Josef Fares truly does have a gift when it comes to crafting fantastic co-operative experiences. A Way Out simply blew me away when it launched back in 2018, whilst Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons’ focus on teamwork introduced plenty of intuitive gameplay mechanics – even if it WAS a single player experience. Whilst those two titles were pretty special, it feels like he has hit the pinnacle of sublime co-op gameplay with It Takes Two. The fantastical and creative journey is complimented by its varied gameplay and wonderful world, whilst the genuinely touching narrative pieces the whole experience together and proves that… well… it really DOES take two to succeed.
It Takes Two tells the story of husband and wife Cody and May and their young daughter Rose. Unfortunately, things aren’t exactly hunky-dory in the family, with Cody and May breaking the news to Rose that they’re planning on having a divorce. The news overwhelms her, but she has a plan: she’s going to have them read a ‘Book of Love’ in order to rekindle their relationship.
Well, it turns out that love works in mysterious ways and, after Rose sheds a few tears on the book and a small pair of toys, Cody and May’s consciousness is transferred into the little figurines. Weird, right? With nothing but the ‘Book of Love’ to guide them (which has now come to life and taken on an irritating yet somewhat endearing personality), they have to traverse their way through a magical and imaginative representation of their home in order to restore their human bodies. And hey, who knows… maybe they’ll spark a bit of romance along the way?
What follows is a tale that’s a little kooky and laced with plenty of humour, but that also features plenty of touching moments that might hit home for a lot of players. I had to deal with my parents splitting up when I was younger and it certainly wasn’t nice, whilst I’m friends with plenty of couples who have ended up divorcing and… yeah, it’s no fun and there’s plenty of hurt along the way. Of course, It Takes Two does take a more light-hearted approach to the subject matter, but it still tackles it in a meaningful way that I’m sure players of all ages might actually be able to relate to.
It helps that the writing and voice performances are top notch throughout, with the protagonists particularly standing out as a believable duo that have shared plenty of life experiences together. Of course, I’ve got to give some props to the Book of Love too – every scene that featured him was comical in one way or another, even IF he did his best to piss me off with his actions.
Oh, and a quick word of warning: despite its whimsical appearance, It Takes Two features one of the darkest scenes I’ve seen in gaming for a while. Did you think The Last of Us: Part Two was bad? Wait until you encounter the stuffed elephant in this… *shudders*
Whilst the narrative behind It Takes Two weaves the experience together nicely, it’s within the gameplay that it REALLY shines. As mentioned, It Takes Two is a co-op game and can only be played with another player, with both local and online play available. It’s worth mentioning that you can play online with a friend even if they don’t own the game, with the ‘Friend Pass’ allowing players to join in provided that one player owns it. It’s a generous idea that was first introduced with A Way Out, with it ensuring that you can enjoy the game with whoever you want to.
The main crux of the experience revolves around platforming and solving puzzles, with plenty of jumping, climbing, grinding, and swinging challenges to be found across each locale as you make your way around. If you’ve played a 3D platformer before, you’ll feel right at home with It Takes Two.
Of course, there’s a lot more to the game than just that, with each chapter introducing a wide range of activities, items, mini-games, and challenges to spruce the gameplay up and keep the whole experience feeling mighty varied. You’ll never do one thing for too long, with both players equipped with different abilities that deems teamwork essential if you’re going to have any chance of progressing.
It makes for an absolutely fantastic experience and one where I never quite knew what I’d be doing next. I don’t want to go into too much detail since the surprise of the tasks at hand are what make It Takes Two feel so special to play, but you can expect to be doing the likes of manipulating time to reanimate objects, launching nails around to make swinging platforms and pulling them back to you as if you’re Thor, utilising vacuum cleaner pipes to blast each other across the map, zipping through the air aboard a fidget-spinner, battling against wasps in explosive warfare, racing down snowy mountains, and even clearing out a castle in action-packed dungeon-crawler gameplay. That’s barely scratching the surface as to what you’ll actually do in the game too, with SO many different variations on gameplay and puzzling mechanics featured throughout to keep players on their toes.
The game continually evolves upon its mechanics as you progress through the game too, with nothing ever outstaying its welcome but instead being changed up to keep both the experience and the trials you face fresh. What’s most important though is that EVERYTHING was fun – there was never a moment in the game where I got frustrated at one of the puzzling mechanics or found myself bored of the platforming, but instead had a big smile on my face the whole time. It Takes Two took me and my co-op buddy around eleven hours to beat, but each of those hours was packed to the brim with new and inventive things to do. Honestly, it’s just brilliant.
Whilst there are countless satisfying action-packed set pieces to keep each player’s skills tested, it was the boss battles of It Takes Two that stood out to me the most. Each one implemented plenty of inventive ideas in order to take the big baddy out, whilst the constant sense of danger that came with the hazards they throw your way meant you could never sit around and get comfortable. They were certainly some of the more creative boss encounters I’ve seen for some time, with each a joy to battle through.
It Takes Two is first and foremost a co-op experience, but there’s still plenty of room for competition throughout the adventure. A lot of this will be found with the optional mini-games that are littered around, with things like a tug of war, a snowball fight, target practice, whack-a-mole, and a rodeo bull just a small selection of those that you can square off against each other in. These were all fun little endeavours to tuck into on the side and there were plenty of occasions where a ‘one off’ play of them turned into a best of three, a best of five, and eventually a best of ten before we’d move back on to the main story.
However, it was the LITTLE moments in-game where I found my partner and I competed the most, whether it was racing through a platforming challenge or simply trying to be the one who figures out how to solve a puzzle first. Don’t get me wrong, it never got TOO competitive, but the slick platforming of It Takes Two encourages players to face off against each other. I mean, if you’re not first, you’re last… right?
For the most part, It Takes Two offers an experience that feels close to perfection, but there were one or two issues that I noticed on a couple occasions. The frame rate struggled a little bit on some of the busier boss sequences for example, even on the PlayStation 5 where it otherwise looks wonderful. It’s never game-breaking by any means, but the stutter was pretty obvious. The camera could be a little iffy in places too, especially during some screen transitions during tricky platforming segments. Again, it’s not game-breaking, but it was a bit of a nuisance when trying to string your way through sections of the game.
You know what, though? Whilst these issues are present, they never hindered the gameplay at all and just stood out as minor imperfections more than anything. Everything else in the game is so sublime that the flaws are easier to ignore; who cares about one or two frame rate stutters or a few moments of an awkward camera when everything else in the game just looks so wonderful and creative? I won’t spoil the locales you get to visit in the game, but you can certainly expect a kooky and whimsical take on both your typical household as well as a child’s imagination. It’s packed to the brim with neat little interactions for the player too, whilst you’ll find easter eggs left, right and centre – there’s one in particular than fans of Josef Fares’ previous work will appreciate that got a chuckle out of me…
It Takes Two is a wonderful co-op adventure that features a touching narrative, inventive gameplay mechanics that constantly keep things varied, and a whimsical world that’s packed full of detail… what more could you want? I was genuinely blown away with just how clever the game was, with the focus on teamwork never growing tiresome but remaining intuitive in design from the start to end. It’s absolutely brilliant.
I really do think it is one of the best co-op games that I have ever played, and honestly, some of the sequences in the game will remain with me for a long time (especially with that elephant). If you’re looking for a co-op adventure that’ll bedazzle you with charm and fun, look no further than It Takes Two – it’s simply an unmissable experience.
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
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