I don’t know that I could have fully appreciated It Takes Two 10 years ago. 10 years of marriage and all of the ups, downs, and in betweens that come with it. 10 years of learning and understanding the ever shifting dynamics of a relationship and the simple act of growing older. 10 years of memories and changing priorities and balancing each other’s independence with reliance on one another. It Takes Two is an exceptional co-op platformer, with no shortage of fascinating set pieces, but it’s the story that speaks to the gameplay; and some moments that get all too real when it comes to portraying the fraying relationship between Cody and May and their journey to rediscover their love for each other. These are the elements that really tie everything together in a unique exploration of a marriage unlike anything I’ve seen in a video game, let alone a platformer.
Cody and May are headed for divorce. They’ve simply grown apart and have lost their love for one another. Caught in the middle is their daughter, Rose, who makes a wish that her parents can be friends again, which turns them into dolls (as any good wish from a sad child does). We previously played and detailed the opening few hours of It Takes Two, talking about the strained nature of the forced co-op (in a good way). It Takes Two is a co-op only game, so in the same way that Cody and May are forced to work together to get through this situation, so too are you forced to work with a partner to play the game.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be in a relationship or married to enjoy this adventure (though it certainly helps). And like Hazelight’s last game, A Way Out, you’ll get a free buddy pass so you don’t need to make your friends buy the game too if you want to play with them. While my wife and I played via couch co-op, you can also enjoy it online in case your co-op partner is a little bit farther away. For the unique mandatory co-op, I appreciate the effort to make it as seamless as possible to experience.
The story continues to evolve as Cody and May, assisted by the anthropomorphic Book of Love named Dr. Hakim, rediscover the little things and celebrate working together to find a way to return to their bodies, even as they begrudgingly set out on this co-op adventure of self discovery. They weave through snippy little remarks to one another back to genuine praise for the good work they’ve each done. They cast blame on each other for the various situations they find themselves in and embrace the efforts each takes to overcome them. It Takes Two captures the ever changing dynamics of a relationship so exceptionally well, my wife and I were often exchanging knowing glances, grins, and nudges back and forth as they navigated these nuances. After 10 years of marriage, It Takes Two just gets us.
And again, it’s not so overly focused on the “lovey-dovey romance” aspects of a relationship as much as it is the interpersonal dynamics between two people. I mean sure, one portion does go into “attraction,” using magnets as a gameplay device to get to the point, but even if you aren’t married or in a relationship, It Takes Two’s themes are incredibly relatable throughout and the gameplay is just fun.
It Takes Two Review – Gameplay Variety Show
Gameplay is constantly shifting and changing to adjust to the narrative. The variety in It Takes Two is staggering. From the themes of the areas you’ll visit—a snowy mountain town inside a snow globe, a child’s room full of toys, a garden and greenhouse, and even space—to the actual gameplay mechanics in those environments, it never gets dull to play and you can always expect something new around the corner. Yet these mechanics are never so different that game feels disparate or disconnected. Moment to moment, mechanic to mechanic, It Takes Two flows perfectly from one to the next, feeling like an altogether cohesive adventure.
Cody and May are often each given separate gameplay devices that work independently for certain tasks while also coming together to accomplish specific things via teamwork. Those devices are best left to your own discovery, but you can look to the two opening chapters—Cody with nails and May with the hammer, and Cody with a Sap Gun and May with a Match Gun—for great examples on just how different things are throughout. Sometimes some creative thinking is required, and we were always overjoyed at discovering the creative co-op solutions to the trickier puzzles. Mechanics will even progressively evolve over the course of a level, like the aforementioned magnets eventually gaining an attraction to each other that really changes things up.
Most importantly, no matter how the gameplay mechanics changed, It Takes Two just feels good to play. From the movement to the wielding of certain weapons and tools, there were rarely any aspects of the gameplay that felt cumbersome. It’s a responsive and fun platformer and often it was entertaining just to run and jump around and interact with any of the variety of mechanics that are given to Cody and May.
