Two Can Make That Wish Come True
HIGH Creative level design, thoughtful writing, and smooth gameplay.
WTF I’m sure Dr. Hakim is a racist stereotype, but I can look past it just this once.
A relationship isn’t something that can be broken down to a science, it’s made up of different moments in time. Some of these moments are filled with a euphoria that words simply cannot describe. Others aren’t so magical, but they’re part of the growth that two people experience as they spend their lives together. It Takes Two, the latest from developer Hazelight (A Way Out) shows us that love is full of ups and downs. However, instead of treating relationships like work, it treats them like an adventure. May and Cody, the main characters of It Takes Two, experience this in more ways than one.
In this 3D platformer, the aforementioned married couple is arguing about their impending divorce. Their young daughter, Rose, is distraught over the idea of her parents splitting up. Deciding she’s had enough of their bickering, Rose reads some passages from a relationship book by a proclaimed “expert on love” Dr. Hakim and cries onto dolls made to resemble her parents, pleading for help to fix their marriage.
Cody and May fall asleep and when they awaken, they’re horrified to discover that they have been turned into Rose’s dolls. Dr. Hakim is also there, personified as a living version of his book. He tells the bickering couple that in order to return to their normal selves, they need to work together to save their marriage and maneuver through their house as miniature versions of themselves.
It Takes Two is a platformer played in co-op. There is no single-player option, meaning that two players are required to play, whether online or in-person. The game is displayed in splitscreen format regardless of whether the players are sharing a TV or connecting online.
As dolls, Cody and May each have common abilities like being able to double-jump, dash, ground-pound, and even grapple onto hooks around the environments. Movement feels fluid, and jumping feels satisfying. However, they will each earn different abilities or tools to help them get through challenges in each level. For example, in the garage area, May is equipped with a hammer’s metal head that allows her to swing from nails, while Cody can launch nails for May from a makeshift quiver. I played as Cody while my partner was May. We had to carefully coordinate how she was going to swing from nail to nail, timing myself to make sure I didn’t call out the nails I shot too early.
Every level introduces new elements that require coordination and proper planning, which we appreciated. It was enjoyable figuring out what It Takes Two wanted us to do and how to progress to the next level, and deviations to the standard platforming formula were appreciated. One moment we might both be controlling a pirate’s ship, while another level turns things into a dungeon crawler. Without spoiling anything, the game continued to introduce some awesome setpieces that kept us on our toes.
While the core gameplay isn’t earth-shattering and might feel similar to modern 3D platformers at times, it refines the systems set by those that came before. Simply moving around in the world just feels so damn good with tight controls when it comes to jumping, grappling, and even grinding on rails. I’m of the opinion that platformers live or die by the strength of how it feels to maneuver in their worlds, and It Takes Two nails it.
Not only was the gameplay dynamic in terms of how it felt and in the variety it offered, but the actual designs of the levels varied in wonderful ways. From a toy castle in a child’s bedroom to an intricately-designed cuckoo clock, I was constantly stunned by the creativity at display. At one point, Cody and May help some warmongering squirrels, and inside their tree were ‘cave’ paintings detailing their origins and relationship with humans. The best part about details like this (and there are many) is that they’re basically optional. Every level is full of interesting distractions that can be interacted with, like a camera that takes pictures of the players or a piggy bank that can be destroyed, but they’re not required. While the levels aren’t massive or open-ended, the amount of interactive elements is ridiculous in the best way.
While we enjoyed these elements, some of the best parts of It Takes Two were the quiet moments in which my partner and I would simply take in the view. Similar to many triple-A cinematic titles, there are moments where we had no choice but to look at how gorgeous the environments were. Just seeing what new vistas would be thrown at us was amazing, and I took plenty of screenshots.
However, despite how great the graphics are, the real stars of the experience were the writing and characters.
May and Cody are bickering parents that we’re supposed to despise (at first) since they do nothing but argue about how much they want to separate, but they eventually grew on us thanks to some sweet dialogue and revelations throughout the narrative. Some might see it as manipulative since it’s intentionally reaching for the heartstrings, but I’d like to think that the narrative is a bit smarter than that, opting to forego cynicism while focusing on telling a genuine and human love story. In a way, it takes elements of films like Scenes From a Marriage and Marriage Story — both films are dramatic and emotional portrayals of divorce that hit hard, but it takes those themes and packs them all in a humorous, lovely package.
In the five years that I have been with my partner, we’ve rarely played the same games together. Sure, we’ll hop on Fortnite from time to time or even have an Animal Crossing date, but to go through a story-driven adventure all about relationships from start to finish was something special. It Takes Two is not only a wonderful co-op experience, it’s a genuine masterpiece of platforming and interactive storytelling. Every moment my partner and I were playing this game was filled with pure joy, and it became the perfect way to cap off our days for the last few weeks.
It Takes Two is arguably one of the greatest games I’ve played in years.
Disclosures: This game is published by Electronic Arts and developed by Hazelight Studios. It is currently available on PS4/5, XBOX One,X/S, PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5 and PS4. Approximately 20 were played in co-op and the game was completed. There is no single-player.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated T for Animated Blood Comic Mischief Fantasy Violence and Language The site states: This is a co-op adventure game in which players follow a divorcing couple through a fantasy adventure. Players work together with a magical book to break a spell that has turned them into dolls. Players solve puzzles, traverse whimsical environments, and battle fantastical enemies (e.g., wasps, moles, UFOs, vacuum cleaners). Players use blaster-type weapons, as well as melee weapons to defeat enemy creatures. Fighting is highlighted by cries of pain, explosions, and some gunfire. Characters are sometimes impaled by nails, and enemies often emit multicolored splashes when struck; purple blood stains are also seen on the ground. Vomiting and flatulence references occur several times (“Pull my finger”; “Oh, I think I’m gonna throw up”; “Fart jokes are the best.”); some characters emit flatulence for comedic effect. The word “sh*t” appears in the dialogue.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are present, as well as the option to toggle closed captioning and backgrounds for them. While they cannot be adjusted, I would say this game is perfectly accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable but there is a control diagram.
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10/10 game – best platformer in a long time
It’s definitely up there in my rankings of games in the genre
In Brad’s monthly game column he mentioned the elephant scene. I haven’t played the game, but I watched the scene on YouTube. Did you have the same adverse reaction that Brad had, or did you find that it fit in with the game. Seeing it out of context, I admit it was kind of disturbing.
My partner and I were absolutely horrified by that scene. To put it into perspective:
SPOILERS FOR CALL OF DUTY MODERN WARFARE (2019)
There’s a scene in MW (2019) where players hold a child at gunpoint to extract information from a terrorist. That felt tame compared to what players were forced to do to Cutie in It Takes Two.
Still love the game though!
Thanks for the perspective and the review!