It Takes Two is the latest co-op adventure from Hazelight, the studio behind A Way Out, and in much the same way, it’s designed to be played with a friend offline or online. That’s pretty much where the similarities end; It Takes Two ditches the gritty prison escape drama of A Way Out in favour of a romantic comedy with a bickering couple at its centre.
So who better to help me figure it out than my partner? Other than the odd spell of Minecraft, we don’t often play co-op games together – my preferences and hers don’t often align, and third-person platformers like It Takes Two are definitely not her cup of tea.
We briefly discuss who wants to play as which character. Given the option, she chooses engineer May, while I choose stay-at-home dad Cody. We don’t spend long with the couple in human form, as they’re promptly transformed into dolls after announcing to their daughter that they’re getting a divorce.
May and Cody – now made of yarn and fabric offcuts – have a brief meltdown before meeting Dr Hakim, a relationship advice book also brought to raggedy life by the daughter’s imagination. He’s a boorish troll whose idea of relationship advice is to shout obvious platitudes about love in your ear – Peter Gabriel he ain’t. I do get the sense that Dr Hakim’s annoying antics represent the way May and Cody’s daughter imagines a marriage counsellor, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a bit of a dick.
Thankfully, other characters are a lot more charming. All the scenarios we’re thrown into are fantastical manifestations of neglected duties and forgotten chores. There’s a busted vacuum cleaner that got replaced by the real May, thrown into a cupboard, and forgotten about; and a band of squirrels battling against a wasp nest because Cody never cleaned it out when they were asked to. It’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-style surrealism, and Hazelight spins some imaginative levels out of these encounters.
For the most part, It Takes Two is a joy to play. There are plenty of puzzles that require cooperation and clever use of gadgets to solve, although there are sections where I find myself missing some vital process, leaving us stumped for a few minutes.
The difficulty spikes in situations where both players are doing different jobs simultaneously. In the first level, Cody is tasked with firing nails into a wall, while May uses a hammer to swing between each nail and reach a new area. It works, but it also asks a lot more of one player than the other. Playing as Cody, firing nails to create swinging points and platforms for my partner, I feel like I’m barely doing any of the work. For my partner, tackling the obstacle course solo is frustrating and difficult.
The second level is set inside a tree in the family’s back garden and changes gameplay from platforming to third-person shooting. You need to help the tree’s resident squirrels clear out a wasp nest, so the squirrels kit Cody out with a sap cannon to gunk up the wasps, while May gets a match launcher to make those globbed up yellowjackets go boom.
Obviously, this interaction requires some coordination, but for the most part we just point and shout at different sections of the screen, pleading one another to divert their attention, which is exhausting by the time we defeat the level’s boss. There are some spectacular sequences spliced in to keep things feeling fresh, like one section where I have to wrestle control of a glider to keep it from crashing, while my partner fends off a squirrel with shuriken.
We also love the minigames and various interactive toys you find dotted throughout the levels. There’s an asymmetric version of whack-a-mole, with one player being the mole and the other the whacker. In fact, my favourite moment in the demo comes when I accidentally smash a seemingly innocent button, sucking Cody into a glass chamber and allowing May to mess around with an array of torture devices, tormenting Cody until they get bored.
By the time the preview ends we’re both tired. You know that moment in an action movie where the heroes hobble out of the wreckage of a climatic explosion and look at each other as if to signal they’re okay? That’s us as the preview comes to a close. It Takes Two is a ton of fun, but it’s hard work.