Last month, Josef Fares promised anyone who grew tired of playing It Takes Two $1000, but they would have to be honest about it and back up their claim. After spending the better part of the week playing the game and getting invested in the experience, I can see why the game’s director would make such a bullish claim but he’s right about not being bored or tired and his bold claim is a testament to how great Hazelight Studios’ new game truly is. After continually building and hyping the co-op experience, the once-popular mechanic has been left behind and where open-world single-player games or massive multiplayer titles reign, it is an experience like Brothers and No Way Out that stand out.
It Takes Two is the story of May and Cody, their daughter Rose, and the toll a divorce takes on a family. And while I may not be married yet, I do know that a relationship is basically a co-op experience between two people. You both have a role to play, and each one of you has a hat to wear for the other when it is needed. The idea behind It Takes Two is so superbly executed and told that it has no filler and no gristle. Somehow, Hazelight Studios has delivered an original experience that goes above and beyond anything else I’ve played in the past 12 months. It has panache and there is nothing else like it out there.
It Takes Two, Baby
Upon learning that her parents are separating, Rose unknowingly turns her parents into dolls with the world around them shifting thanks to The Book of Love, Dr. Hakim, an anthropomorphic book that I’m still unsure can be trusted. From then on, May and Cody are now in the bodies of figurines and together they must navigate their current situation, to get back to the way they were. Playing as diminutive figures, It Takes Two delivers an experience that keeps you guessing what might happen next while providing insight about May and Cody, who want to get home and back to their daughter.
With the help of the Book of Love, you’ll navigate your home which is also bizarrely transformed by the current magical maladies. Just like Hazelight’s previous game, A Way Out, you need a partner to play this game. In either split-screen co-op or online via the Friend Pass, you and a friend (or partner!) will work together to reunite this broken family. And what I enjoyed about the studio’s decision to focus on working with another person, is how each level is designed with two people in mind. In some games, the developers offer alternative methods to get around having to play with another person but not so here, it’s about communication and having the patience to succeed as a team. You only move on when two become one and by sticking to the plan, the game soars by these design choices.
Some early game segments have Cody firing nails that help May navigate by using a hammer to swing from them. Another segment has Cody firing honey that May can then, in turn, use her own tool to explode. Each level offers each parent their own set of tools and skills and discovering them is as much fun as using them within the level. Each level is beautifully rendered with a ton of detail and sometimes simply looking around at your surroundings is worth the moment or two it takes.
Each world you visit comes with its own challenges and skills and by constantly changing what you must use at your disposal, It Takes Two keeps you continually invested. It’s this innovative approach to gameplay that kept me enthralled my entire 12-hour playthrough. Generally, this game is a platformer, and it includes various other elements that you’ll be familiar with, some might be puzzles, others might focus on timing, but the goal is the same: talk to each other to figure this problem out. This marriage of counselling and gameplay is rarely seen, and both May and Cody often bring something unique to each situation they face.
And, because the co-op is fundamental to the story, these scenarios often have a theme, with new tools to help you move forward. However, while I thoroughly enjoyed my time with It Takes Two, there were instances where the difficulty spiked – particularly during boss battles where things quickly turn hectic. In some cases, while I’ve grown to understand the idea behind a boss battle, my partner did not and that leads to some chaotic and frustrating moments.
It Takes Two is a wholly unique experience and it is one you should play with a partner before a friend. There is no other video game out there like it and I can say with confidence you’ll have a blast getting through the story. It Takes Two is an ambitious game that has a ton of great ideas, and while I don’t necessarily believe everything can be worked through with a partner, the situation in this game can get away with being a bit more open-ended in how it approached divorce. From a gameplay standpoint, there is a consistently creative approach to how you solve challenges with your partner and there is no better game to play that uses co-op, and this highly memorable story will make you laugh and even pull at your heartstrings.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]