My partner has just recently got into gaming. I’ve done my best to try and expose her to multiple games and genres of games but not everything sticks because I keep assuming she’ll like the same games as me. One thing we have had a lot of fun in is coop games. We’ve had our minds melted in Portal 2, we’ve had hilarious moments of rage in Ultimate Chicken Horse, and have tried so many farming games…
So if you told me a brand new coop game from Hazelight studios called It Takes Two had just released, I probably would have heard you out. I went into It Takes Two just this Easter weekend, with a couple of other coop games installed just in case it didn’t click for us. But after about 5-6 hours of playing the AAA quality Indie title (don’t let the EA logos fool you), we have safely agreed that it is the most fulfilling coop experience we have shared together.
Interestingly, even in online mode, you play in a split-screen view. My partner and I found it helped us explain what we needed the other to do so we could progress.
It Takes Two is a game that puts you and your coop partner (partner or friend or otherwise, I wont judge) into the shoes of May and Cody, a married couple that has tried everything to make it work but are still on the edge of divorce. After their daughter Rose makes a wish that her parents would become friends again and cries onto a seemingly magic book, May and Cody are transformed into two tiny doll versions of themselves and are forced to learn to work together once again to make it back into their bodies, and hopefully save their relationship along the way.
All in all, It Takes Two is a rich and substantial coop experience, it masterfully navigates the challenge so many other games have fallen into, steering clear of prioritising gameplay or narrative over one and the other. The game is broken into clearly distinct levels, made unique with visual cues, gameplay elements and miniaturised narratives. For example, the first level has you escape from your now enormous garden shed and escape the clutches of a vengeful vacuum and toolbox that have been neglected by your human counterparts for too long. Then you move into a Tree themed level where you discover and get involved in an ongoing war between squirrels and wasps, then onto a space-themed level etc.
My personal favourite level so far has been Tree, it was narratively compelling, action-packed and a visual treat.
Each level provides Cody and May with unique skills that pair to make the level completable, in the first Shed sequence Cody is given a collection of magic nails that can be thrown, pinned into certain surfaces and retrieved, while May has a hammerhead that she can use to smash obstacles and swing off of Cody’s nails. You can see how that relationship forces you and your partner to collaborate, in one area Cody must pin moving platforms and walls so that May can scale sheer surfaces. This evolving relationship encourages you to collaborate with your partner but at times rewards individual thinking. Another standout feature is Minigames, with about two per level, these self-contained activities encourage competition instead of collaboration, and help to break the working together stalemate for some good old fashioned, completely replayable PVP action.
The voice acting of Cody and May is delivered to perfection, with cutting insults and cliche broken-marriage-quips slowly giving way to compliments and loving memories as the game progresses and you start to heal the marriage. One slightly less enjoyable character is the magic love book, Dr Hakim, who occasionally materialises as the stereotypical Spanish love doctor that has all the answers to your problems! But also remains cryptic enough to keep the story going, at times purposely sabotaging the players to force you to continue to work together. Visually, the game is a treat, we first played local coop on my Series X, and continued (with our initial progress saved on BOTH our accounts) in online multiplayer. As a Next-Gen title, I’ve enjoyed the colours, ray tracing and framerates of every level with very few dips in quality or performance. Our only performance bug was a lag spike that crashed our first online session within seconds of starting.
So if you and your partner, whether they be a gamer or not, are looking for a funny, emotionally rich, visually stunning and endlessly entertaining coop experience, My girlfriend and I recommend It Takes Two. Available now on Xbox One, Series X/S, PS4, PS5 and PC. Reviewed on the Xbox Series X.