Welcome back to The Backlog, where we review video games based on a certain theme each month. We’ve said goodbye to the spooky season in October, and are now looking into cooperative games for November in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Our first look will be into the 2021 hit, “It Takes Two.”
“It Takes Two” was released on March 26, 2021 on various platforms. It was developed by Hazelight Studios and published by Electronic Arts. Hazelight Studios is known for their two-player co-op style of games; another one of their notable works is “A Way Out.” The game is designed as a split-screen experience, which can be played either online or locally with another player. Each player controls either Cody or May, and they must work together to solve platforming puzzles and win battles.
Each segment is creative and utilizes a different aspect of gaming. Some levels are reminiscent of “Star Fox 64,” where you must fly a machine and shoot enemies or use the familiar 2D platforming style of the “Rayman” games. One thing that I can say about “It Takes Two” is that it incorporates various styles to keep the experience new and exciting. Especially when paired with the co-op feature, the game forces bring out a lot of laughing — and non-stop bickering.
Spoilers for the story of “It Takes Two” beyond this point!
The story begins with Cody and May, a married couple who are planning on getting a divorce. It opens with them breaking the news to their daughter, Rose. Through a magic book titled “Book of Love” by Dr. Hakim, the pair get turned into Rose’s handmade dolls of themselves and must cooperate in order to turn back into humans. They face various challenges that test their cooperation skills and allow them to reflect on their marriage.
While it may seem like it takes a serious tone, there are many moments where players will find themselves laughing with each other. There are various minigames strewn about the levels that pit Cody and May against each other, yet the main storyline involves various mechanics where the pair rely on each other. An example of this is in the beginning of the game, where Cody and May are stuck in a shed. Cody is equipped with flying nails and May is equipped with a talking hammer. Cody can throw nails onto walls, which allows May to swing on with the claw of her hammer. Her hammer is also able to smash buttons necessary for flipping platforms that Cody can walk on. Players are forced to communicate, and each does their part to solve puzzles and progress. Throughout the game, Cody and May each gain their own unique abilities in the levels, making the experience new and exciting.
Unlike its predecessor, “A Way Out,” “It Takes Two” has a more humorous tone. One way it displays this is through the colorful character of Dr. Hakim, the talking book. He directs Cody and May and does everything he can to force them into situations where they must use cooperation. Joseph Balderrama voices Dr. Hakim and gives him a flamboyant and eccentric personality. Balderrama also voices Cody in the game, showcasing his talent for range and being able to play two very different characters at the same time.
The ending did leave players a bit confused and wanting more, however. As you progress through the story and allow Cody and May to understand each other, it ultimately leads to a kiss that turns them back into humans. Some players were underwhelmed with the fact that it never confirms whether or not they go through with the divorce or not, but I think those players missed the point. What brings them together again is their daughter, and even if they might have rediscovered the spark that started their relationship, they both agree that they love Rose the most. In many divorces, the children are often sidelined or feel as if it’s up to them to fix everything. I appreciate the message that “It Takes Two” depicts by leaving the ending ambiguous.