Because It Takes Two is focused on the story—the relationship between Cody and May—it never punishes you too much for failure. While there are certainly some gameplay challenges and moments where you can “fail,” the game isn’t about testing the players’ mettle or putting you through the meat grinder. Instead, it’s about learning to communicate, work together, and navigate the many puzzles with your partner. It mitigates that aspect of feeling frustrated or stuck while waiting for your co-op partner to complete a specific task. All in all, Josef Fares and the team at Hazelight want you to finish this game, not challenge you so you can’t. It Takes Two is honestly one of the least frustrating co-op experiences I’ve ever had, balanced perfectly with some fun and challenging co-op puzzles, but never feeling like a significant blockade because of one of the players. Checkpoints are rather generous and even boss battles are very forgiving, allowing one player to be the anchor if the other dies.
It Takes Two Review – Acting the Part
It Takes Two’s dialog feels incredibly real and grounded in the cutscenes—the voice actors for Cody, May, and Dr. Hakim are all fantastic—but it was the ongoing dynamic dialog during gameplay that really helped build the relationship between these characters. Cody and May are constantly talking to each other or themselves, commenting on the world and the things going on around them. Banter is hilariously witty, perfectly written for a couple who have clearly been together for a long time. Throughout the game, it captures the progression of two people who once loved each other, forced into an uneasy alliance as they learn to love each other and themselves again.
And the worlds are a playground of activities and fun, filled with hidden dynamic dialog tucked away in far corners of each level. While It Takes Two is generally a linear game, there are sections of the worlds that open up a little bit more to wider exploration. Often my wife and I would head off in different directions, taking in the sights of these exceptionally detailed environments that are a delight just to explore. We’d find little hidden Easter eggs, an assortment of minigames (to keep up some competitiveness within the co-op, of course), and just a bunch of fun sights to see before finding something that required us to work together in order to get past. It Takes Two encourages that independence for each player as much as it requires the co-op gameplay to progress.
If you simply charge through It Takes Two without taking the time to appreciate and enjoy the sights, you could probably finish it in about eight hours, but for all of the exploration and moments of reprieve that it provides, you’ll spend quite a bit longer as Cody and May. We finished it in two lengthy sittings (about 5-6 hours each), but that speaks more to how much we loved playing the game than it does to the length.
While It Takes Two feels adequately long enough, filled with far more variety than I expected, I did feel that the ending of the game rushes up rather abruptly. I wish there had been one final chapter—even a mini chapter—to better facilitate the flow from the last playable section into the game’s ending. I don’t want to dive into details for fear of spoilers, but where the rest of the game took its themes and narrative developments at a more leisurely and digestible pace, the transition into the game’s ending felt very sudden in comparison. It’s a rather small nitpick in the grand scheme of things, however, and like any good relationship, I’m choosing not to let that small issue impact the incredible experience my wife and I had with the rest of the game. If anything, it’s showing that we wanted even more.
Josef Fares already made it clear that It Takes Two wouldn’t include collectibles and “other shiny shit,” and he harps on the focus people have on “replay value” in games, but that doesn’t mean that It Takes Two doesn’t have motivations to go back and revisit it after you’re done. You could try switching roles with your co-op partner—May and Cody’s mechanics are very different throughout. You can use chapter select to continue exploring the detailed worlds and finding the assortment of Easter eggs, dialog, and competitive minigames hidden in each world. The chapter select will even tell you which minigames you haven’t found yet so you know right where you need to search. So while It Takes Two isn’t inflated with artificial replay value via collectibles and pointless side missions, the game is naturally built in such a way that it almost demands you go back to it even after the credits roll.
It Takes Two is endlessly creative. Gameplay speaks to narrative, while narrative informs gameplay, and the entire experience just feels incredibly polished and detailed. It nails relationships in ways that so many games—and even other forms of media—just can’t. It asks the player to engage with the the story through mandatory co-op to tell the tale of a couple on the verge of divorce, rediscovering the good in their relationship. It’s not just one of the best action platformers in recent memory, but also a fantastic and unique story representing a dynamic that you don’t often see represented in games, at least not to this depth and nuance.
It Takes Two review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.