Josef Fares is back! The man with the wonderful and huge personality returns with his new co-op adventure via Hazelight Studios, this time with an experience that’s more fantastical and less-realistic than his previous two games. It Takes Two is an amalgamation of everything the studio has learnt up until this point, creating (in my opinion) their best game yet.
It Takes Two sees you and a friend (it’s only playable in local or online co-op via invite, no matchmaking) work together in an action-adventure game focused around a troubled married couple. Read on to see why you absolutely must play this game…
May and Cody are not getting along. Their daughter Rose witnesses them arguing all the time, ultimately telling her that they’re getting divorced. So, like something out of a Disney Pixar movie, Rose retreats to her room and cries at this awful news into her handmade dolls until something bizarre happens; her parents become the dolls! The book of love, or Dr. Hakim as he’s known, listens to Rose’s request to repair her parent’s marriage, subsequently becoming a stereotypical nuisance to May and Cody as they try to make sense of what happened and figure out how to return to their bodies.
The story is by no means revolutionary, or particularly powerful, but it certainly does the job and flows very nicely. The game is paced really well, with moments of interesting and comical cutscenes, while other story beats happen naturally as you progress. The only thing I’d say is that it starts to become a little predictable that Dr. Hakim is going to show up and throw a spanner in the works, but it’s not really a big deal as there needs to be a catalyst to propel the story, I just would have liked a bit more originality and unexpected surprise in how this happens.
Personally, I found the writing to be pretty solid throughout. There are some genuinely funny moments with great comedic timing that wouldn’t look out of place in a blockbuster movie. There are also lots of references to other games and movies everywhere, which you should look out for as you play, including a particularly brilliant one about the developer that unlocks a trophy once found!
What surprised me were the moments of dark humour in the game which I feel opens the game up to a wider and more adult audience. There are of course silly parts, but I wasn’t expecting some scenes to make me feel uncomfortable, which I actually enjoyed as it threw me off a little. I loved that it was unexpected, the game wasn’t simply trying to be Honey I shrunk the Kids or Toy Story, there’s adult humour in there too.
The only downside, for me, was that I found May a little too unlikable. The acting itself was perfect, there are no complaints from that end at all, I just found her character too whiny which sometimes made me not want the best for her, which is obviously not how I should be feeling about a protagonist. On the other hand, Cody is a lot more likeable and has some really funny moments throughout. Also, I know some people will find Dr. Hakim offensive or a bit too much, due to his obnoxious actions and overbearing accent, but when you think that the same guy who voices Cody voices him, I think it’s impressive how different they are.
Personally, I just think of him as a slightly more annoying Puss In Boots, making him more likeable in my eyes.
If you’ve not seen any gameplay of It Takes Two, you’re probably wondering what it is you will be doing or how the game works. This is actually much tougher to answer than you might think. If you were to catch a glimpse of someone streaming the game, to get a look at how it plays, I can guarantee you could swap to another streamer playing it and believe you were watching a different game. No two levels are the same and, despite you always simply controlling one of our troubled spouses, there’s so much more to the game making it hard to wrap your head around.
Just like the previous effort from Hazelight, you and your partner will choose who you’re going to play as each time you log back in, controlling either Cody or May in the third-person perspective.
As you play through It Takes Two, the sheer variety in activities is astounding, especially with how much it fits into a 10-12 hour story. No two sections feel remotely similar, often with you using entirely new gadgets to progress. One minute you can be each firing weapons and combining them for maximum damage and the next one of you is wearing gravity boots while the other is able to change their character’s size. These are just on the main paths too, with plenty of things to stop and interact with along the way that you’ll simply find hard to leave alone. For example, there are moments where you’re able to play against each other on devices that resemble GameBoys, or maybe hop on a pedal boat together to go and hunt for hidden rooms and references.
