Title: It Takes Two
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Release Date: March 26, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Genre: Action Platformer
I’m not a co-op kind of gamer. I’m very independent and feel like single-player experiences are just more rewarding. Admittedly, I know who game director Josef Fares is from his incredible live speeches at events, but I’ve actually never attempted to play one of his games.
When it comes to the newest game from Hazelight Studios, It Takes Two; my non-gamer girlfriend saw some charm in the presentation. So I used this as a chance to do one of two things, get me to be better at working as a team and get her more interested in video games.
It Takes Two wastes little time letting you know exactly what’s going on when a married couple, Cody and May, bicker about their planned divorce as their daughter, Rose, listens from afar. In these opening moments, the parents seem aged and void of much-needed emotion. They may have loved each other at one point, but that love doesn’t seem to present now.
Rose clearly doesn’t want this to happen, which leads her to make a wish on a pair of dolls she created in the image of her parents. After reading a self-help book from a love guru named Dr. Hakim, she wants her parents to find the love that they have lost over the years. A few tears later, and Cody and May wake up in the bodies of these dolls.
Cody and May are the driving force of this adventure, and their goal is to ultimately try and get their daughter’s attention so that they can turn back into their normal bodies. However, the magic that created them has also distorted the world in some pretty magical ways. Nothing is straightforward, and their items begin to come alive around them. It’s fun to watch them deal with this and come to terms with what they must do.
The characters now seem completely different compared to their real-life counterparts. Cody is goofy and thrill-seeking, while May is serious and focused on solving problems. It actually got to the point where my partner and I switched characters because she related more to Cody’s personality.
In retrospect, they needed these differences to show that they aren’t similar, even if they were at one point. We expect them to come together, but the story doesn’t really shove this in your face. Sure, they argue and say little jabs here and there, but they understand they need to work together. It’s this part of the narrative that makes it really impactful. Working together isn’t the problem; it’s the “getting along” part that needs the guidance of Dr. Hakim. Maybe they aren’t mutually exclusive, but I enjoy this direction far more than both of them trying to grab the same fuse, and they accidentally touch hands and remember what love is.
Gameplay requires two people, and that’s just that way this game is. You either control May or Cody, and then your off through several stages to get Rose’s attention and find your way back to your body. Early stages can drag only because they all take place in a shed that seems to overstay its welcome. However, the game eventually opens up, and we see how the magic has affected the outside world.
To mix things up, each stage has a different gimmick where players can shoot and swing on nails, blow up walls, and so on. These actions require both players to cooperate, and the game gets pretty creative to make this happen. You will constantly encounter new obstacles, some of which are only used once, creating a funhouse of challenges.
It Takes Two is also a platformer. This is perhaps the only portion of the game that can become a little shaky. It’s really tough to judge distance, so you’ll constantly be jumping off the edge or accidentally walking into the water to make jumps, and the camera plays a part in these steps as well. However, it technically doesn’t matter because there are no consequences for dying. Each time you fall, you’ll be transported to the ledge to try again.
The level of difficulty slowly increases throughout the stages. It Takes Two has a childish appeal, but the narrative and some encounters can become pretty mature. The difficulty ramps up during boss battles, which was a little surprising. These bosses are no doubt fun, but they require some real teamwork and communication between players at times as they become harder and harder throughout the fight.
I really enjoyed the environment of It Takes Two. They can lean almost too far into the fantasy realm, but this is a gorgeous game. Navigation feels natural, and I was never scratching my head on how to continue. Everything is telegraphed to the player so that you know exactly what to do to continue.
During the adventure, players can also take some time to play a few mini-games. These are optional challenges that don’t overstay their welcome and only lend to enhance this couple’s competitive nature. They are each clever, and I appreciated the added events to detract from the main story.
That said, the main narrative can be painful at times for those who can relate to their parents drifting apart. As a kid, you want to understand it, but you also can’t help but be selfish and want everything to go your way. As my first co-op experience in a long time, I had to learn patience and understanding. Something I typically don’t have to worry about in a single-player game: however, I saw my partner rise to the challenge, and through the lives of this couple at their end, I found new reasons to appreciate the relationship I was in.
It Takes Two is a beautiful and exciting co-op experience, that can potentially mean so much more for those who relate to this premise. Working together is not always the issue in a relationship, sometimes you just don’t get along. Across all the jumps, boss battles, and deadly puzzles, we get to witness this couple’s journey. From this, we also learn a few pointers on teamwork and having a ton of fun along the way.
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