When my partner and I started It Takes Two, the latest outing from developer Hazelight Studios, I had no idea about the thrilling ride we were about to embark on. I have never had an experience quite like this one, but first, let me give some background.
My partner, throughout our last year of living together, has been getting more into video games from as a viewer. She watched in awe as I played through the likes of Gears 5, The Last of Us II, The Medium, and would occasionally play party games like What the Golf and Overcooked. However, we had never sat down and played through a game together, and she had certainly never finished a game herself. That all changed with It Takes Two, a co-op only adventure that follows the story of a couple who has fallen out of love. May and Cody, the two protagonists, are in the process of getting a divorce when their child unknowingly turns the couple into dolls via a the Book of Love. I played as Cody, and my partner played as May throughout the entirety of our 14 hour experience.
Similar to A Way Out, Hazelight’s previous entry in the co-op genre, It Takes Two requires constant communication and cooperation. The kick, at least for my partner, is that it also requires a lot of skill in certain areas. For those who are unaware, the game dips its toes into a handful of genres: platformer, shooter, beat-em-up, dungeon crawler, puzzle, and rhythm, just to name a few. This montage of genres means my partner had to learn new mechanics on what felt like a constant basis. In addition to simply learning new mechanics, we would have to quickly respond to each other’s needs depending on the situation. For instance, in an early part of the game, Cody and May make their way into a tree and get caught in the middle of an ongoing war between squirrels and wasps. During this section, Cody’s weapon is a tree-sap dispenser that will stick to enemies and objects, and May’s weapon is a match-stick cannon. The general strategy is to have Cody spray a wasp with the tree-sap, then have May shoot the sap and blow up them up. Simple in theory, but this cooperation, as well as my partner’s adverseness to shooters (and dual-stick controls) led to quite the learning curve. As my partner had never played a dual-stick-reliant game, we spent some time inverting and un-inverting camera controls to figure out the best option. We landed on un-inverted controls, and stuck with that for the remainder of the game. In the beginning, patience and learning was everything, even when my partner was getting frustrated and felt like she was letting me down.
The remaining chapters of the game had similar struggles but a consistent feeling of accomplishment as we conquered bosses and puzzles together. Thankfully, death in this game is very inconsequential, and stakes are relatively low. This led to a mostly stress-free experience (for me at least). It taught us to work together, and by the end of the game, we were proactively setting each other up for success rather than simply reacting.
As far as recommending this game for a first-time gamer, I was torn at first. The beauty of It Takes Two is that it’s specifically built around co-operative play and lends itself as a sampling of different genres. I was able to determine what my partner liked and didn’t like based on our 14 hours in the game. However, it is more on the challenging side for a newcomer, which may put some people off if they are trying to introduce their partner to gaming. Luckily, as mentioned above, the stakes are low, and as long as you are patient and supportive, it should be a fun experience.
My partner’s main grievances were with the cutscenes, which occasionally went on exceptionally long. My main grievance was constantly re-orienting my partner every time she turned around. It’s as if our roles are reversed when we are playing together as compared to real life. In real life, she is thoughtful, proactive, and aware of her surroundings, while I’m aloof and reactive to situations. During our time with It Takes Two, I was the planner, coordinator, and cartographer, and she needed more direction, both literally and strategically. I didn’t know gamer-sense was a thing until we played together, but it most definitely is. My partner would often ask: “how do you know where to go” and I’d tell her that there are environmental clues that lead the player in a certain direction. This went over her head, and she shrugged it off as something that would come naturally with time. Oh well.
Overall, we had an exceptional time with the game and enjoyed the varying mechanics, fresh ideas, and cooperative-focused gameplay. If you are thinking about playing this with your partner, I would recommend it. It’s not so much a test of your relationship as it is a chance to bond and learn about each other’s communication preferences. It Takes Two provided an experience that my partner and I could enjoy together, and for that, Hazelight Studios has the highest praise.