“It Takes Two” is a two-player, third-person action adventure where you and your partner play as Cody and May, a divorcing couple who suddenly find themselves as miniature wooden dolls, now held hostage by a talking relationship self-help book. He forces you to work together in a variety of co-op challenges and puzzles that are creatively constructed from familiar places and items until you can sort out your differences and rediscover love for each other or whatever. Aside from the supernatural elements, the plot is a pretty cliche excuse for the game to get going, but boy is the gameplay so good.
The game offers a shocking amount of gameplay gimmicks so that it always feels fresh and exciting to play. Oftentimes you will acquire a unique ability different from your partner—rewinding time, size manipulation, teleportation—or some new equipment—anti-gravity boots, a cannon to spit out tree sap and a matchstick gun to ignite said tree sap—to solve puzzles. Other times, you will be handling some form of transportation like a mini airplane, mini ship, hopping frogs and even fidget spinners that fly. The inclusion of all these gameplay elements means that the puzzles and challenges are constantly evolving, requiring you to have a new frame of mind on how to play the game, so it never feels stale. Somehow, I didn’t find a single mechanic to be boring—all of them are fun! The developers at Hazelight Studios deserve some recognition.
A highlight for me is where you get to become either a knight or mage in a medieval-looking castle, where you can hack and slash through waves of enemies, using cool attacks and spells, in a glorious top-down view. It reminded me so much of my days playing the action RPG “Diablo 3” with a friend.
Accompanying the different mechanics are a huge variety of landscapes, awe-inspiring sceneries and absolutely adorable characters. There’s a weird space compound controlled by “Moon Baboon”, your daughter’s plush toy with an Aussie accent, the infested garden that you’ve neglected for years where two frogs run a taxi business, an elaborate castle that is actually your daughter’s closet, a skiing resort that is really a snow globe inside your living room and an underground compound populated by a group of militaristic squirrels, just to name a few. There’s something inexplicably lovely and enjoyable about re-experiencing places as whole new worlds where everything is way bigger than you.
There’s already so much content in “It Takes Two,” but there’s more. It caters to my petty competitive nature by including a staggering 25 player vs. player (PVP) mini-games, and I got to absolutely crush my girlfriend’s hopes and dreams in almost all of them. Some games are party games that are easy to get into: tapping a button faster than your opponent, or avoiding obstacles. Others are races that require you to master different movement techniques that you’ve learned so far and combine them seamlessly to achieve maximum speed. I loved these games (and my girlfriend got so mad since she could never beat me) because they have a lot of room for skill expression, which is what makes competitive games rewarding to play. But I also loved them because they showcase just how fun, well-designed these mechanics are. The inputs are responsive, the animations are fluid and the combinations are satisfying to execute that the game plays almost like an Esports-worthy, hardcore action title. Even in the co-op parts of the game, simply using these controls and outrunning my girlfriend at every turn felt incredible.
I’m usually not a huge fan of co-op games because they generally have limited mechanics and get boring after a while, and because I simply prefer to compete against others instead. But “It Takes Two” threw my expectations out of the window by offering an almost absurd amount of well-crafted gameplay features—seriously, there must be like 30 plus mechanics the developers made—that makes you want to keep playing to find out what’s around the corner and satisfies your insatiable lust for victory. I think this game is probably the best co-op game I’ve played. And you know what? Your partner can play with you for free if you already bought the game.