Co-op play is nothing new to the video game industry, but it can be argued that nobody makes it as integral to the game itself as the folks over at Hazelight Studios. The same folks that gave us A Way Out and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is stepping up to the plate once more with It Takes Two, and the team has hit a definite homerun here.
Taking the guise of a platformer, It Takes Two is more than just your average game about overcoming obstacles and solving puzzles. The game manages to cramp in some valuable life lessons as well, alongside a variety of gameplay ideas that shine at every turn. There is not a single moment where you are not having fun in this co-op platformer, and it is a rare gem of a game.
A story about divorce and its fallout told through a unique perspective; It Takes Two stars the pint-sized pair of Cody and May. Struggling to get through their marriage and motoring down the path to divorce, the couple is magically shrunk into dolls made by their daughter Rose and embarks on a quest to save themselves, and ultimately, their marriage.
The journey takes place throughout the estate of the Goodwin family, starting from the garden shed, the surrounding lush greenery to the amazing realised self-contained worlds that are found in the interior of the house. Think Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, but only if every scene is balls-out insane and trippy, yet always remain an engaging session of fun and entertainment.
Whether you are trying to shoot nails and hammer down obstacles in the shed, fighting against the infectious invaders in the greenhouse, enjoying a bout of Diablo-like isometric action role playing, or anything in between, players are constantly reminded of the creativity and brilliance of the Hazelight team in meshing all of these ideas together.
Every experience is always fresh, there is no recycling of mechanics, and there are always fun surprises to find in the various worlds teeming with extraordinary life. However, that would matter little if the actual movement and actions in It Takes Two do not match up.
To little surprise, every move you make in It Takes Two feels stupendous, with the core platforming being a delight no matter where you find yourselves. The repertoire of dashing and double-jumping is always dependable in all cases. At the same time, the game truly shines when it introduces complementary abilities that enable both Cody and May to play differently yet remain essential to each other.
Hazelight has not tried implementing co-op play in areas that do not make sense. Essentially, the entirety of It Takes Two works only because it makes two-player co-op so much better and central to the entire experience.
As an example, early on in the game, Cody obtains the ability to fling nails into surfaces, either holding objects in place, or allowing May to use her hammer to swing across. Later, Cody becomes a master of manipulating time forwards and backwards. With May’s ability to clone herself and instantly teleport, it makes for another special way in which two players have to cooperate to progress the game.
It is not just environment puzzles and platforming sections; even boss fights make use of these various abilities and quirks that the pair bring to the table. While there are certain times where a character may have to wait on the sidelines a little bit, it is not that long before the baton changes hands. Whether you are playing as Cody or May, there are wonderful experiences to be had that warrant a replay with the roles reversed.
Even with such a serious topic at its core, perhaps it helps that It Takes Two manages to infuse fun into everything you see and interact with in the game. In fact, it was a conscious decision not to include collectables like other platformers. Hazelight wants players to live in the world, and judging from all the fantastic interactable objects littered around the game’s many chapters. The temptation is hard to resist.
There are mini-games to collect, each presenting a pint-sized take on the objects we may gloss over in real life. Each mini-game provides another perfect chance to show off the studio’s mastery of the co-op genre, and more importantly, they are always neat distractions to keep you engaged even more.
Competing against each other in a whack-a-mole game where May is the hammer and Cody is the mole is surprisingly enjoyable, or test your accuracy in a shooting gallery where you fire plungers instead of guns.
May and Cody are not alone in the enthralling world of It Takes Two. Rose is quite well realised as the daughter caught in the eye of the storm, while the many household objects are adorably brought to life.
There is also the critical character of Dr Hakim, the book of love that helps guide the couple on the journey. Whether you like his brand of overly positive thinking and exaggerated gestures or not, this is a memorable role that will stick with players for years to come.
Overall, the story is told wonderfully through every hurdle the pair overcomes. It is charming, to say the least, how gameplay is married almost seamlessly into the narrative. Even when you can see things coming, they are still undoubtedly impactful and meaningful to the characters.
For couples, It Takes Two is a no-brainer in helping you explore the potential of a relationship and what it means to be together. That is not to say the game is useless to others; there is always something to learn from the adventures of May and Cody, even if it can turn out to be slightly saccharine in nature.
As a co-op adventure that draws out the importance of working together, It Takes Two is a masterclass of breathtaking gameplay ideas meshed with flawless execution. The entire 10-hour journey is astoundingly entertaining, paced perfectly, and just brimming with creative energy. Once you pick up the controller, there is nary a moment you would want to put it down. This is one hell of a trip nobody should miss out on.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A beautiful co-op game that truly makes its mark, combining excellent gameplay with emotional storytelling that just works.
Gameplay - 10/10
Story - 8/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 9/10