After our failed first attempt at Overcooked's last level, I looked at my girlfriend and said "I think something's wrong".
That's how far we were from beating it. The clock ran out on us as the last of four furious rounds of chopping, heating, and frying was just beginning. We hadn't exactly breezed through the previous levels, but I was convinced we had simply missed something. There was no way that a party game would throw down a gauntlet like this.
The perfect boss battle appears impossible the first time you play it. But because it's a video game and not real life you know it can be done, and you already have all the tools to do it. So you marvel at that first defeat because the people who made it are showing you how much better you have to be. The perfect boss battle tests all the skills the game has taught you up to that point. It forces you to combine every major mechanic from previous levels and pits you against a seemingly invincible adversary. You fail over and over again. But with each subsequent attempt, you refine your process. The enemy health bar gets a little shorter. You make it one cover point further.
There are a lot of icy onions on that frozen river bed. Also corpses.
These are the things that Overcooked executes so well in its final challenge. You have to prepare almost every dish you've made throughout the game (sorry burritos, you were missed) and do it for what feels both like an eternity and the blink of an eye. You've become used to 4 or 5 minute sessions of frantic food prep, but the last level asks you to experience that anxiety for over 11 minutes.
Around the 4th or 5th try I had regained some hope. I checked the clock after each round of cooking, and somehow we always went a little faster than our previous attempt. It was like shaving seconds off your best lap time in a racing game, only there are two people driving the same car and you're desperate not to be the one that runs both of you into a ditch.
On the final run, there was over a minute left when I threw the last plate of food into that giant meatball monster's mouth. I was stunned in a way that reminded me of our first attempt, when the clock ran out and there was so much left to do. I felt a sense of a satisfaction and accomplishment that I almost never get with video games anymore. As a bonus I got to share the whole experience with someone sitting right next to me.
You can watch a lot of Overcooked streams and mostly what you'll see is people alternating between screaming and laughing. The game seems designed around creating chaos and confusion. What it delivers, provided you're willing to put in the effort, is an incredible cooperative experience that rewards your patience with it and your fellow players.