It Takes Two is a co-operative platforming adventure that follows a dysfunctional couple as they seek to return to their normal bodies and reunite with their daughter.
The failings of relationships are seldom depicted in games. The handsome hero is often slowly but surely working his way towards earning a sexy sweetheart right before the credits roll. Unless it’s done for dramatic poignancy, the realistic obstacles of modern-day relationships are avoided in favour of a more alluring power fantasy.
It Takes Two seeks to address such clichés, using the boiling tension between its lead protagonists – Cody and May – as the driving force behind its charming mixture of drama and comedy. What drives this bickering couple apart is ultimately what will pull them back together again, as they seek to recognise the flaws that once irked them in favour of achieving something greater.
After playing the opening hours, It Takes Two is a wonderfully imaginative romantic comedy with some ingenious platforming ideas, even if its core narrative ethos falls into the realm of saccharine at times. Hazelight has taken the inconsistencies that brought down A Way Out to create something much greater here, and I can’t wait for the full experience.
It Takes Two is a platforming adventure with a creative new twist
- From the creators behind A Way Out and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
- A co-op platforming adventure where you work together to defeat enemies and save puzzles
- Pitches itself as a romantic comedy as this dysfunctional couple must work together
Hazelight has never nailed realistic protagonists, with its vocal performances often coming across as poorly delivered or woefully clichéd in equal measure. It seems to recognise such flaws with It Takes Two, as the opening moments use such foils to set up its platforming mishaps with ease. Cody and May are a couple who are preparing to divorce, deciding to let their young daughter know at the dinner table.
The young girl rushes to the family’s absurdly large shed and opens a tome known as “The Book of Love” – which, in typical fairytale fashion, comes to life as she bursts into tears upon its pages. Unfortunately, the personified book is an obvious stereotype who struts and jives across the screen while offering nonsensical advice to our dual protagonists. I’d burn him on a fire, if I could.
Once the book comes to life, our heroes awaken alongside it, finding themselves now made of wood, wool and other trinkets. Once said circumstances sink in, Cody and May seek to reunite with their daughter and let them know that everything will be okay. It won’t – her parents are getting divorced – but a bit of comfort never hurt nobody. From here, it’s off to the platforming races.
From its opening moments, It Takes Two establishes itself as a truly unique take on the genre. Much like A Way Out before it, this is a game that can only be played cooperatively. A solitary playthrough is impossible, with the screen being constantly split between you and your partner, showing where you are in the world to assist with coming puzzles and platforms. It’s a brilliant idea, and has never been done this well before.
Each player has their own unique items and weapons in each new level
The opening level takes place within the family shed, which is a sprawling labyrinth of tools, boxes and shelves. It’s a perfect tutorial environment, encouraging you to experiment with obstacles in a way that complements It Takes Two’s cooperative nature. For example, an opened can turned on its side is present immediately after I take control, and my first instinct is to jump inside and start running like it’s a makeshift hamster wheel.
I’m rewarded by dynamic movement, the speed of which is only increased as my co-op partner hops in and runs alongside me. It’s so satisfying, and a positive sign of things to come in It Takes Two. After gathering a handful of fuses and restoring power to the shed, we stumble upon two tools that define this opening section – a nail and head of a hammer.
Each character is given a key item throughout each level that complements the other. I used my hammer to strike switches and other items, oftentimes hoisting up platforms for my friend to jump upon. On the flip-side, his nails can be used as temporary swinging posts, perfect for jumping onto with the claw of my hammer to reach new areas.
It’s a true lightbulb moment as you decipher exactly what your new tools are capable of, and how well they gel with the environment in which each level exists. While the opening stage is fairly pedestrian in terms of its visual aesthetic, things quickly take a turn for the spectacular. The second level is situated within a tree, which twists a typical back garden accessory into a genuinely magnificent world of unparalleled scale.
The world uses its miniature design to create some truly grand spaces to explore
- The shrunk circumstances of our heroes result in some excellent level ideas
- Most levels provide each player with a unique mechanic to play with
- Each stage is filled with bold and unexpected new ideas
Within the wooden confines exists a civil war between hardened squirrels and swarming wasps, battling for territory they both wish to call home. The parents are worshipped as gods, or scorned as invaders who came in to take over a once prosperous land. It’s a compelling piece of mythology that gives exploration of this space far deeper meaning, with walls decorated with ageing polaroids, ancient paintings and stolen items from the house.
The squirrels are depicted as grumpy military veterans who have been fighting this war for years, while the wasps are saintly figures who worship a false sense of royalty. It turns out their Queen is a squirrel in disguise, and it’s your job to infiltrate the hive and put a stop to this charade. What follows is one of the most imaginative platforming adventures I’ve had in years – and, yes, that also includes ones made by Nintendo.
I’m armed with an explosive rifle, while my partner is in possession of a launcher capable of firing flammable sap onto wasps and other items. Together, we can produce an endless display of explosions that are used for both solving puzzles and dispatching evil stingers. Combining our repertoire of powers together feels intuitive within seconds, with It Takes Two feeling like a breeze to play in almost every way.
Movement does feel floaty at first, but it quickly lends itself to the sharp reactions required to avoid enemy attacks and survive in boss battles, which match the pace of titles such as NieR: Automata. Cody and May flip about the environment with absurd athleticism, posing a level of challenge I honestly wasn’t expecting. Given its subject matter, a difficulty setting that does away with the consequences of death would be most welcome for gaming newcomers.
A platforming adventure you can only experience with another player
Outside of the main path you’ll find optional mini-games that pit Cody and May against each other in some deviously creative competitive outings. They’re over in a matter of minutes, encouraging replay value as you desperately try to hit targets or compete in fictional arcade titles alongside your distant partner. The chemistry and dialogue exhibited by Cody and May during these sequences reinforce their tumultuous relationship, and provide hints that perhaps there’s room for them to come back together.
Each character having a clearly defined role that can’t exist without the other is sheer brilliance, particularly in the face of a narrative that constantly plays off the fact that Cody and May are planning to go their separate ways. Part of me is worried that It Takes Two will have a picture-perfect ending without any realistic portrayal of relationships, but considering the overall tone, perhaps that’s the right thing to do.
During some moments, the split-screen motif will move aside as you both simultaneously control a vehicle or take on a screen-filling boss. Situations such as this are few and far between, but are definite highlights. My preview build concluded as we both controllers a miniature aeroplane as he soared towards the house, falling to pieces until nothing but a vulnerable frame remained.
It Takes Two is some of the most fun I’ve had with a game this year. Me and my partner screamed with endless delight at its conveyor belt of cute, innovative ideas for a genre that seldom tries new things outside of a few beloved exceptions.
I’ve only played two levels, but Hazelight has already exhibited more creativity that many other titles achieve in their entirety. In terms of multiplayer platforming adventures, this could set a new benchmark for the medium.