The game even shifts video game genres multiple times, making the gameplay constantly fresh, exciting and challenging. Impressively, these never feel forced either. It doesn’t ever feel like variety for the sake of it, it fits the narrative every single time – something that’s incredibly difficult to pull off successfully (and they did). Honestly, If you get bored playing this game, I think the problem is you, not the game, as nothing outstays it’s welcome.
The world of It Takes Two is an absolute joy. The level of detail and creativity is breath-taking. In any given scene, you can just stop and look around for a few minutes, taking in all the amazing environments and world-building; it’s truly a sight to behold! The visuals themselves aren’t exactly mind-blowing, but that’s due to the artistic design which is gorgeous and colourful, it’s obviously not aiming for realism in a world where the protagonists have become dolls. I’d compare the visual style to something like Little Big Planet, where you’re a tiny part of a huge world and as such, the sense of scale and desire to explore and look at everything is enhanced.
Fares recently said in an interview that he doesn’t want the game to be replayable, since people don’t finish games anyway. I think this game is incredibly replayable naturally, since there’s so much stuff that you can do which you’ll love, you’ll want to relive it over and over again. There’s so much to do, I imagine you’ll probably forget most of it by the time you reach the end credits!
Josef Fares also does not like collectables, or as he puts them rather eloquently, “shiny shit”, and that’s why It Takes Two has the best “collectables” in any game, ever! This time, rather than looking for notes or audiotapes, you’re hoping to discover minigames. There are 25 official minigames to find (with plenty of other non-minigames to interact with too), pitting you and your co-op partner against each other. My personal favourites are a guitar hero-esque bird singing game, a baseball hit timing game and whack-a-Cody. In a game where cooperation is absolutely paramount, it’s refreshing to have some moments of competitiveness where you can prove you’re the better player. They’re a great change of pace and imaginative additions to the campaign.
Best of all, once you’ve unlocked them you can play the minigames separate from the game!
The implementation of the co-op is probably the best I’ve ever seen in a game. You will be using magnets to hold things, throwing nails for each other to swing from, and loading weapons for the other person to shoot. I could be here all day telling you all the ways that you work together, but you simply have to see it for yourself. There’s pretty much no part of the game that you can progress in without having both players play their part, which is brilliant game design and makes each section feel really inclusive and fun.
Sometimes playing a co-op game with someone who is not on the same level of gaming experience as you can be frustrating, it often results in one person doing all the heavy lifting whilst the other one watches, but this game requires equal contribution – which is a really healthy and nice balance.
Of course, this does create its own problem though. The game requires a certain level of gaming experience since there aren’t any accessibility options or difficulty settings. Some platforming segments, or boss battles, can be quite challenging, so this could be tricky if you wanted to play with someone who isn’t a regular gamer. It’s not impossible for newcomers, by any means, but it could hinder the experience if you get stuck on a section due to both of you not being at a certain standard.
It Takes Two may be the best co-op game I’ve ever played. I haven’t played a game that’s incredibly fun, like this, in a long time – it’s mind-blowing how much stuff there is to interact with and do with your partner. You can’t help but smile as you progress throughout the game, finding yourselves improving your co-op skills very organically whilst having an absolute blast. I loved every second of being in this world and I’d love to return at some point in the future. I know I’ll be popping back, from time to time, challenging friends to the mini-games – since they’re worthy of being standalone games in their own right.
Hazelight have really upped their game here, I loved A Way Out but It Takes Two raised the bar even higher. They’ve well and truly created a co-op masterpiece, an experience which I feel the modern consoles have been lacking for a long time. So, grab a friend or partner and play this game, it’s a true showcase of how great gaming is as a medium to have fun. There’s one big problem though; I wish it had never ended!
Just as we saw with A Way Out, It Takes Two allows you to play the entire campaign with a friend whether they own the game or not. To do this, your friend has to download the ‘Friend Pass‘ (it may be listed as a ‘Trial’) and then you invite them into your purchased version of the game. This way, you can both play the story despite only one of you buying the game – however, I’m not 100% sure if the person playing via the trial will earn any trophies or not, as I played locally with my girlfriend so never had to try out this feature.