing as being in the same room.
Unfortunately for those of us that prefer our multiplayer a little more “in person”, there aren’t a whole lot of options. So with that here we are, some of my favourite local multiplayer, or “couch co-op” games.
Steam, PS4, Xbox
Overcooked at it’s most basic is a simple construction game. Each level you are given a growing list of orders, a time limit, and a basic recipe. You need to pull ingredients from boxes, prepare them, cook them, and then serve them up to get a nice tip. It sounds simple, until you find yourself working in a kitchen spread across three high speed trucks. That’s when you’ll need to quickly work out a plan to enable you and your team to work effectively.
You’ll start off gentle. The early levels have some buffer time that means a wasted tomato here and there isn’t the worst thing in the world, but that changes quickly. It will be up to you whether it’s best to have set roles for each person working an assembly line, or if it’s better for everyone to take charge and do whatever they think is most important at the time.
The zen-like peace that comes with your group finishing a level with such perfection that you might as well be telepathic is just as satisfying as the hilarity that ensues when things just refuse to go right. Keep in mind that while the game does encourage you to work as a team to achieve the goals, there will undoubtedly still be frantic swearing and hurt feelings.
N++ doesn’t really have a narrative, and there is nothing to do in except run, jump, flick a switch, collect some gold, and then exit the level. The problem is the spikes, robots, and many falls from great heights that come in between.
N++ is a fun and tricky single player game, but when you add another player things get even more complicated. Some levels put both of you in the same space so you essentially have two chances to get through the level, but other levels have you in different chambers. These levels rely on one player flicking switches and opening doors to enable the other player to get through the level. Communication, planning and speed is a must.
You will die. Repeatedly. Sometimes because you stepped on a mine, sometimes because you’ve held the kill button down for five minutes out of pure frustration. But this is a great bonding game for two people to work through. While you will definitely die many, many times, by the end of it you’ll be better off for it.
PS4, Xbox, PC
Co-op is an interesting beast when it comes to Spelunky. While it’s true that all players are working towards the same goal, you’re not on equal footing. Player one is marked with a white flag, indicating that they are controlling the camera. Other players need to stay close enough to player one to remain on screen, because if you are off screen for too long you die mysteriously. Because of this it’s a little like the other players need to put their faith in player one, and player one needs to remember to look after their teammates (don’t speed ahead, make sure the group is staying together, etc).
Contrary to what some people say it is entirely possible to play through the entire game start to finish in the co-op mode, but you do need to be in a special kind of sync with the person you’re playing with if you want to do it successfully.
In a game like Spelunky damaging and even killing team members is surprisingly easy. Everybody has a whip, bombs, and the ability to throw stones in confined spaces. While some of the best fun we’ve had has been in free-for-alls throwing each other off of ledges, if you’re going to work through the game properly then then communication and respect for other players is a must.