Just over two years ago, Hazelight Studios and Electronic Arts released their action-adventure prison break game A Way Out. It got rave reviews, including one from us, for its brilliant story, gameplay and Hazelight’s sales model to encourage friends to co-op together by giving out free friend codes. This allowed two people to play online without needing to buy two copies of the game. Two years on and Hazelight are back again with their unique sales model and another co-op action-adventure in It Takes Two.
Set in a very different world from A Way Out, It Takes Two is a story about love and relationships. You follow the journey of Cody and May, a couple whose relationSHIP has hit stormy waters and is heading toward the iceberg that is divorce. Witnessing the divide between her parents, their daughter Rose turns to the Book of Love for advice, for a way to make her parents remember why they fell in love with each other in the first place. Then as with any child of divorce, tears flow, slowly trickling down her cheeks and dropping onto two dolls she has created of her parents.
As if by magic, Cody and May wake up to find their minds and souls transferred into the two dolls that Rose had created. Why? They have no idea. But to help them along the way, the Book of Love comes to life to teach them the lessons of working on a relationship. Sadly it’s not as simple as therapy and talking things through. Instead, you’re sent on a journey of discovery and re-discovery to learn to work together as a team in this crazy co-op adventure that has you exploring bizarre and strange environments from your dark and damp basement to the big tree in the garden with Squirrels and Wasps who are at war with one another.
It Takes Two’s story is a fantastic tale of how we shouldn’t give up when things get tough. That relationships need work constantly. It teaches us the importance of communication and that we need to work together as a team to get through the challenges we face every day, you can’t do it alone. And by working together with the ones we love, we can come through these challenges better and stronger than we were before.
As you can read, It Takes Two couldn’t be further from what put Hazelight on the map with A Way Out. They’ve gone from an adult orientated game, involving violence and breaking the law, to almost living in a fantasy world where you fight toolboxes and giant mechanical wasps. But, at the core, the two games are very similar as Hazelight keep their focus on creating a game in It Takes Two that puts real emphasis on bringing back the couch co-op experience (or online during lockdown).
Whilst the games are different, you will heavily rely on teamwork to help solve puzzles and get through tricky situations. Some times it will pay off, others it’ll leave you dispersing into a cloud of dust. But don’t worry, in this game you never really die, you just come back again and again until you get through whichever challenge it is that has caused you to stumble. It does sadly mean that the game is extremely easy even at the harder points in the game because you don’t get any real setbacks for failing, instead, you carry on where you left off.
It would be nice to feel more of a challenge in these instances, but then I remember that clearly from the design of this game compared to the previous title we’ve played, It Takes Two is likely to be aimed at a younger audience. That’s not to say it won’t be enjoyed by older gamers too, because it’s a beautiful game that proves you’re never too old to play with dolls. Plus, with every section of the game you face, you will get bosses you must face and these do up the ante somewhat to give more experienced gamers something more substantial to sink their teeth into.
But the best part of the gameplay is that every section of the game is different. You’ll unlock new weapons and talents along the way that you will have to utilise to help you progress. On top of that, there are unique experiences thrown in that will have you doing everything from riding small creatures to flying aircraft built from your own underwear by squirrels. And to add a little competition to the mix, you’ll find multiple mini-games throughout your journey where you can compete with your friends at games like Whack-A-Cody and Tug of War, amongst many more. Because whilst working together is key, a little competition between friends is good for the soul.
One thing that may deter gamers from playing It Takes Two though is the fact there is no way to tell you where to go or what your goal is. You’re left to work it out for yourself, which isn’t a major issue really. Because levels are fixed, and whilst you can explore to a small degree, it’s not an open world game where you’re left wondering where to go, you are pretty much forced through a path from point A to point B. But this again is a nice to help you work together to solve out where you need to go and how to navigate your way to the next part of your journey.
Fortunately, you’re not left completely blind folded in It Takes Two, with a pretty simple but effective tutorial that links you to the core game mechanics. And as new abilities and tools become available, it will teach you again to use these, although you will have to work some stuff out for yourself to solve puzzles, for example, using Cody’s nectar gun to weigh items down to allow you to open doors.
If there was one thing though that did irritate me playing It Takes Two, it would be how sad and depressing Rose is. I mean I’m a child of divorce myself, and speaking from experience it’s not a nice experience to go through. But my God, she just comes across so whiney and needy. Like, be sad, yes, but don’t be so downright depressing, you’re doing yourself out of two birthday’s and Christmas’ here love. That’s twice the presents. But that’s not all, Rose also seems to be oblivious to what is going on around her, because whilst the minds of her parents may be in the dolls, their bodies remain in their house like empty shells.
You discover this in the cutscenes of the game, which can be quite long for some, but do an incredible job of helping to tell the story and progressing you through It Takes Two. Anyway, she tries to speak to her parents during these cutscenes and being empty shells, they don’t respond, and it doesn’t seem to even seem to raise suspicions with her. Ok, May is asleep on the couch, but her Dad is sat at a desk, so you’d think she’d go up and speak to him rather than just accepting she is being ignored from the door and turning away all depressed.
It Takes Two – Couples Therapy?
Besides the annoying child, and I’m not talking about my nephew monopolising the telly with Peppa Pig, there isn’t much else where I can think Hazelight have put a foot wrong with It Takes Two. They’ve created an amazing fantasy world with so much detail in it, and they’ve put together a story that is well told with some cracking lines going back and forth between Cody, May and the Book of Love.
Is It Takes Two potentially going to solve every relationship problem in the world? No! But it is an excellent game to play with your partner that encourages working on things like communication and teamwork. Although at times it almost felt like my relationship would end when I gloated too much winning ALL the mini-games or rolled my eyes when the other half failed to nail the tasks she had to complete for us to progress.
Still, It Takes Two a game I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and it is great to see studios like Hazelight bringing couch co-op games back in a big way. And even if you want to play online with friends due to current restrictions, It Takes Two does it in a way where you don’t have to splash the cash twice. A surprise considering who is publishing it and their reputation for being money-hungry, but maybe this is a way of giving back to gamers who have given so much over the years. If you enjoyed A Way Out this is very different, but it’s still a solid experience I’m sure most gamers would enjoy jumping into with their best pals.
It Takes Two is developed by Hazelight Studios and published by Electronic Arts under their EA Originals banner. It is available to play now on PC, PlayStation (PS4 & PS5) and Xbox (One, Series S & X). For more game reviews, click right HERE.