In 2018, Josef Fares took to the stage at The Game Awards to boldly tell viewers “F**k the Oscars,” before going on to reveal some gameplay of his team at Hazelight’s latest co-op focused title, A Way Out, it was certainly a hell of a way to get people to notice you—and it worked. Even with the shroud of the often-condemned EA Games looming as a publisher for the title, A Way Out released and was a real surprise for so many players, bringing a truly unique co-op experience that many had not had the pleasure of experiencing since the masterpiece that was Portal 2 graced us with its creation. Returning to The Game Awards again in 2020, the team at Hazelight revealed their successor to the prison escape title with another co-op only game, It Takes Two, looking to present a similar experience to the one found with their previous title. In Fallout 4 fashion, the game has released just a short few months after the reveal (which is how it should always be done, for the record), with It Takes Two seeking to get Fares a home run with three great co-op titles in a row—a task they certainly have not failed.
May and Cody face an imminent divorce, a divorce they find themselves having to explain to their only child, Rose, with the explanation not exactly going to plan as Rose finds herself confused at the entire prospect of her parents separating. After a bit of magic involving Rose’s tears, some clay/wooden figures, and a magic book on how to fix love, May and Cody find themselves trapped within the said figures, with their only guidance being the sporadic teachings of a now-talking book that seeks to teach them how to fix their relationship. The simple premise sets the tale in motion well enough, with May and Cody navigating their home and the areas that encompass it—albeit from their new, minuscule point of view. From the ongoing war between Squirrel and Wasps in their garden to the frozen landscapes of a snowglobe laying on the mantlepiece, the entire journey has an incredible resemblance to a Pixar or a DreamWorks narrative, with each chapter presenting wacky new characters to work as friend or foe to our two leads while equally allowing for some comedic moments to come through.
The narrative arc our two leads are taken on is a simple one—potentially to a fault, as the game’s look at the complicated aspects of divorce is incredibly one-note, putting the entire ordeal down to something as basic as “learn to love again.” Divorce is a far more complex affair, and it is a shame that It Takes Two never once decides to dip into these complexities, opting instead to keep the ordeal as light as possible, resulting in a serviceable yet cute narrative that ultimately is enough to ensure you are always presented with a goal in mind between each of the game’s several chapters.
Even with the barebones narrative, it will be the gameplay here that keeps you hooked from chapter to chapter, with each level seeming to only expand upon the creative ways that the team used to craft this co-op only title. As you would expect with the game being two players only via online or local co-op, both players must choose between playing as Cody or May. Your screen then splits down the middle, allowing you to view both perspectives regardless of playing locally or online. While having so much of your screen real estate being taken up by your co-op partner can be a tad distracting at first, this feature becomes essential on your journey. The entire game is now always focused on the fact that it is a co-op title, with each chapter presenting new and incredibly creative ways to push you and your partner to work together to conquer the various platforming challenges.
Each chapter typically begins the same way: you land in the area and are presented with your given ability for the levels ahead, with each player given a small yet game-changing tool that is only effective in conjunction with your partner’s ability. For example, early in the game Cody is given a set of nails that can be thrown and called back in the fashion of Kratos’ axe, while May is provided with a hammer that can be used to swing on the nails or hammer in buttons. Each of the tools has its moments to be used early in the chapter to establish their benefits, yet the game quickly forgoes this and provides challenge after challenge that force you both to work together while always thinking outside the box with what your tools can do. While each chapter does discard the previous one’s tool, the number of creative ideas that the team at Hazelight squeeze out of each and every tool you use allows the end of the chapter to be the perfect time to move on to a new and fresh idea.
At the game’s core, It Takes Two is a platformer through and through, opting for a far less cinematic approach than A Way Out—and it’s all the better for it. While the use of the tools is, of course, featured in some of the more static puzzles you will face, the majority of your time with It Takes Two is going to be spent platforming, often while needing the aid of your partner to assist you in said movement. Due to the nature of the game, there are times in which you are not needing the assistance of your partner to platform, which can result in you sitting at the end of a path waiting for your other player to catch up. Thankfully, these moments are few are far between, with the vast majority of the game always relying on your skills to work together, and to spoil how the game keeps this fresh throughout would be a huge disservice to the title. There are so many moments in which both I and my co-op partner were blown away by it all, often culminating in a challenging yet fair boss battle to bookend each chapter.
Playing the entire game with my girlfriend (we are perhaps the perfect candidates to play the game), it was a joy to see how well It Takes Two controlled for both of us—especially since she is not the most experienced in gaming. Your main movement consists of jumping, sprinting, and dashing, and the game never boggles itself down with complicated moves while managing to keep the challenge engaging. Both May and Cody also often have to perform different tasks from one another, so there is already an incentive for us to replay our lengthy 15-hour journey as we look to experience the playstyle that we missed on our first playthrough. There are also bonus mini-games found in each of the chapters, ranging from a game of whack-a-mole all the way to a full game of chess, with us only finding just over half of the mini-games in our playthrough.
The lengthy runtime was certainly a shock, especially when compared to the brief nature of A Way Out, and this could potentially be an issue for those trying to find the time to play through the game with a partner online. Finding the time that both you and a friend have to play through the entire game may prove a challenge, yet I cannot say that I was ever once bored with It Takes Two throughout its runtime—by the time the credits rolled I was genuinely sad to see it end. Yet for those who are playing online and may be worried about time commitments between you and a buddy, the game once again introduces the Friend Pass (similar to what was offered with A Way Out), allowing you to play the entire game with someone online even if they do not own the game—and there really is no catch. It is truly amazing to see a company like EA understand that, since It Takes Two is a co-op only title, the pass gives a huge incentive for players to check it out with a friend—and potentially split the cost to make it an absolute bargain.
If there was one word to describe It Takes Two, it would be charming. The journey me and my partner experienced was at times silly, hilarious, whimsical, tragic, gorgeous and, above all else, always fun. Not since the days of Portal 2 have I been so blown away by how well a co-op focused title committed to the idea of partnership so fully, never once being afraid to present the wackiest ideas it has up its sleeves. It Takes Two may lack a mature narrative to allow the simple tale to really nail an emotional landing, yet what it lacks in storytelling it more than makes up for in gameplay, making for one of my favourite gaming experiences in recent memory and one I am desperate to re-visit as soon as possible.
[A review code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review]