It Takes Two
PlayStation 5 version
"It Takes Two to make it out of sight!"
* Highly imaginative, intuitive, and joyous platforming with varied levels and mechanics throughout a lengthy campaign.
The game handles genre shifts remarkably well
Gorgeous visuals, both artistically and technically
A touching love story
* Occasionally cringy dialogue
A few unexpected difficulty spikes
The Bottom Line
It Takes Two is the newest co-operative game from the Swedish developer Hazelight Studios, led by former film director Josef Fares. It Takes Two follows a virtually identical exclusively co-op setup as its predecessor A Way Out, shifting genres from a semi-realistic crime thriller to a cartoonish, lighthearted 3D platformer. As with that game, only one player will need to own It Takes Two, as the other can download a “Friend Pass” to play the game over the internet. The game supports both local couch-co-op or online play between console generations - I played through this on my PS5 while my friend was on his PS4.
The storyline of It Takes Two is a truly unusual one to say the least, as it centers around a subject I don’t think any game has ever tackled before: divorce. The title follows May and Cody Goodwin, a married couple living in what appears to be the English countryside who are on the verge of divorce after their relationship has gone sour. Meanwhile, their daughter Rose, who has constructed tiny dolls of her parents made out of wood and clay, retreats to the nearby shed and tries to gather some advice from “The Book of Love”, a tome written by Dr. Hakim who claims to be an expert on repairing relationships. After Rose cries onto the two dolls, the parents suddenly find their souls trapped in the bodies of the dolls on the floor of the shed. With assistance from Dr. Hakim, who appears as a talking Book of Love, the almost-divorcees are forced to work together to reach Rose and undo the curse by conquering a gauntlet of platforming challenges, as they brave the most intense and trippy couples’ therapy session ever devised.
It Takes Two places a pretty high emphasis on its story as the players learn how to work together to solve the game’s numerous challenges, even if it can feel at times like a threadbare excuse to link together the game’s wildly varied levels and challenges. The progression of May and Cody’s relationship is handled quite well through the game’s numerous cutscenes as they, and the audience, learn more about each other. Dr. Hakim’s Mexican accent can be laid on a bit too thick at times, and there’s also a surprisingly high amount of distracting profanity in what otherwise appears as a relatively wholesome and cuddly game. I understand that these are adult characters trapped in a childish world of imagination, but it’s hard not to cringe at some lines like Hakim’s “You’re not in a relationship, you’re in a relation-shit!”. The back half of the game’s narrative feels artificially padded and I wish the campaign had found a better way of working those levels into the story instead of the “oops, you’re not quite done yet” approach that the writers take. While the story doesn’t offer any major twists, I personally found the game’s conclusion to be quite touching and satisfying considering all that me and my friend had been through trying to finish this game.
But it’s the game’s platforming and wildly inventive level design that’s the real star of the show here. From a journey through a shed filled with living tools, to battling in a war between squirrels and wasps, soaring through space, and exploring the inside of a kaleidoscope and other utterly fantastical places, It Takes Two is relentless in changing up its settings and ideas, always giving new mechanics in each stage to experiment with. Sure, the developers are likely throwing darts at all of the ideas they had, but for the vast majority of the time, they stick thanks to solid, forgiving controls and consistently excellent mechanical design. Each character has a double jump and a dash that can be used for easy in-air maneuverability, and the two easily swing across hooks and grind on rails with a tap of the R1 button. These are the basic fundamentals that are used across the game’s 9 chapters, but It Takes Two offers up so much more. Most stages will equip Cody and May with different abilities and items, which they will need to use in conjunction to overcome the game’s numerous obstacles. These include projectile-based weapons, vehicles, and unique traversal and puzzle-solving abilities, many of which are truly creative and original.
It Takes Two may be a puzzlebplatformer at heart, but it’s a true shapeshifter of a game, freely mixing in other genres such as flight, fighting, racing, rhythm, and even action role-playing games. All of these genre shifts were both surprising and competently executed, and both my friend and I found the campaign a consistent delight from start to finish.
It Takes Two is for the most part a casual and forgiving game. If one player dies, they can mash the Triangle button to come back to life as long as the other continues to survive. If the other player dies before the first can come back to life, both players get brought back to the previous checkpoint. That being said, the game isn’t afraid to offer the occasional hair-pullingly difficult moment where both players will really have to band together to get past the current obstacle. One boss in particular near the middle of the campaign is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve had playing a game in quite some time, and the sudden and unexpected difficulty spike left my friend and I traumatized for the rest of the campaign. There are other sections that, if you’re not at least competent in video games, can also be a pain to get through. I had considered playing this game with my dad when he comes to visit even though he isn’t too well-versed in modern video games, but after finishing it with my friend I can safely say he wouldn’t have a fun time. In general, I noticed that playing as May demands more difficult platforming on average than Cody, so if you’re playing with a less-skilled gamer you may want to opt to play as her. As with A Way Out, there are numerous competitive minigames featured throughout the campaign that both players can optionally partake in. These “couples’ challenges” can be fun diversions, although some of them feel insubstantial or inconsequential at times.
It Take’s Two’s graphics are downright gorgeous, evoking the feeling of playing through a Pixar movie, with an aesthetic reminiscent of Good-Feel’s “crafted-look” platform games like Yoshi’s Crafted World. Animations are expressive, and the lighting, texturing, and use of materials to give everything a handcrafted look is top-notch. While A Way Out was a more subdued game visually thanks to its more realistic tone, It Takes Two has no such constraints, many scenes just explode with colors. As with that game, It Takes Two makes smart use of the split-screen view, resizing or even having one player’s screen completely fill the view to emphasize their actions. Each world is visually stunning and highly detailed apart from maybe the final one, which felt a bit rushed compared to the other sections of the game. Some areas offer detailed settings to explore with different pieces to interact with, while other sections take players on a high-speed rollercoaster ride through dazzling environments. My only real complaint with the graphics is that the human characters such as Rose can look a bit odd at times, but since most of the game is spent in the crafted world it’s not much of an issue. In terms of technical issues, there were a couple of brief stutters in cutscenes, and a few moments where the sound cut out, these typically happened during saving/loading moments, but otherwise the game is incredibly polished from start to finish.
From start to finish, It Takes Two offers some of the most creative and downright fun platforming this side of Nintendo. It’s beautiful, smooth, and consistently inventive with a surprisingly lengthy campaign, and the collaborative aspect really adds a fresh dimension to the genre. There’s a clear tip of the hat to the iconic Japanese game company near the game’s conclusion, which makes it an utter disappointment that the game is currently unavailable on the Nintendo Switch, as any Mario fan with a buddy will easily lap this game up. I’d like to hope that Hazelight and Electronic Arts will one day rectify this, but given their inconsistent support of the hybrid console, that may not happen. Nevertheless, platforming fans who own other consoles or a gaming PC should absolutely take a look at It Takes Two - few games in recent memory have been filled with as many purely magical moments as this one.
by krisko6 (813) on April 30th, 2021