Game

It Takes Two Is a Fantastic Adventure for Couples

Screenshot: It Takes Two

Simply put, It Takes Two is the best cooperative video game I’ve ever played. That may sound like hyperbole; a grand statement that defies explanation. But the polish and attention that Hazelight Studios has put into this adventure create a result greater than the sum of its parts.

One could easily describe the game in very reductive terms, calling it a two-player platforming adventure game, or a long series of mini-games, and that would paint a fairly accurate picture in broad strokes, but that would still miss the point, and the very heart of the game itself. It Takes Two is thoroughly about collaboration, a point that is supported by every detail of the game from the controls to the story, the puzzles, and the title itself. You cannot play this game alone. Choose your partner well. Or don’t. Honestly, I would love to hear about the experience of playing with someone rather unfamiliar to you, just to see how greatly that affects your experience. For this review, I played with my partner of nearly 8 years, and our familiarity with each other’s gaming style definitely played to our advantage. She often knew when to expect me to do something without verbal communication, although a few puzzles almost require it.

Screenshot: It Takes Two

The main characters here are a married couple in a dysfunctional relationship, trapped in the bodies of small dolls and forced to cooperate to try and return to their own bodies. To describe the experience as “Couples Counseling: The Game” is fair, as a book on that very subject plays a large and comedic part of the progression of the story. Each sequence you play through comes with a different focus on cooperation and a new move set for players to learn. Tonally, the mechanics for each area line up with the story and message very well. Need to work on attraction? Have magnets. Want to have more time with your partner? Here’s some time manipulation powers. The controls and abilities for each chapter both make sense and feel novel for just long enough to move on to the next. Besides, the real star of this game is not what you can do as an individual, but how well you work with your partner. Of course, if you just have to scratch that competitive itch with your partner, each chapter has mini-games called “Challenges” to discover that are entirely optional.

The way It Takes Two encourages cooperation is far more than a forced hand, refusing to let you play alone. The effect your partner has on the environment is immediate and well communicated visually. When hang-gliding through a series of tunnels, players control their own position by sliding left and right, shifting their position on the grip bar and showing directly how their weight affects the steering of the glider. Other effects are less subtle; some enemies may only be vulnerable to attack when one player essentially pins them down first. Certain puzzles can also be this intuitive; simply watch what your partner is doing and respond accordingly. Other puzzles require communication. If you fail to tell your partner which path you will take in a short period of time they won’t be able to open the right door for you quickly enough.

Screenshot: It Takes Two

The emotional heart of It Takes Two is ever present. The broken dynamic of the two main characters (and their daughter, who isn’t playable) drives the story and is necessarily sad at times. Regardless, the game itself is fun and often funny, thanks in no small part to a therapist character who is so over the top, so extra, yet well-meaning and unyielding.
To borrow from D&D terms, the character is the definition of Chaotic Good, and is a welcome addition to the story every time they appear. It Takes Two puts atmosphere and emotional impact at the forefront the way Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, The Unfinished Swan, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Papo y Yo do for their ability to tell incredibly personal stories with surreal, whimsical backdrops. Better yet, there is so much polish put into everything in the game. The story felt long in the best way; when I wanted there to be more, there was.

Screenshot: It Takes Two

There’s a saying that I grew up with, “If you don’t like the weather in Chicago, wait ten minutes.” There’s a similar sensibility with the design of It Takes Two. If you don’t care for the style of game it is, give it another level. It touches on adventure, platforming, RPG, puzzles, and plenty more. I found the variety to be a true delight and my partner and I will gladly revisit this game for a date night some point in the future.

It Takes Two is available now on PC via Steam or Origin, and on PlayStation 4 and 5 as well as Xbox Series S|X.

 

 

 

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