There are a few different categories of co-operative video games out there. You’ve got action-heavy loot fests like Diablo 3 and Destiny 2, and then you’ve got more linear, guided experiences of helpful co-operation like Unravel Two or Rayman Legends. A third genre of co-operative video game has emerged in recent years, though, that I like to call “chaotic co-op.” These are games that are designed around presenting 2-4 players with a cavalcade of objectives to meet, timers to squash, and fires to oust as each player shouts over the next to try and get things going as the current level descends into unorganized chaos. It’s a stressful yet rewarding kind of experience spearheaded by the recent smash-hit Overcooked series. A few games are on the horizon that take this familiar formula and knead it into something fresh, but of them all, Bake ‘n Switch seems the most promising.
I was obsessed with this game the second I saw it’s adorable little bun creatures goofing around and devouring each other in last year’s Nintendo Direct. Admittedly, though, I couldn’t quite parse what the gameplay of Bake ‘n Switch entailed through trailers alone. Because of that, I ended up being pretty pleasantly surprised when I got my hands on it at PAX East 2020 and played a few levels with one of the developers. The basic gameplay loop is this: each level has a set of ovens on it, and you’re tasked with depositing specifically requested buns into each oven. These buns are cute little sentient creatures wandering around the level, and if you manage to squish them into each other by tossing one at another or running into a group of them, you’ll create even larger bun buddies.
It’s a simple premise at first, but things get progressively more difficult as Bake ‘n Switch progresses. Eventually, new bun types like dodo bird buns and monkey buns will start appearing, and your ovens will switch their preferred bun after each deposit. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure whatever you toss in is as big as possible. Buns can be lost in the water or ruined by moldy enemies, though, so you need to be careful. You’ll also eventually start to run into levels where there are flavors mixed in. An oven will ask for a watermelon dodo bird, requiring you to bring your birds into a watermelon flavor bath before depositing them.
One of my biggest gripes with the chaotic cooking action of Overcooked is that keeping track of meal recipes and timers often leads to more stress than fun. In Bake ‘n Switch, things can get chaotic and busy incredibly fast, but I never found myself negatively overwhelmed or drained. Instead, the busy atmosphere of a dozen dodo buns wandering around as mold monsters start pouring in next to the watermelon bath, all while I’m trying to navigate around a shifting platform to toss my regular bun into an oven before mold spores deposit a spoiled bun and subtract from my score…is fun as hell. It’s chaotic and messy and sometimes impossible to keep track of, but everything you need to know and handle is a physical on-screen entity, and that change is enough to make even the most frustrating levels incredibly fun and silly.
Bake ‘n Switch is set to come out this Summer, and while the game is designed with co-operative play for up to 4 players in mind, the full release will also feature single-player support and a hectic player versus player mode. I had an incredible time with the short few levels I played at PAX East, so I can’t wait to get baked once the full game arrives.