Review | It Takes Two

In many games, a co-op mode is no more than an extra addition to the single player campaign. Josef Fares and his team at Hazelight Studios wanted to create a game built entirely around a co-op experience. Make it a romantic comedy and you get It Takes Two.

Collaboration is central in this 3D puzzle platformer. There is no other way, because you cannot play the game alone and you really need each other. That should not only benefit the relationship between you and your fellow player, but also that of main characters Cody and May.

The arguing couple is on the verge of divorce and is trying to find the right way to tell their daughter. Daughter is in tears when she finds out and unknowingly transforms her parents into dolls. In order to regain control of their lives and get back to their real bodies, May and Cody must relearn how to work together by overcoming all kinds of obstacles.

They are guided in this by Dr. Hakim, a relationship advice book that has come to life. He gives Cody and May advice. The absurd character is nicely exaggerated by Fares himself and appears at exactly the right moments. Fortunately, this gimmick never gets boring.

Cody and May feel lifelike because of their playful and recognizable acting. The pair quarrel at many times, but also realize that they really need to work together to improve their situation. This is not only noticeable in the cutscenes; also while playing they make a well-placed comment to each other here and there. Sometimes even a compliment can be off!

After turning into dolls, Cody and May are still close to their home, trying to contact their daughter. That is easier said than done, because as dolls they have shrunk considerably and their environment has been enlarged. The places where the pair end up are versatile, bombastic and hilarious. From a wasp’s nest in the garden to the broken cuckoo clock in the living room, every location is transformed into a fantasy world that wouldn’t look out of place in an average Pixar movie. Recognizable environments are supplemented with objects that have come to life and appropriate obstacles, assignments and items. Due to the use of warm colors and cartoon-like animation, the game feels very atmospheric. In this way, the house and the relationship between the two characters are simultaneously revived.

What is particularly striking in the levels is the level of detail: there is something to see everywhere and with the vast majority of objects that can be found in the environment, you can do something. Daughter Rose’s messy room is a goldmine of nostalgic toys, such as magnetic drawing boards and kaleidoscopes. This high degree of interaction really draws you into the game. The differences between the levels – both in terms of setting and gameplay – are so great that it is often reminiscent of the creative flow of ideas in Super Mario Galaxy. Fortunately, in each world, you get just enough time to get a taste of the concept before moving on to the next crazy idea.

A puzzle platformer is nothing without puzzles and luckily It Takes Two also knows how to provide them. The puzzles are of variable difficulty, but can almost always be solved through teamwork. In most cases that means that you have to help each other by creating a way or opening a bridge, so that the other person can do that for you later.

With special power-ups that you get in some levels, you can help each other on their way. For example, in one of the levels one has a honey cannon and the other a match gun to explode the honey. Timing and cooperation are then crucial to detonate the right object. These power-ups can often be used in a different way and you also need each other for that. For example, the honey can be used to weigh objects and the matches to move pulleys.

Most gadgets are only in your possession for a short time. Because the gameplay mechanics of these gadgets remain largely the same, you quickly get used to the new items. It is a shame that Hazelight has not added special features for the controls in the PlayStation 5 version of the game, because the use of the gadgets in particular would be even better with the adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like working together, but you prefer to work together. Once in a while you will come across a minigame where you can compete against your comrade. The friendly games are simple but effective because they shake up the game for a while. The minigames feel like a special kind of collectibles and it is always a surprise what kind of battle you enter into with each other. You can play a variant of curling, knock each other flat in a game of live Whack-a-Mole or run an obstacle race with explosives on your back. Here too, there is no lack of variety.

When you step into the world of It Takes Two, you can tell from everything that the game has been put together with a lot of love and fun. Story and gameplay go hand and hand and the game is strong in its genre. The co-op way of playing fits in very well with that. After all: together you are stronger.

Score:

9,0

+ Detailed and versatile game world
+ Only one copy needed thanks to Friend’s Pass
+ Fun characters and strong dialogue
+ Smooth gameplay

– The boss battles are sometimes very fast.
– Unique DualSense options go unused.

It Takes Two will be released on March 26 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X and S. The game has been tested on a PlayStation 4 pro.