Review – It Takes Two
One of my complaints with the video game industry is that there aren’t many couch co-op games anymore. Yes, I know that the majority of them offer some sort of an online multiplayer experience, but it’s not the same. Personally, I love the option of being able to sit next to my husband or friend on a comfy couch and enjoy going through the experience together. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy the Gears of War franchise so much. Thankfully, we have visionary Josef Fares to help fill the co-op void with titles like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out. Now he and Hazelight Studios have graced us with yet another co-op adventure, It Takes Two, which is their best title yet.
It Takes Two focuses on Cody and May, a couple who have decided to divorce after so many years of marriage. After telling the news to their daughter, Rose, she runs away to their tool shed for solace. Once there, she pulls out a book she has hidden away called “The Book of Love” by Dr. Hakim, along with two dolls she had crafted herself to look like her parents. While crying, she begs for her parents to stay together and be happy again, dousing the dolls with her tears.
Meanwhile, Cody and May continue to argue and then go to separate rooms in the house. Eventually, they both fall asleep. However, when they wake up they realize that they are very different. Somehow, they have both been transformed into the very dolls that Rose had made of them. Desperate for answers, they are greeted by the likes of the legendary Dr. Hakim, who appears to them in an animated form of his book. He refuses to change them back and instead tells them that they must pass several trials in order to regain what they’ve lost, with regards to both their love and their physical forms.
Like the other games from Hazelight Studios, It Takes Two is a co-op adventure game. This means that one player will play as Cody, while the other plays as May. The screen is split vertically down the middle, so each player has the freedom to move around and look at what they need to do. For the most part, your characters will be very near one another, but at times you will have to split up in order to get past an obstacle.
The gameplay in It Takes Two is amazing. Most of it is a 3D action platformer, but honestly, there’s just about every type of gaming style in here. Each section has its own set of challenges, which drastically change how you approach them in comparison to other levels. There are racing segments, first-person shooter moments, flying sections, and even an isometric hack ‘n slash area. Like I said, this game has just about every type of video game genre present somewhere within it.
One of the things that most surprised me was just how well the co-op style of gameplay worked. So many times co-op games will have long stretches where one person will have to stand around and wait while the other does something to advance the plot or do their share of a puzzle. It Takes Two is another story altogether.
This game has the absolute best implementation of co-op gameplay I’ve ever experienced. If either character has to stand around and wait, it’s only for mere moments while the other gets into place. The synergy between the actions that both players are performing simultaneously is nothing short of awe-inspiring. There was never a time where either my husband or I felt bored.
One of the reasons why the co-op works so well is due to the way the levels have been designed. In every chapter Cody and May will be granted some sort of weapon or power that are different from one another. This means that each player has to figure out how to use their special ability to get past puzzles while aiding the other to do the same. The level design has been so masterfully mapped out that each player has an equal role in solving puzzles and having tasks to perform at the same time. Having new weapons or powers in each section keeps you eager to see what’s next as well.
In addition to the variety you’ll find within the normal story progression sections, there are also twenty-five minigames that you can discover. Most of them are pretty easy to find, but some of them are a bit more hidden. This gives you more of an incentive to thoroughly check your surroundings. Plus, each minigame you locate will be available to replay from the home screen. This is especially fun if you want to have some rematches against your partner at any given time.
In addition to the fantastic gameplay, It Takes Two has a remarkable art design. I’ve already touched on how incredible the level designs as a whole are, but the art direction is no less impressive. Each chapter will take Cody and May to a different area in the house or even outside of it at times. Each area has a completely unique look and feel. They’ll journey through Rose’s play areas, the attic, their garden, and even inside of a snow globe. What’s even more impressive is that it runs at a steady 60 fps at all times.
The level of detail found within each section and even the character designs themselves are wonderful. There is a noticeable difference in the textures between May’s wooden body and yarn locks, and Cody’s clay body and leafy hair. Even the environments themselves have incredible detail, even with many of the NPCs. It’s not necessarily the most photorealistic art style, but the designs are dynamic and eye-catching. Each area will fill you with a sense of wonder and many of the characters have their own physical quirks. My only small nitpick is that the designs for the actual human forms of Cody and May aren’t quite as impressive as their golem counterparts, but this is a tiny issue as neither of them are shown in those forms very much.
Like everything else in It Takes Two, the sound design is also outstanding. The soundtrack features a wide array of musical styles, each fitting the section their featured in perfectly. The voice acting is well done throughout, with an especially hilarious performance from Joseph Balderrama who not only voices Cody, but Dr. Hakim as well.
It Takes Two is something truly special. It’s not only my favorite game of the year so far, but now it’s solidly one of my favorite games of all time. The level of creativity and ingenuity is mind-blowing. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with a game from start to finish. And for a game that’s about sixteen to eighteen hours long, that is quite a feat. For a title that tackles surprisingly mature themes, there’s a ridiculous amount of charm woven into every aspect of it. So no matter who you are or what games you enjoy, grab a partner and play It Takes Two right away because this is a game in which everyone can find something to love.
An absolutely gorgeous game with a vibrant and rich art design. The human animations aren’t quite as impressive as the rest of the game, but they’re not featured too much.
It Takes Two features just about every style of gameplay there is; from platforming, to racing, to an isometric hack ‘n slash.
The soundtrack is beautifully done and fits each level well. The vocal performances are strong throughout.
This is one of the most charming games I’ve ever played. No two levels felt the same which made the entire game feel fresh and interesting.
Final Verdict: 9.5
It Takes Two is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PS4, PS5, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of It Takes Two was provided by the publisher.