It Takes Two Review (PS5)
''Two heads are better than one''
Developed: Hazelight Studios
Published: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Platformer
Release Date: March 26th, 2021
*Key provided by Electronic Arts
It Takes Two is a comedy drama platformer developed by Hazelight Studios and published by Electronic Arts. Brought to you by Josef Fares, the same man responsible for classic co-op titles like Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons and A Way Out, Josef and Hazelight Studios now attempts to raise the bar once more by blending narrative and game play into one cohesive package. But does he succeed in accomplishing and realizing his vision for this title or does it fall short, just like our miniature main characters? I guess there's only one way to find out this answer, so lets go!
With the marriage between May and Cody being on the rocks and heading the way of divorce, their daughter Rose struggles to cope with the realization they might not love each other anymore. As a last act of child like innocence and hope, she makes a tearful wish for her parent's just to be friends again. As she makes her wish, something magical happens. A spell is casted on both her parents, turning them into wooden dolls. With May and Cody now stuck in doll form, they must work together and overcome many obstacles in order to fix their broken relationship and ultimately ''find each other'' once more to break the spell and get their bodies back. At least, that's what love guru book Dr. Hakim says
It Takes Two is a comedy drama platformer from the mind of Josef Fares. If you aren't familiar with his work then I suggest on stopping what you're doing right now and go and check out titles like Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons and A Way Out. Both these games are expertly crafted together and weave and intertwine both narratively and gameplay wise, into one cohesive working unit. These two titles are definitive co op games that set the bar for what co-op games can actually achieve or even what they actually SHOULD be. Now here with It Takes Two, Josef and Hazelight Studios attempt at creating another co-op classic and improve and expand upon their narrative+game play initiative and man, oh man, do they deliver. It Takes Two is so many different things, it's a comedic set piece, its a heartfelt drama, It's a love story and it even has a bit of the slice of life aspect. It ventures into so many genres and surprisingly it does them all extremely well, minus a few hiccups here and there of course. But I've done enough hyping for the time being, let's actually dig in and get into the game play a bit, shall we?
As you start your game you will be greeted to the opening narrative that is being set up, one that will be crucial to the way the game play of the game actually works. In It Takes Two you play as May or Cody and as you progress through various stages, you will have to work together in unison in order to solve puzzles, get by hazards or just do stuff to annoy the other player that you might be playing with. In my case, it was my boyfriend. If you have a friend, loved one or a family member, then this is probably the right game to play if you're looking for some high quality whacky fun, because this game brings it in droves. I've stated multiple times that this game is ''platformer'' and while yes, that's actually the most accurate answer I can give, It honestly doesn't do the game justice. This is because It Take Two is what I consider to be a ''jack of all trades''. Platforming is indeed its strong point, but this game however branches off into multiple genres that range from racing, twin stick shooter, fighting game, on rails game and many more. Normally I'd say woah buddy, this is way too much, focus on making ONE element good, rather than throwing everything at us, including the kitchen sink. But by the nine divine, It Takes Two actually melds all these genres together and it actually comes out... rather amazing. It took both myself and my boyfriend by complete surprise.
Overall the controls are very basic. You have one button to jump, one to dash and another to sprint. All pretty straight forward right? well no, not really, not straight forward at all because this isn't your typical run of the mill platformer. As you progress through each section of the game, the mechanics of the game itself will change, and so will the way you attack and how you move around your environment. For example, early on the game requires you and your partner to just jump over this ledge, wall jump over here, but soon you realize, this game has way more in store for you than you were previously expecting. I mean this in both a good and bad way. Early on you get a taste of just what's to come to expect from this game when you and your partner are equipped with a hammer for May and nails for Cody. Individually by themselves, they're pretty useless, but working with your partner, it opens the game up so much and requires strict communication if you are going to use the weapons to your advantage and advance in the game. As Cody, you will be tasked to search around your surrounding area and look out for yellow pieces of wood, which can be found on the walls or other sections of platforms. With Cody its your job to toss nails into the wooden sections in order to make them stick, then as May, use your hammer to act like a swinging device to swing on the nails to make it to the other side. Once there, you may use the hammer as a... uhh... hammer, to smash a lever or switch to open up pathway for Cody to join you. This is just one of the main examples of the creativity you will come to expect in the game. We will get to a few more shortly.
