It Takes Two is an all-you-can-eat buffet. You’ve stacked your dish high with different meals – too many meals, if you’re being honest. You’ve got ribs in your chow mein and noodles in your rice. There’s a section of your plate where your sweet and sour sauce has mixed with your curry and congealed, creating some unholy hybrid. Yet, somehow, it works. You scoff it down and go back for a second helping. In the end, you leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, and with a belly full of more ingredients than your weekly shop.
After the credits rolled on It Takes Two, I checked out our completion stats. We spent 15 hours playing this excellent co-op game, yet we somehow missed 11 minigames. There are 25 in total. It’s got snowball fights, whack-a-mole where one of you has the hammer and the other is the mole, netball, tug of war, ice pucks, and even an actual chessboard that lets you play entire games of chess. It’s the most varied game I have ever played, and that variety extends beyond the minigames – it’s packed with unique locations, mechanics, art assets, and animations. It’s constantly surprising and encourages playfulness. It’s incredible. In fact, I feel pretty confident in saying this: It Takes Two is the best co-op game since Portal 2.
The only thing that slightly lets the game down is the script, which is far less funny than it thinks it is. It Takes Two casts you as a married couple – Cody and May – who are on the verge of a divorce. Their daughter, Rose, hears about their plans to separate and cries into her toys, turning her parents into dolls – you know, the usual. Cody ends up as a clay doll and May turns into a wooden one, and Rose can’t see their doll forms. They have to follow the advice of Dr. Hakim, a magical book with a magical butt chin, to “turn their relationshit into a relationship”. Oh, and Dr. Hakim was motion captured by game director Josef Fares, so mull that over when you have to watch a cartoon book do pelvic thrusts.
It’s all very daft, which makes some of the more serious moments struggle to land, but it sets the stage for a weird and wonderful adventure spanning their house, the garden, the shed, a surreal winter wonderland, a twinkling cosmos, and even a trippy trek through the inside of a kaleidoscope.
At its most basic level, It Takes Two is a platforming game. Working together in split-screen, you explore gorgeous 3D environments as a pair, solving puzzles and bounding over obstacle courses. As a platformer, it’s surprisingly refined. Hazelight’s last co-op game, A Way Out, was packed with a lot of variety, too, but its core gameplay suffered for it – it was still an all-you-can-eat buffet, but the only options were different types of rice. Somehow, though, Hazelight has created a 3D platforming game here that’s better than pretty much anything outside of Nintendo.
You have a simple moveset – jump, double jump, swing, grind, and dash – but these all string together in a way that feels completely natural, and it allows for a margin of error if you mistime a jump. Falling slightly short? Add a dash at the end of your double jump and you’ll likely make it. That’s not to say it’s a forgiving game, though. I played It Takes Two with my partner, and she doesn’t play video games. As well as wrestling with controlling the camera while moving (which she eventually got the hang of) some of the platforming gauntlets required me to take over and flex my seasoned loser muscles once I’d got Cody across. She managed the majority of them, but there’s some surprisingly tricky stuff in there.
Then there are the boss fights, which usually, as the title suggests, take two of you to defeat. You have to use your unique abilities together to beat them, which means the more experienced player can’t take over because you both have a job to do. We managed to beat them all in the end, but fair warning: they will likely frustrate anyone who doesn’t play a lot of video games. Luckily, the way lives work means you can essentially brute force these encounters as long as one of you can stay alive, since you’re only thrown back to a checkpoint if you both happen to die at the same time. And even on the rare occasions when it does become frustrating, you’ll want to push on to see what weirdness is coming up next.
At one point, one of you is flying a plane as Cody while May is balancing on the wings and fighting a militia leader who happens to be a squirrel – life bars and everything. It’s like a basic take on a Street Fighter battle… against a heavily-armed squirrel. That’s a throwaway scene. In another, you’re firing sticky goo out of a cannon while your co-op partner detonates the goo with a sniper rifle, battling wasps who have baked bean can shields. In another, you’re flying over a huge and deadly ball pit, riding fidget spinners. Later on, the game goes semi open-world as you ice skate around a wintery village, ringing clocktower bells to bring a frozen town back to life. Through all of this, every inch of the world begs to be explored, with minigames and other one-off interactive elements scattered around every environment, from fairground rides to etch-a-sketch pads. There are those toy cars that you pull back and let go, sending your co-op partner careering up a ramp. There’s drawing by numbers and math puzzles. There’s paint and printers, polaroid cameras and photography backdrops. It just never stops. It’s basically this:
Every level gives each of you a unique tool. In one, Cody has nails that you can throw and recall like God of War’s axe, while May has a hammer to smash buttons in or to swing on the nails that Cody throws into soft wood. In another, you each have the opposite side of a magnet, and must push and pull objects to find a way across. At one point, the game even turns into a Diablo-style dungeon crawler, and somehow, it feels punchy and satisfying. I wish that section had lasted longer, but It Takes Two is brave enough to throw mechanics away as soon as they’re at risk of getting old. Hell, it even has the holy grail of any third-person adventure: a good underwater section.
You have to also give it some credit for how it positions the characters. Rather than going for the stereotypical, outdated view of a straight married couple, May is a professional engineer while Cody is a stay-at-home dad. May doesn’t appreciate the work that goes into keeping a home, and Cody doesn’t appreciate that May works so hard to ensure a nice life for the family. They need to find a middle ground. In a dark twist, the parents are still physically present in the real world while they’re off exploring the house as dolls. You sometimes see Rose attempting to interact with them, but they’re zombified, unresponsive. Because she’s so used to not getting attention, she assumes May has a headache after a day at work and Cody is too busy with house chores to listen to her. Juggling this real-world commentary on parenting and relationships with the more bizarre elements doesn’t always work, but there is the odd moment where, as a parent, you can’t help but feel a little called out.
One thing I love about It Takes Two is how the animations sell the characters. Cody is a bit of a dork (and he’s now made of clay) so when you click the sprint button in, he runs around with his arms flapping about. May, who’s made of wood, runs like a professional athlete. When you’re using the magnets, Cody hangs on for dear life as he pulls himself to a distant point, while May rides the magnet in style, like a hoverboard. Even the way they press switches sells their character.
I spent much of the game jealous of my partner’s gadgets – May gets a lot of the cool stuff. When it turns into Diablo, she’s a flaming warrior, while Cody is an ice mage. When you’re exploring the garden, Cody has a plant head while May runs around like Dante from Devil May Cry, slicing up the bad guys with a sickle. But all that jealousy did was make me want to play it again with the roles reversed, and I absolutely will. How else am I going to track down the 11 minigames we missed?
It Takes Two is, without a doubt, the best co-op game you can play right now. It’s much more ambitious and bigger budget than A Way Out, which was still brilliant in its own way. Josef Fares and the team at Hazelight take things to the next level here, and I can only imagine what they’ll do when they’re inevitably given a triple-A budget. Grab a friend by the hand and pull them through an adventure unlike any other as soon as you can – you won’t regret it.
Version tested: PS5. A review copy was provided by EA. The score for text-to-speech readers is nine out of ten.
Next: Josef Fares Reveals Even EA Didn’t Think A Way Out Would Sell
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Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at TheGamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.
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