Relationships, and the various issues that stem from them, have been dealt with in all forms of media. It is a popular story mechanic because relationships, whether between lovers, family, or friends – is a concept universal to players around the World. Unfortunately, video games have rarely focused on the more mature concepts associated with relationships, such as divorce and loneliness, other than as merely a fraction of a larger story. It Takes Two hopes to change that by making a divorce – and all the baggage that comes along with it – the focus of the story.
It Takes Two centers around Cody and May, a couple on the precipice of divorce, and their young daughter Rose, stuck in the middle of their failing relationship. Rose, upset about her parents’ impending divorce, sneaks off to the garage to hide. There she pulls out two lovingly crafted clay dolls modeled after her parents and a Book of Love by a Dr. Hakim. Rose points out various pages of the book to her clay figures, pleading for the two to reconcile, before bursting into tears.
Cody and May awake on the floor of the garage, startled and scared, where they quickly realize that they now inhabit their daughter’s clay dolls. Unsure of what to do, they decide to reach the still despondent Rose, but are quickly stopped by the Book of Love, inhabited by Dr. Hakim. Dr. Hakim explains that to progress, they must learn to work together, which the couple reluctantly agrees to.
Throughout the game Dr. Hakim will appear to throw objectives in the way of the Cody and May. He rarely gives the couple any real help – rather he forces them to accomplish seemingly menial tasks to progress, all in the name of working out their differences and finding love again.
Let’s get this out of the way first – Dr. Hakim is an annoyance. Sure, he is meant to be, but I’m not sure if the developer’s meant for him to be as annoying as he is. His dialogue, movements, and all around attitude are often joked about or outright made fun of by Cody and May, but unfortunately players will feel the same. The character is a bit too absurdist when placed into what is otherwise a sober and sometimes incredibly dark story.
While labeled a romantic comedy video game, It Takes Two suffers a bit from an identity crisis. At moments it is funny, fun, and carefree – while others are almost hard to stomach, including a particular scene involving a happy elephant and a ledge. The game often leaps from uplifting to dark in a matter of seconds, and the tone jumps can feel rather jarring. It is one thing to make players question whether the couple deserve to be together – or if they are even good parents – it is another entirely to actively make you hate some of their actions and decisions.
That said, the gameplay – not the story – is where It Takes Two shines. It is an incredibly creative, supremely unpredictable, and downright fascinating mesh of ideas. As a co-op only tale, It Takes Two can be played either via couch co-op or online, as no single player mode is available. Which is justifiable, as playing single player would ultimately defeat the purpose of the game.
The only way to complete It Takes Two is teamwork. Each level is based around a new gimmick, with Cody and May each acquiring complimentary abilities in each new area they encounter. An early level has Cody throwing nails to create platforms which May can then use a Hammer head to swing from, while later Cody uses a nectar gun to cover surfaces while May blows said surfaces up with a rocket launcher of sorts, and even further into the adventure we see Cody gaining the ability to rewind time while May can clone herself to reach new areas. The sheer variety of gameplay elements tossed at players is incredible.
Each combination of skills or abilities rarely lasts long and does not carry over to later levels. The story progresses quickly, handing you a new skill and then immediately letting you use that skill to figure out how to advance throughout whatever quirky obstacles have been placed in your path – before yanking it away only to replace it with something else.
This constant change of abilities, on paper, sounds annoying – but in reality is refreshing and keeps It Takes Two fresh throughout its surprisingly long 10+ hour run time.
Along with the ever changing abilities, It Takes Two boasts incredible level design and hilarious inhabitants. One moment you may be chasing fuses through a garage, or fighting a giant octopus on a pirate ship, or navigating a sea of gumballs through a messy bedroom, or fighting a disgruntled bear astronaut in his space station, or helping out in an epic battle between the squirrels and the wasps living in your tree, or fighting a long forgotten vacuum hurt that you replaced it with a newer model. It is all incredibly fascinating to watch unfold. It has been a long time since a game constantly surprised me with its unpredictability, and It Takes Two kept me enthralled throughout as I never knew what was hiding around the corner.
Throughout your journey Dr. Hakim will pop up to remind Cody and May that until they rekindle their lost love, they will never succeed. While a nice sentiment, it ultimately rings hollow as the story – dark and mature as it can be – never has enough faith to delve into whether or not some relationships may not be worth saving. We all love a happy ending – but most want to feel that the journey to reach it rang true. For a game with such unpredictable gameplay, the story was a bit too on the nose.
Still, players have flocked to It Takes Two and rightly so. For every nitpick that I may have about the story, I can brag about two incredible gameplay elements that I encountered. It has been such an incredibly long time since I have been genuinely impressed with a game, much less a co-op game, that I honestly would recommend this game to anybody I encounter.
Also, there is a Diablo rip-off level and I cannot remember the last time I was so excited to witness a new area In a video game. Here’s hoping the developers tackle the isometric loot RPG genre next.
It Takes Two is a wonderfully creative game that will entertain friends, couples, or random strangers on the Internet for hours. My qualms about the story aside, it is a game that should not be missed. Hazelight Studios has created a co-op masterpiece deserving of the high praise being thrown upon it. Grab a friend, lover, or hop online and experience one of the most unique games in recent memory.