A unique platformer experience

It Takes Two by Hazelight Studios (Game Review)
Video Version

Key Art for It Takes Two.

It Takes Two is a co-operative action-adventure platformer from Hazelight Studios.

Their previous work, 2018’s A Way Out, impressed me on the basis of creating a co-operative required experience while having a compelling story and variety of third-person over-the-shoulder gameplay. A Way Out is still one of my favorite games from that year because of its co-operative required nature. The gameplay and story are good but a forced co-op experience is almost unheard of, even for today.

A Way Out, Hazelight Studios’ previous project from 2018.

The studio is now back with It Takes Two, a action-adventure platformer about a to be divorced couple turned into dolls. Josef Fares is back once again as the game’s director. You’ll probably know him as the “f*ck the Oscars” guy and his work on A Way Out and Brother’s: A Tale of Two Sons, both games where he was the sole game director. For this project, Hazelight Studios recruited a more experienced team in hopes of improving the gameplay concepts from A Way Out. Well, did the studio achieve that goal in It Takes Two?

Cody (left) and May (right) having breakfast with their daughter Rose (middle) before breaking the news of their divorce.

The story of It Takes Two is about Cody and May, a married couple who plan to get a divorce after a heated argument. Their daughter, Rose, takes this decision to heart and makes dolls of her parents in hopes of fixing their relationship by play-acting. Soon enough, the parents get trapped inside of the dolls’ bodies and have to work together to get back to normal. It’s a pretty simple yet effective story about relationships. No matter the kind of relationship, whether it’s a friendship or romantic relationship, they all require work and effort for the relationships to last. As the game progresses, you see Cody and May slowly fix their differences between one another. I personally didn’t have a huge attachment to these characters but they were fun and goofy during their interactions. Both characters have their flaws in the relationship and the game explores ways to solve them. While the story wasn’t my favorite part of the game, It Takes Two tells a solid narrative on relationships. Cody and May are both characters where you can understand their perspective on the relationship, maybe a little more towards May’s as the working wife but I digress.

Cody (left) and May (right) in their doll forms.

The gameplay of It Takes Two is by far the best and most surprising aspect of this game. As a action-adventure platformer, the controls for this game are extremely good. Buttery smooth movement with precise platforming. Double jumping to different platforms, dashing and running across levels, and a variety of mechanics introduced throughout the adventure. Every level requires teamwork and communication from both players. The game is called It Takes Two, so there’s no feasible way of playing this game by yourself or with a random person. You will have to talk and communicate with the other person in order to solve puzzles and complete platforming challenges.

An example of working together in It Takes Two. May (left side) can’t advance to the next part of the level until Cody (right side) throws the nail on the yellow wood.

You’ll learn this really early on with the hammer and nails mechanic. While May can use the hammer to break glass and swing onto nails, Cody needs to assist her in placing the nails down accordingly. Other gameplay mechanics are introduced throughout each level which makes the gameplay refreshing. First, you’re working together to use these vacuum hoses to complete the level. Next, you’re using honey and matches to blow up wasps. Then, you’re thrown into a Diablo-styled level where you have magic powers and abilities.

The Diablo-styled level in It Takes Two.

The variety of gameplay mechanics and styles this game offers are plentiful, all the while functioning really well. Even the water levels weren’t too bad, not feeling like a clunky mess like most water levels in platformers. The variety in level scenery is quite nice in It Takes Two. It does take place in this fantasy-like world, so you’ll explore some really colorful and bizarre locales. Completing a puzzle or platforming challenge is always satisfying. The game isn’t a walk in the park either, some challenges and puzzles will require trial and error. As long as both players don’t die at the same time, you can continue solving the challenge without resetting the whole sequence. However, if both players die at the same time, you will be sent back to the last checkpoint which isn’t terrible. Checkpoint placement for this game is not that bad. It does feel terrible having to restart a boss phase because you both died at the same time but it still never felt frustrating. Speaking of the bosses, the boss fights are rather fair for a platformer. Most of them have three phases while utilizing the given level’s mechanic/gimmick. And of course, working together as two is required to defeat the bosses. Super dope to see the developers create bosses that are just as creative as their level design. It Takes Two has no collectibles to find throughout its adventure. Hazelight Studios wanted to emphasize the platforming mechanics and puzzles instead of potential secrets and goodies to find in each level. Personally, I like there being no collectibles because it did put the new mechanics and puzzles in the forefront of the gameplay. There are fun little mini games to compete in throughout each new area. Not required to play but neat activities to see who’s better at button mashing or platforming obstacles.

In short, the gameplay of It Takes Two is excellent for a platformer adventure. The controls are polished for platformer movement, the level design and bosses are fantastic while consistently introducing new mechanics, and the significance of this being a co-operative required experience should be noted. I’ve played so many platformers in my life and never once did I play a co-op game like this one. Other platformers that have co-op like the Mario games or the LEGO games don’t even come close to what this game has to offer. It Takes Two is truly a unique platforming experience.

May and Cody talking to each other while May figures out the light controls.

The presentation and performance of It Takes Two is definitely passable. The graphics are good for today’s standards. The human models, when on screen, are not that bad. It’s not going to look like Detroit: Become Human but they look fine for human models. The dolls and fantasy-like world look great as well. The humongous size of the world compared to our doll-size protagonists is wonderful. Like I said earlier, the colorful worlds really pop out because of the game’s graphical fidelity. The voices for all the characters either fit the character’s voice or just straight up goofy and entertaining. Dr. Hakim is a prominent character in the game’s story and he’s really dumb to watch. His over the top accent while telling our protagonists his relationship advice never gets boring. I believe most people will be content with this game’s presentation. I didn’t run into any technical issues or hiccups while playing the game online. It Takes Two has a solid presentation all around.

In conclusion, It Takes Two is by far my favorite game of 2021 so far. The story talking about relationships and how important they are is relevant to today, as the pandemic is unfortunately still going on worldwide. Relationships are more important than ever and It Takes Two’s story does a superb job demonstrating that. The gameplay surprised me due to its smooth movement, ingenious level design, and constant introduction of new mechanics. Presentation gets a passing grade overall and works well with the online play. The game’s runtime is about 10 hours which is slightly longer than A Way Out’s 6 hours runtime. So, you’ll likely have to play this game in multiple sessions to complete it which kind of worried me at first. But the game as a whole is well worth playing. Seriously, It Takes Two is a unique platforming experience that you do not want to miss.

Video Version

Travis “tvsonic” Vuong
Business e-mail: travisvuong56@gmail.com
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A games journalist & YouTube content creator. Written game reviews & other editorial pieces will be found here. All my socials: allmylinks.com/tvsonic