Like its predecessor, It Takes Two is only playable in local or online co-op. In keeping with this theme of working together, associate editor Stephen Tailby enlisted the help of his girlfriend, Rachel, for this review. You'll hear from both of them below as they go over their thoughts on this shared experience, laid out in a back-and-forth style. Enjoy.
Stephen: Alright, well, we should begin at the beginning. It Takes Two is a co-op action adventure from Josef Fares and his team at Hazelight. Like the studio's previous game, A Way Out, the action largely splits the screen in two and requires both players to work together to navigate the world, beat baddies, and solve puzzles. However, the team has really upped the ante this time.
The game's all about Cody and May, a couple just about to get divorced. We also meet Rose, their daughter, in the opening sequence. What did you make of the introduction?
Rachel: I think the set up of the situation was quite clear, but honestly Rose freaked me out quite a bit. Something about her was a bit lifeless, but you do get the idea of what's going on.
Stephen: Yeah, I think we agree that her performance is quite robotic. If we could throw one real criticism at the game, it'd be a mix of some stilted acting and odd writing.
Anyway, after wishing for her parents to become friends again, they transform into two hand-made dolls, and so begins their quest. Guided by a flamboyant book, the pair are forced to cooperate in order to return to normal. Once the game puts you in control, things start to improve, don't they?
Rachel: For sure, you start off in a shed and end up arguing and fighting a vacuum cleaner that May had forgotten to fix. You then get given tools and you learn how to start working together on some parts. Very satisfying. I'm finding it hard not to give too much stuff away, being my first review, but I promise I won't give you any more specifics.
Stephen: Don't worry, they can handle it. If not, I'll take the fall.
Rachel: What a gent.
Stephen: But yes, the game's greatest strength has got to be its sheer variety. As you said, players start off in the shed, but throughout the 12-14 hour runtime, you'll visit a large number of new environments, each one completely different from the last. I don't want to spoil anything in particular, but I think it's fair to say that players won't be able to guess where things go. Some of the levels are quite linear but others are vast, with lots to discover.
Rachel: I love exploring the big levels with you, there's lots of really cute mini games to find (which I won many of... at least 10 per cent of the time), and interactive bits that you can just hang out at and have fun.
Stephen: Yeah, lots of mini games off the beaten path (some of which are quite involved) as well as some fun distractions and Easter eggs to keep you amused.
I think what's maybe more impressive than the variety in levels is the variety in gameplay. The controls are kept very simple throughout, but on a regular basis, the game is giving you new abilities or gadgets, some of which are only there for a few minutes. You're able to run, jump, dash, and swing from ropes, but "disposable" mechanics like flight or using magnets come and go all the time. All of these varied gameplay changes feel great too, and sometimes even the presentation changes to match what's happening. The game literally changes genre several times. It's all very dynamic, but controls remain consistent, which is great.
Rachel: I have something to say about the controls. I'm usually the one who needs someone to take over as I just can't make a jump or aim and shoot at the same time, but I actually only needed help once (thanks Steve). And that was near the beginning. Come the end, I was swinging and jumping and aiming all at the same time, which is some kind of miracle. I think it's very cool that they made the controls simple enough for me to use. I even know what R3 is now.
Stephen: It probably goes without saying, but to progress you need to work together, and there are some ingenious puzzles, boss fights, and platforming sequences that lean into this. It's a fantastic co-op experience, and the variety we've spoken about just means you'll probably never grow tired of playing. It's a refreshingly imaginative game that throws new ideas at you constantly.
When it comes to story, this is where some small cracks start to form. The problem with a game starring an estranged couple is that they hate each other. For the first half of the game, they snipe and they pick at one another — as is to be expected I guess — but it doesn't make for a particularly enjoyable atmosphere.
Rachel: Yeah, I don't actually think couples should play this together. Although the actual playing of the game is fun, whenever they argued it made me feel irritated, and if a couple are on the rocks, I just don't think this would be a game that would bring out your best sides. I mean, we made it through okay but do you think other couples need to be aware of this?
Stephen: Well, I do think that's an interesting point! Certainly the first half, the hostility between the pair can be off-putting. It's good you bring this up, because I don't want Push Square to be held accountable for any real-world fallouts.
Rachel: Fair. I also think May sniped more than Cody did, and she did sometimes bring a downer to a really lovely place. But it does make me think, maybe that's what the game does show; if you're not getting on with the person you're hanging out with, it can taint a place, no matter how nice it is. I don't want to give anything away, but at some points I did just think that they really should just part ways and be done with it.
Stephen: What's odd about the narrative, though, is that the latter half sees quite a sudden change in their attitude. I was expecting a gentler, more gradual growth, but it feels like things accelerate rather quickly. There are some bizarre turns in the adventure too — some are delightful, but one in particular is downright disturbing.
Rachel: I know the bit you mean. Just hope I don't have nightmares.
Stephen: What I will say is that, nightmarish scenes or not, the game looks lovely. Some details don't fare well on close inspection, but the overall visuals are wonderfully vibrant, and there's some excellent texture work going on too. Plus, it all runs at a very solid 60 frames-per-second; I only noticed one moment where it dips.
To be honest, this is a difficult game to review, because so much of the joy it provides is best experienced fresh. It's bursting with colour and invention, and the varied pace, gameplay, and levels mean Josef can keep his thousand dollars.
Rachel: Agreed. I couldn't get bored playing this game, and I did really enjoy it. The imagination behind it is incredible, and I have never seen such gorgeous cushions. I want some so badly.
It Takes Two is an excellent co-op adventure. While it stumbles on certain narrative aspects and not all the performances are winners, it more than makes up for that with its brilliantly fun and ever-changing gameplay. Forcing two players to work in tandem in countless ways, the game embraces co-op play wholeheartedly, and the variety of gameplay and environments makes it a joy to play from start to finish.