Co-op narrative-driven puzzlers are far and few between, which is what makes it so interesting to see one come from EA.
It wasn’t all that long ago that EA said that the single-player game is dead, citing that online is where the innovation and action can be found. And while this isn’t a single-player experience in any sense of the word, it is a narrative-driven adventure that can also be played locally without making much use of the interwaves.
It Takes Two comes from Hazelight, creators of the excellent A Way Out – a similar style game – but while that game’s story was dramatic and intense, this one is a little more lighthearted, exploring the studio’s creativity and flair for the unexpected.
That doesn’t mean you’ll be any less invested emotionally. You start out with Cody and May, a couple who are on the verge of getting a divorce. They break the sad news to their young daughter who doesn’t really seem to know how to take it and we don’t really see what leads into that, which makes it difficult to understand the relationship dynamic. What we do know is the daughter has a plan to get them back together by purchasing a book of love.
What she doesn’t expect is for her parents to be transformed into a pair of dolls, shrunken down to size, to explore the smallest corners of their home. But this isn’t just an exploration across some dusty shelves, the whole world has a magical flair that sees vacuum cleaners brought to life and squirrels dancing around.
It Takes Two tells a surprisingly emotional story across its five to six hour campaign as this estranged couple are forced to work together, using their unique abilities to combat a series of challenges together. It starts simply with one controlling a device while the other travels on it, but the puzzles become much more elaborate, dexterous and challenging over time.
The exchanges between the two made me belly laugh at times, but the game can instill frustration in you as much as sadness. It Takes Two director made the bold claim before launch that he’d give $1,000 to anyone who felt bored by the game, and while it seemed pretty audacious at the time, It Takes Two is full of so much charm and creativity, playing it through there wasn’t a moment I wanted to put down the controller.
While you can play the game online with anyone, this feels as much of a personal experience as any single-player title I’ve downloaded to my console. Like it needs to be played with a close friend, relative, or partner because of the themes and messages it keeps throwing at you. It might even inspire some bickering of your own.
The way the game constantly reinvents itself, keeps things fresh, but also manages to stay challenging and interesting is a testament to the talent in the Hazelight studio. This isn’t just one of the best co-op games ever made, it might just be one of the most well-rounded games in recent memory.
It Takes Two doesn’t outstay its welcome, and it manages to tell a story that stirs all sorts of emotion. Some of its themes don’t always hit the mark, and some moments can be a bit more frustrating than others, but this will undoubtedly go down as one of the best collaborative puzzle adventures ever made. And it comes at a time when we all need that the most.
+ Smart co-operative puzzle solving
+ A joyful journey from start to finish
+ Memorable and enjoyable while not outstaying its welcome
+ Perfect when played with a close friend, partner or relative
– Some puzzles can be a bit frustrating
It Takes Two is now available on PC, PS5, and Xbox
Tested on PC
Code kindly provided by EA