I'm sure you're sitting there and thinking ''Man this game is giving me total Toy Story and Honey I shrunk the kid vibes'' and you are not wrong, I completely agree with you. This game, due to its aesthetics and environment design, just screams toy story and the charm of the playfulness from honey I shrunk the kids a full ten fold, and that actually makes the game itself so endearing, even beyond its game play, all the environments. Throughout your 10-12 hour playthrough, you're going to come across so many different environments that its going to make your head spin. One of the first areas you'll come across that immediately stands out is your venture into a gigantic tree that's just outside your house. It starts off very basic with mostly jumping here, climbing this there, that is until the freaking G-Force comes out of nowhere and takes you hostage, what the heck you guys!. After you've been captured and tortured a bit to determine if you're working with ''them'' and by them, they mean wasps. Eventually when they know you aren't on the enemies side, you're let go, but only if you agree to work with the crew at G-Force in order to rid their home of the pest wasps once and for all. How do you do this? well, by going full on Contra and running your way through the hive using a bazooka gun that launches nectar with Cody, which explodes using fire arrows from May. This is at the point where the game goes absolutely insane with the action, running, dodge rolling, exploding bees, all culminating in an amazing boss battle against mecha queen wasp. It's one of the more intense moments of the game.
I can try all day to explain just how awesome the environments are in this game and how they elevate the actual game play, and introducing new mechanic after new mechanic in every section of the game, such as being able to create a clone of yourself, shrinking yourself to baby ant size to fit in small areas and doors, using anti gravity to walk on walls, or using magnets to pull objects to you or towards each other. There's just so many ideas that are used here that it's mind boggling trying to comprehend how someone came up with this, let alone executed it so well. My favorite level of the game was definitely hands down the magic castle area. In this section you're tasked with getting ''through the kingdom'' in order to make it to the castle to meet with the queen. This is where you'll have a little bit of down time to chill with the civilians as they party and eat chocolate cake... what the heck and they didn't invite us!? Jerks. Feel free to take a stroll around the area and take in the sights and even take a friendly train ride because as soon as you leave this area, the intensity starts right back up again. As you trudge your way up the castle through the various rooms you'll have intense boss battles on a chess board and man this fight was pretty challenging, so you'll need to pay attention FULLY. Never in my life have I played or encountered a game of chess that frantic.. but then again, that's a wizards chess. After that intense battle, phew.. you can rest. At least until this giant freaking doll on wheels of death chases you and scares the living daylights out of you before succumbing into a pit of fire thats straight out of a scene from Terminator 2.
Finally you have arrived at the queen and its.. an elephant, yes, it's Cutie the elephant. This is actually one of the most funny, but also one of the most disturbing moments of the entire game because your whole reason for even coming here and seeking an audience with her to begin with, was to murder her, because she's your daughters favorite toy and you are using poor Cutie as a sacrificial pawn in your sick game to make your daughter cry and cure you of your wooden curse. Poor cute runs as hard as she can but the murderous intent of our characters is just too much for her. It's one of the more baffling moments of the entire game and comes completely out of nowhere. You're adorable Cutie, but I'm sorry, we will do what we must. Long Live The Queen. So you spend all this time murdering this poor little elephant, only to find out, oops, that actually wasn't the cure, so you just murdered your daughters favorite toy, brutally by the way, then made your daughter sob her eyes out at the sight of her dead animal friend. Forget this couple needing marriage counseling, call child protective services.
