Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
March 27, 2021
Coming from the brilliant and sometimes bizarre mind of Josef Fares and his talented team at Hazelight Studios is the whimsical cooperative adventure, It Takes Two. The game propels its players into a magical and heartfelt world of ever-changing environments and gameplay mechanics. The game also continues Hazelight’s trend of creating mandatory cooperative experiences, with 2018’s A Way Out proving the formula can absolutely work. It Takes Two doesn’t just embrace that formula however, it finds a way to perfect it with so much vibrancy and life. Get your coop partner ready because there’s a world of wonder awaiting.
It Takes Two tells the tale of a family in the midst of breaking. Cody and May’s relationship lacks love, and their young daughter isn’t quite enough to keep them together. But when their daughter finds out about the split, her tears make something magical happen, and Cody and May find themselves in the body of two of their daughter’s dolls. Cody and May then have to embark on a grand adventure facilitated by a talking book of love where they have to learn to repair their relationship in order to regain control of their real bodies.
The game’s narrative feels very much like a Pixar movie. It’s heartfelt and wondrous yet easily digestible for a young audience. Whilst the game may not quite hit the emotional highs of a Pixar movie, what we do get is an incredible playground for the player to explore with a whole slew of exciting moments and fun gameplay elements.
It Takes Two needs to be played cooperatively. This is a game where each player will control one of either Cody or May with both needing to be present to progress. Whether you’re playing locally or online, a split down the screen will mean you can always see what both characters are doing at any given moment. It’s a bold decision and one that allows the game to do things unlike any other. With the ability to invite a friend to join you on your adventure even if they don’t own the game themselves, It Takes Two finds a way to be as accessible and playable as possible whilst still mandating cooperative gameplay.
Cody and May find themselves shrunk down and exploring environments within and around their house. Things pretty quickly move into the extraordinary as you begin to embrace special powers and interact with what use to be inanimate objects now imbued with personality. This is your house and everything in it, whilst ridiculous, relates back and lines up with your lived experiences. An abandoned vacuum cleaner will be frustrated that they were never fixed and instead replaced, now furious with Cody and May and posing a threat to our newly shrunken protagonists. Our heroes will bicker about whose fault it is and you suddenly realise how neatly everything ties together. The game’s narrative ties in with the environment which is in sync with the thematic elements, mood and even gameplay. Everything correlates and it’s here where the game is able to achieve some seriously impressive and cohesive feats of storytelling.
Even if the narrative sounds a bit too Disney cartoon for your liking, you’ll no doubt find yourself absorbed into this world regardless. The game plays (primarily) like a third-person, 3D platformer with our protagonists solving puzzles, traversing perilous platforms, working together and uncovering more and more impressive environmental details. Each area is themed around a lesson that needs to be learned with new gameplay mechanics constantly being introduced to the players. What’s best is that Cody and May will have access to different tools, meaning the gameplay is different depending on the character you’ve chosen. It’s really unique and opens up the perfect opportunity for a second playthrough as the other character.
One area may give Cody access to nails that he can fling out and pin to walls whilst May has a hammerhead that she can use to swing on said nails and cover greater platforming distances. Communication is key as you work together to complete the game’s sequences and unlock new and wacky tools to play with. The whole time you’re progressing a story and unravelling more about Cody and May and what it is that killed their relationship.
I really like our two protagonists. They are both interesting characters who are well voice acted and have multiple dimensions to their personality. They are both flawed but still likable and at no point did I find myself taking a side when they argued. Other characters are introduced as the game progresses, most notably the aforementioned book of love who is a frequently appearing character, but it’s ultimately Cody and May who give the game agency and push things along. I also liked how the game bucks a few gender stereotypes too when dealing with their relationship, with May being the over-worker providing for the family whilst Cody does more of the homely duties and child-raising. I do wish I had as much of an attachment for the daughter character as I do for Cody and May, especially considering so many of the game’s emotional moments revolve around her. Unfortunately she is a bit too one-dimensional and can feel as though she’s used more as a storytelling device than as a real character.
It Takes Two does an incredible job of creating gorgeous and imaginative landscapes. You’ll constantly find yourselves in new and magical places, all of which are grounded somehow in reality. You’ll be adventuring through Cody’s garden one minute, inside a snowglobe on the mantel the next, then exploring a gear-filled world inside a grandfather clock. You’ll find yourself in awe as you just take in the world around you. Everything is not only beautiful but so imaginative and creative. There is a life and vibrancy to everything that creates a huge sense of joy as a player. And that joy never really fades as you go from one breathtaking moment to another.
Whilst there’s definitely some linearity to the environments, there’ll be many locations that open up and allow you to explore a bit more freely. You won’t find collectables or anything as equally meaningless in these areas. Instead, these open areas are filled with unique things you’ll just want to uncover, see, and interact with. Challenges are littered all around It Takes Two that let you and your coop buddy go head-to-head as you race, shoot, or volleyball your way to victory. There’s just so many of these cool challenges and other meaningful little details scattered about that you’ll want to explore thoroughly.
“The detail and depth put into every small aspect of It Takes Two is beyond commendable. It’s honestly flabbergasting.”
Speaking of little details, It Takes Two is so polished and intricate it’s astounding. Every little interaction, every character, every animation is just so fun and well thought out. Cody and May are different characters and so everything from the way they run to the way they turn a wheel is different. The animation variety is so impressive and cooky it just makes you smile from ear to ear. The detail and depth put into every small aspect of It Takes Two is beyond commendable. It’s honestly flabbergasting.
The game doesn’t just excel on an aesthetic level either. The moment to moment gameplay is super enjoyable. You instantly have access to not only a double jump but a dash as well which makes bouncing around the environments super fun. Traversal is always enjoyable whether you’re on foot, swimming, grinding rails, grappling around or flying through the air. The gameplay constantly shifts and adapts. It really is a game that embraces multiple genres with moments of dungeon-crawler, rhythm game, fighting game and more being peppered throughout the experience. It Takes Two keeps you on your toes and there’s never a dull moment. It knows exactly how to keep the player entertained and intrigued with moments of lunacy, warped perspective, speed, emotion and more.
- An incredible world to explore
- Two likable protagonists
- So many impressive little details
- Cohesion between gameplay and narrative
- So much vibrancy and wonder
- Doesn't quite hit the emotional climaxes
It Takes Two is a one-of-a-kind experience. There is a joy and whimsy to the entire game and so much variety it’ll keep players entertained and surprised from beginning to end. The world is so detailed and gorgeous and the cohesion between storytelling and gameplay is incredibly impressive. It’s the kind of game that proves there’s still plenty of room for innovation in games. I can’t wait to see what this studio does next and I hope they continue this trend of elaborative cooperative experiences.