Available On: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
Played On: PlayStation 5
Like their previous game, A Way Out, It Takes Two was built from the ground up as a cooperative-only experience for two players. Not only is the relatively simple gameplay wildly robust and versatile, but the story of a married couple on the precipice of divorce remains surprisingly grounded and effective.
Book of Love
The story feels plucked right out of a Pixar film. A young girl, Rose, is upset that her always-fighting parents are soon getting a divorce. She cries over a “Book of Love” she finds at school, along with two dolls she’s crafted in her parents’ likeness. Through some magical means that’s never really explained, the parents become trapped in their doll forms.
The book reveals itself as Dr. Hakim, an anthropomorphic love therapist and marriage counselor. He’s ready to patch things up with his eccentric accent and series of wild adventures.
The first half of the adventure tasks our now tiny heroes Cody and May with reuniting with their daughter, who’s unaware any of this has happened. In the second half, their own relationship issues come to the forefront, becoming literal levels for them to explore and overcome. Some work better than others: the ski resort is filled with rewarding exploration and fun little games, while the music-themed finale is shockingly lackluster.
Dr. Hakim pops in to provide some guidance now and then, mostly in the form of friendly chastisement that thankfully never gets too annoying. But the real stars are our two verbose heroes, who constantly quip, comment, banter, and argue with one another — just like a married couple.
Although their surroundings are often exotic and magical, including evil plants, talking frogs, and militarized squirrels, Cody and May maintain their wits and confidence and play well off each other throughout the dozen or so hours of the adventure.
Honey, I Shrunk the Parents
From toy castles to greenhouses and clockwork villages, Cody and May’s adventures take them in and around their home in increasingly inventive ways. The designers run wild with a Toy Story-like theme, featuring levels and challenges ripped right from a person’s home, yard, garden, tool shed, attic, etc. Ride on a toy train, battle through a play castle filled with toy soldiers, ski down the slopes of a snow globe, save the plants in a garden from an evil infection, and interact with talking animals and many of Rose’s toys, all brimming with personality.
It Takes Two is a 3D platformer, but each area features its own unique, asymmetrical abilities, thanks to gadgets that our heroes discover, or are given. The tree level, which has our heroes working for squirrels inside a giant tree infested by wasps, plays like a third-person shooter thanks to May’s sniper rifle and Cody’s sap-grenades. Like everything our heroes do, these weapons and tools work in tandem with each other, such as May’s sniper exploding Cody’s sap.
During a particularly puzzley area in and around a clock tower, Cody is given the ability to alter time on certain objects, while May can create a clone of herself and swap places with it. These two abilities solve dozens of puzzles, forcing both players to work directly with one another. Other times the environment itself offers the solution, such as Cody flicking a switch back and forth to activate different platforms for May to jump along. But everything reinforces two players working together.
Memorable boss battles combine the best of platforming and utilizing unique abilities. My personal favorite involved one player shrinking down to get inside a spaceship and disabling it by runing through a gauntlet of traps, while the other player had to keep the boss distracted and stay alive while fleeing from the ship.
It Takes Two is rated T for Teen with Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, and Language. Thanks to the art style and toy-like nature of the world, the action and violence are more cartoony than realistic, though the “s-word” does pop up a few times.
I’m generally not a big fan of platformers, but It Takes Two does such a wonderful job with creative level designs and doling out new and interesting powers and synergies with each new area. Despite the magical backdrop, Cody and May remain a well-written, realistic couple dealing with their own issues and the world around them. It Takes Two doesn’t have to be played by couples, but it does take on an extra magical quality when viewed from that lens, and even has a few insightful things to say along the way.