Hazelight Studios ups the ante and delivers a truly special co-op adventure.
Eccentric creator and game director, Josef Fares, has established himself as a co-op maestro in recent years. He surprised gamers back in 2013 with his thoughtful sibling adventure, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. He continued crafting his co-op chops with 2018’s prison break game, A Way Out, and now he’s back with another co-op game that demonstrates just how impactful and fun a virtual adventure, when shared with a partner, can be.
It Takes Two tells a serious story about a husband and wife, Cody and May, whose marriage has hit rocky times. As is often the case, their marital strife trickles down and affects their young daughter, Rose. Like most kids, she only wants her parents to get along and for them to be a happy family. After creating a clay doll for her father and a wooden doll for her mother, Rose’s deepest wishes begin to take shape as the parents are transported into the bodies of her created dolls. If the shock of being trapped in the body of a doll wasn’t enough, the couple are quickly introduced to Dr. Hakim, a personified “book of love” that sets them on a course to mend the issues deeply embedded in their marriage.
Across the game’s seven chapters the pair will address several factors that play a roll in their fractured relationship, such as communication or attraction. With each relationship issue comes a complimentary new game mechanic. For example, the level focused on attraction featured each player wielding one half of a horseshoe magnet. The players would need to use the poles of their magnets to either attract or repel themselves onto the next platform. While obviously not Biblically based in it’s advice, there are several examples where It Takes Two offers reasonable and sound solutions to the very serious issues at hand. There’s real value found in some of the messaging even though it’s from a secular world view. My only real complaint with the story is it’s flippant use of foul language. It’s juxtaposed to the visuals which are extremely inviting for children. Indeed, even the gameplay is light-hearted to a degree that the entire story almost feels out of place in this bright world. Despite this, the story is worth telling and doesn’t detract from the game. Unfortunately, it’s hard to recommend this game to minors since the game is peppered with cursing.
I didn’t really know what to expect from It Takes Two other than a fun, platforming adventure. I had few expectations going in and was simply a fan of local co-op games. As I booted up the game to play it’s final level I still didn’t know what to expect. The level of gameplay variation is incredibly deep. One minute you could be traversing a huge platforming section (all with the aid of your co-op partner), the next minute you cold be playing volleyball, or battling garden plants, or ice skating. The sheer number of different game mechanics is staggering and always feels fresh and fun. It’s difficult to even describe the gameplay simply because there isn’t five minutes that goes by where you aren’t already doing something completely different than what you just were.
Yes, It Takes Two is a platforming game at it’s core, but the emphasis is on the unknown. Hazelight Studios leans into this mantra and is constantly surprising and delighting. I can honestly say that out of one hundred some odd game mechanics, only two or three of them felt like duds. This level of surprise perfectly compliments the zany writing and scenarios that Cody and May find themselves in. There are several genuinely laugh out loud moments and it felt like I constantly had a smile on my face. Controls are buttery smooth and responsive. Level design is fantastic and fleshed out. At the end of the day I can’t really raise a single legitimate complaint against the gameplay. It’s on the same level of a great Nintendo game or perhaps even the recent Astro’s Playroom for PS5. I simply can’t recommend it enough.
The world of It Takes Two is fantastical and larger than life. As dolls, everyday objects become major obstacles for Cody and May. Each environment is wonderfully fleshed out with random objects you would expect to see within an attic, for example. Excellent textures and lighting really make this game shine on a next-gen console or PC. Hazelight Studios isn’t the largest operation in the world, so I was extremely impressed with the presentation and visual fidelity. The game almost always will be displayed in split-screen mode whether your co-op partner is sitting next to you or across the country. Though I did play online, performance never seemed to suffer despite the split screen nature of the game. All of the game’s dialogue and voice acting is also well done. The work that Fares and company have cranked out with their 2nd official release truly is spectacular.
It Takes Two completely swept me off my feet. Out of nowhere Hazelight delivers one of the very best co-op experiences I’ve ever played. While not super replay-able, It Takes Two only needs it’s first impression to hook you. My play through clocked in right around 12 hours. A $40 asking price may sound a bit steep, but factor in that a friend can play with you without having to own a copy of the game and the value proposition rises. Whether you jump in now or wait for a sale, there’s no denying that It Takes Two is one of 2021’s best games and is the new standard by which other co-op games will be judged.
Note for Parents
It Takes Two is rated “T” (Teen) for animated blood, comic mischief, fantasy violence, and language. As stated earlier in the review, the language is the worst part with uses of d*mn, *ss, sh*t, and blaspheming the Lord’s name.