You’re a young kid and you’ve just found out that your parents are getting divorced. What do you do?
In the case of Rose, the daughter of It Takes Two‘s pair of protagonists, she consults a book on love that she found at school. It isn’t a great deal of help, though, since she can’t get her parents to read it. But a bit of magic ultimately does the trick – when her tears land on the home-made dolls she made of her parents, somehow their consciousness is transported into them. Her mother, May, is now a wooden doll with a yarn outfit, and her father, Cody, is made out of clay with a leaf for hair. Huh.
Such a ridiculous plot sets up the game perfectly for the kinds of weird and wonderful adventures Cody and May will be having throughout It Takes Two. Over the course of a dozen hours, the pair will traverse numerous environments, face off against unexpected foes, make impossible journeys and, ultimately, hopefully, rediscover what’s been missing in their relationship.
Just like Hazelight Studios’ last game, A Way Out, It Takes Two is strictly a co-op affair. You can’t play the game by yourself; you’ll need to either invite a friend online or play in local co-op. That means there’s no online matchmaking with strangers, either. It’s a game that’s meant to be played with someone you know, and the developers have done their best to ensure it stays that way.
While that may be a bugbear for those who don’t have a network of gamer friends on hand, it’s understandable. Getting the most out of It Takes Two means completely working together and being able to effectively communicate. Trying to muddle your way through it with a stranger online would take something away from the game.
But settling down to play It Takes Two with a loved one, you’re in for a real treat. One of you will take on the role of Cody, and the other May. Each character has their own unique abilities – that change throughout the game, depending on your environment – and both players’ abilities complement each other. In one section, for example, Cody has a gun which fires a sticky sap substance at enemies. It doesn’t do a great deal of damage by itself – but when May follows up by shooting it with her own fire-powered gun, the pair can cause great damage.
Another level sees the pair each given half a magnet, and they’ll need to work together in order to attract and repel other magnetic sources (and each other). Another sees Cody equipped with nails, and May with a hammer. Your adventure is led by that aforementioned Book of Love – now brought to life by the same magic that transformed Cody and May into dolls. Acting as an annoying but entertaining therapist of sorts, he’ll lead the pair on an adventure they – nor you, the player – aren’t likely to forget.
As you can see, It Takes Two constantly changes up its mechanics. A set of skills and abilities will never last for more than a couple of hours, and as such, it never feels stale. Undoubtedly, some sections you’ll enjoy more than others – there’s a vast array of genres covered here. One chapter, which gives Cody time-manipulation powers and May the ability to clone herself, is firmly in co-op puzzle territory. Another gives the pair armour and weapons and throws them into an ARPG. But even if one particular section doesn’t gel with you as much as the others, the game’s gorgeous visuals, fantastic story and inventive gameplay sections will keep you playing.
How about flying around on the back of a giant beetle? Or using a frog as a taxi? It Takes Two packs in plenty of moments like these. Even moment-to-moment gameplay is kept fluid and exciting by incorporating chase sequences alongside slower sections. There’s a lot of riding rails alongside running and jumping, so even traversing from one area to the next never feels slow or boring.
On PS5, It Takes Two looks absolutely stunning. It’s without a doubt one of the nicest-looking games on the console we’ve seen yet; its animation is movie-like in its quality, and May and Cody have been brought to life with a great amount of care. Helping things along is the stellar voicework of all characters, and a fantastic and lively soundtrack to boot.
But what really takes It Takes Two to the next level is its fantastic narrative. The ultimate goal of Cody and May is to undo whatever magic transformed them into dolls – and that takes them to some hilarious places. How about an epic battle with an abandoned vacuum cleaner, angry that his owners replaced him with something better? Or a hunt to destroy an innocent teddy bear? All throughout It Takes Two‘s 12-or-so hour runtime, you’ll be constantly surprised and delighted by its fantastic story.
And when you’re not progressing through It Takes Two‘s narrative, there are some wonderful moments of downtime to enjoy with your co-op partner. Throughout the game are more than 20 minigames to discover, ranging from volleyball to chess and just about everything in between. No, they don’t add anything to the story, but they allow you and your partner to enjoy a bit of healthy competition.
Better yet are the ‘open’ sections of the game; on more than one occasion you’ll reach a town (well, toy town) or larger area that you can either quickly pass through, or spend some time exploring. These offer some of the best moments in the game; an opportunity to simply have fun with your surroundings. Interact with a set of paints to create your own work of art, play around with a polaroid camera, or ride a toy train or pedal boat. You can waste hours just messing around with It Takes Two‘s world, and while it’s possible you or your co-op partner may be more keen to press on with the story, you’ll be missing out if you don’t take the opportunity to stop and explore from time to time.
With It Takes Two, Hazelight has cemented itself as one of the most creative and talented developers of today. Not only does It Takes Two look absolutely fantastic, it’s a delight to play and its story is wonderful; sometimes moving, sometimes utterly hilarious. It’s essentially your own interactive Pixar movie – co-op gaming really doesn’t get any better than this.
It Takes Two Review: GameSpew’s Score