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December 2022

It Takes Two

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Hazelight
Release Date: March 26, 2021

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.


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PS5 Review - 'It Takes Two'

by David Silbert on April 7, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

It Takes Two is co-op adventure where uniquely varied gameplay and emotional storytelling intertwine in a fantastical journey.

Buy It Takes Two

It's hard to believe how far storytelling in games has come in recent years. Modern motion capture allows actors to provide expressive, near-lifelike performances. Uncanny valley is slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. As consoles start to look and feel like PCs, developers are getting craftier with their resources — and creating truly stunning experiences.

EA's It Takes Two is a great example of this. It's the second release from Hazelight Studios, a team that came to prominence thanks to its cinematic co-op adventure, A Way Out. As with its predecessor, It Takes Two features the studio's trademark split-screen effect, present regardless of whether you play locally or online. The game's also directed by former moviemaker (and outspoken Oscars-hater) Josef Fares.

As you might expect from Fares and his team, It Takes Two is hardly conventional, and it's all the better for it. It blurs the line between video game and interactive movie, presenting players with an experience that's equal parts Nintendo and Pixar. Its levels are meticulously crafted, offering a refreshing mix of platforming, action, and exploration on par with the best Super Mario adventures. All the while, it supports this gameplay with impressive animation, breathtaking vistas, and delightful character moments.

For all of its great qualities, It Takes Two makes some noticeable stumbles. Its characters benefit from great mo-cap and stellar voice work, but the title also suffers from a generic plot and melodramatic story beats. While the game is superbly paced and offers new mechanics at nearly every turn, the adventure ends on an underwhelming note. The result is a rewarding platformer and even better co-op experience that falls short of being a masterpiece.

It Takes Two stars May and Cody, a suburban couple in the midst of a severe marital rift. One day, they tell their daughter, Rose, that they're getting a divorce. Young and impressionable, Rose takes the news especially hard, retreating to the family's shed with a pair of dolls in tow. She digs up a self-help book called "Book of Love" and, crying, begs its author, Dr. Hakim, to help repair her parents' relationship.

As Rose's tears strike the book and dolls, a magical transformation takes place. May and Cody fall into a deep slumber and later wake up in the shed, now in the bodies of Rose's play figures. The Book of Love — inhabited by an exuberant Dr. Hakim — appears before them, tasking them with fixing their troubled relationship. Without a clear way to undo the spell, the couple must overcome their differences to return to the house and reclaim their real bodies.

It's a standard Pixar setup if ever there was one. Unlike its Disney inspiration, however, It Takes Two lacks much of the subtlety afforded in films like Inside Out or 2020's Soul. May and Cody's relationship exists almost entirely through the lens of their impending divorce. Nary a scene goes by where one doesn't bring it up, and each time, it feels heavy-handed. This is exacerbated by the Book of Love, whose constant, overplayed pep talks border on grating.

Thankfully, It Takes Two improves its narrative significantly in its middle hours. The game begins to introduce some of the why behind May and Cody's issues, while also presenting moments of genuine growth for the couple. It's a shame, then, that the game's final moments end up feeling rushed. While it provides some welcome closure, it's relatively predictable and could have benefitted from extra scenes to flesh it out.

With the bad out of the way, let's get to the good — and there's a whole lot of good. It Takes Two takes place across nine chapters that'll have May and Cody traversing the nooks and crannies of their suburban home. Their journey starts with them navigating their shed and yard but soon evolves into a dizzying variety of areas, from Rose's space-themed bedroom to a wintry snow globe.

Together, players solve puzzles, fight dastardly foes, and zip around the environment through a mix of climbing, flying, swinging, rail riding, and practically any other action you can think of. Hazelight's mantra when developing It Takes Two was to inject variety throughout the experience — not just for the sake of variety, but as a central narrative device. It succeeds here with flying colors.

This is perhaps best reflected with May and Cody themselves. From the game's outset, players must choose which character they'd like to control. This is not a superficial choice. For much of the campaign, It Takes Two gives the couple wildly different, specialized tools to help them progress.

For instance, in the first chapter — the shed — the pair comes across a talking hammer head that's been separated from its handle. May picks up the hammer, which lets her smash glass bottles and hit switches strewn about the level. Cody, meanwhile, gets access to a nail, which he can hurl at distant targets and then recall a la Kratos' ax in 2018's God of War.

While each of these mechanics is satisfying, it's the interplay between them that takes It Takes Two to another level. When Cody throws his nail at a wall, May can then hook onto the nail with the hammer, letting her swing herself to new areas. At other times, May can hit switches that'll shoot Cody into the air, giving him a new vantage point.

These interactions are commonplace in It Takes Two. From flame guns to gravity boots and jetpacks, there's always a pair of shiny new mechanics at the next bend that turn the game completely on its head. These mechanics never overstay their welcome and are always polished to a sheen. Don't expect to get bored while playing.

Adding to this variety is a series of 25 minigames scattered across the nine chapters. These micro-experiences give an opportunity for May and Cody to turn their collaboration into a bit of competition. An early minigame has them play "whack-a-Cody," with Cody hiding and May using her hammer to hit him. Others include traditional games like shuffleboard and chess. Some are more inventive than others, but overall, they're a nice addition to an already great experience.

It Takes Two clocks in at around 10 to 14 hours, but that time can easily double if you play through the game twice, once as each character, and seek out all of the available minigames. You'll likely want to, and thanks to the game's "Friend's Pass" system — a carryover from A Way Out — you can invite a second player even if they don't own the game. It's clever marketing on EA and Hazelight's part ($40 plus a "free" copy is essentially two $20 copies), but it's a welcome feature nonetheless.

It helps that It Takes Two is gorgeous, through and through. The game pops on next-generation hardware with vibrant colors, impressive textures, and jaw-dropping lighting. Outside of a few audio hiccups and a single animation bug, the game ran and played beautifully during my two playthroughs. Regardless of which generation you choose, the charming animations and poignant soundtrack are bound to elicit plenty of smiles while playing.

In many ways, It Takes Two is a glimpse into the future of video game storytelling. It's inventive, expertly paced, and effortlessly entertaining. It's well acted and often endearing. Yet despite its great ideas, it falls short of being a quintessential "playable Pixar" flick. Its characters, while likeable, suffer from a heavy-handed plot and cumbersome story beats. The game also rushes its final act, resulting in a surprisingly undercooked resolution.

While it has some story pains, make no mistake: It Takes Two is a fantastic game and a welcome 2021 surprise. Grab a friend or loved one; find a co-worker or bridge buddy. Regardless of who you pair up with, this is one adventure you'll want to share together.

Score: 8.7/10

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