Lots of praise for this game so far yes? well, that's about to end. While this game has so many positives that it's hard to put them all into words properly, it also does have its quite fair share of problems that relate to its overall pacing, mechanic issues or just some things that feel out of place or even tedious. One example would be certain sections of this game, while creative overall, tend to feel more like filler rather than experiences that add to the overall game play. Moon Baboon space level is the perfect example of this. Your goal here is to try to catch the big monkey, but you're tasked with taking various portals to complete an objective inside them, which ultimately leads you to a boss fight with him. But my lord, after the first what feels like 8 portals, you're already done and you want to move on. This goes on for like 3-4 floors. Unlock portals, complete puzzles, go up next floor and repeat and my boyfriend completely hated this level and I think he actually almost fell asleep. Oops!. Control issues also come into play, which we noticed mostly related to the player 2 side of our playthrough. While I also ran into bugs like unresponsive ground pounds, teleporting ability not always registering properly, my boyfriend ran into issues when trying to use R1 on ramps or hooks to swing onto. The entire character would spaz out beyond control and not be controllable. The latter issues seem to be strictly for second player, while ground pound effected us equally. But that's not all the issues we had with the game, sadly. We had a big issue with the padding going on.
Padding to a video game can sometimes help its overall longevity or even replayability, but in other scenarios, it can have a pretty damming effect overall. There are certain sections of this game that while they bring in new mechanics for the section to make it interesting to play through, they also bog the game way down and make you wish you can skip through it. There are two major instances of this where I legit was not having fun and just wanted to get the section over with and that was journey to the grandfather clock and collection of the 4 pages you needed to solve the mystery of your curse. Now let me be perfectly clear, these were not awful designed areas or even broken, they just went on and on and on for what felt like an eternity. Complete your original mission, then fall into the tried and true trope of ''oh you already completed these long and mundane tasks, ha! that wasn't the real one, now go on this fetch quest!''. This literally happens multiple times during these sections alone and its the perfect example of how NOT to do padding or filler just to bolster your game up to have a longer completion time. Other than Space level, Clock and 4 pages quest, the rest of the game moves along at a really good pace and offers quality padding in between major sections, such as pirate ship battles against a giant octopus, a trippy puzzle centric kaleidoscope area or sections that utilized the actual environment as part of your puzzles such as floating jelly fish and vacuum cleaners serving as usable environment structures.
In between all the amazing and tedious stuff you encounter, you come to the part of the game that is one of my favorite parts overall and if you've been here for awhile and know me, then you know I always gush over amazing boss fights. In regards to the boss fights, It Takes Two over delivers. Not only are these bosses extremely challenging and make you think on your toes, but they're all so distinctively unique with the way they use their environment to their advantage. For example one of the earliest bosses you come across is a giant tool box. This fight had us in a panic. Since its a tool box, it utilizes all the stuff in its workshop against you, this includes raining nails down upon you, that when hit, will paralyze you for a short period. While raining nails down on you, he also is slicing up the entire floor you're standing on using a saw blade, which starts the cutting of the floor and removes that section of ground and shortens the distance in which you have to dodge. Therefore you and your partner must work in unison, and FAST, to sling your partner in the air to destroy his locks and ultimately defeat him in the process. There are many more boss fights that you will see, but you'll just have to play to see for yourself!
When you're not stressing yourself out, platforming and having crazy boss fights. You can take part in a plethora of of pvp content. This is where my competitive edge came out. Scattered throughout each section of the game, you're allowed to take part in mini games and secrets that you find that range from racing down ice slopes, whack a mole, tug of war and many more. Man oh man did we get competitive, at times we couldn't believe we lost to one another and HAD to do a 2 out of 3 until there was a definitive winner and we didn't move on till we solved the mystery of who was better at that specific event. Definitely a fun time and I was not a sore loser at all, not in the slightest *cough*.
At the end of the day, It Takes Two offers an amazing experience for those that are not only fans of Josef Fare's previous titles, but also to those who may be experiencing one of his titles for the very first time. Sure the game has hiccups here and there in relation to some pacing issues, game padding, and problems with some of the controls and mechanics, but its positives like great characters, superb voice acting, clever and imaginative level design, story that actually makes you care about the characters, amazing blend of multiple gaming genres, all add up to make one of the best platforming games and co-op games I've played in YEARS. My verdict is a simple one, it's a no brainer, GameNChick says BUY NOW