It Takes Two is a ‘love letter to Nintendo’ that could be Hazelight’s best co-op game yet

It Takes Two is a romantic comedy, but don’t let that put you off. As its Creative Director Josef Fares conceded in a Q&A before our preview, the problem with rom-coms is that there aren’t too many good ones. While Hazelight Studios’ latest may explore the tumultuous relationship shared between its mother and father protagonists, that’s the backdrop for what is also shaping up to be the developer’s tightest co-op experience yet.

I played the first three levels of It Takes Two with my fiance, Soph, a portion of what Fares noted is a 12–14 hour game. As was the case with A Way Out, Hazelight’s previous release, it’s necessary to play with a friend or partner, either via online play or couch co-op. Players control Cody and Max, a husband and wife who are on the brink of divorce. After revealing this to their daughter, she unwittingly casts a spell that transports them into two of her dolls, with her mom and dad then placed on a journey to return to their real bodies while mending their relationship on the way.

Honey, I Shrunk the Parents

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Given Cody and Max’s newly shrunk stature, they’re trapped in a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids situation where they’re navigating their own world from a much smaller perspective. This gives Hazelight the opportunity to transform a regular house and garden into a playground of ideas, and the level of variety on offer in our preview suggests It Takes Two will greatly surpass Fares and Hazelight’s previous output.

“We wanted to take co-op to a completely different level [than A Way Out],” Fares explained, noting that It Takes Two will “keep hitting you with new stuff” throughout its duration. In the first three levels alone, Soph and I found ourselves dueling with a rogue vacuum cleaner, using a nail gun and hammer to take down a sentient toolbox, before engaging in a Street Fighter fistfight with a squirrel atop a miniature biplane. While It Takes Two is a platformer, it carefully incorporates other genres where it makes sense, with Hazelight packing out each stage with things for you and your co-op partner to toy around with.

But just because these levels are stuffed with things to do, that doesn’t mean it encourages straying from the beaten path. Fares assertively explains how there is no “shiny shit” in It Takes Two, meaning that collectibles are off the cards. Instead, Hazelight wants to focus on making what players see in front of them as fun and interesting as possible, rather than routinely asking them to meander around to find stuff.

Teamwork makes the dream work

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In our preview session, Soph and I were routinely given different tools that needed to be combined in order to facilitate progress. For instance, in one level I was in charge of nails while she was given a hammer, with me being able to throw the nails into wooden boards so that she could use the hammer to swing across them. In another, I was given a gun that fired explosive goop while she was given a gun that would detonate said goop. Each new set of tools brought with them their own puzzles and boss fights, before Hazelight moved on to its next idea.

Considering this is Fares and Hazelight’s first platformer, It Takes Two confidently refuses to settle on any single good idea. In that sense, I was happily reminded of Super Mario Galaxy or Odyssey giving players access to a fun item or ability before moving on from it to its next idea. This comparison is perhaps no coincidence, with Fares revealing It Takes Two is his and Hazelight’s “love letter to Nintendo.”

The variety in It Takes Two’s minute-to-minute gameplay is also apparent in its mini-games and set-pieces. Like A Way Out’s arm wrestling and Connect Four, there are occasionally times where you can compete against your co-op partner. In one such instance, we played Whack-a-Mole where I was the mole and Soph did the whacking, which started out as a hilarious distraction before becoming oddly competitive.

The preview’s best moments came when It Takes Two went all-out action, from me controlling a plane while Soph manned its gun turret, to navigating a makeshift boat across perilous water while simultaneously taking down wasps. However, it’s also in these moments where careful co-operation is a must that It Takes Two’s biggest weakness may present itself.

Playing with inexperience

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It Takes Two requires that both players at least have a general competency when it comes to video games. While the three levels we played were not difficult and firmly prioritized fun over challenge, it’s clear there will be some trickier moments for players who aren’t at least marginally experienced with video games. Considering Hazelight clearly wants couples to enjoy the game together, there are many with partners who will struggle to get to grips with it.

“If your partner is not used to controlling a third-person camera with a stick, it’s going to be a tough one,” Fares said. “I definitely believe it could work, but there is going to be some trouble with the camera stick. But try it out, it could be fun anyway.”

While this may be an inherent issue with It Takes Two’s concept, and there are no accessibility features to make progress easier for a less experienced player, we experienced no frustrations in our playthrough. In fact, Soph called it the most fun co-op game we’ve played together, and I’d be inclined to agree that it’s shaping up to be just that.

Whereas other co-op games usually see the more experienced player dragging their partner around with them, It Takes Two ensures that both players feel integral to progression. If Hazelight manages to keep up the stellar level of variety on offer in its preview, this is looking like another big success for a studio that is trying its damnedest to ensure story-based co-op games remain on the map.

GameRevolution attended a digital preview event for It Takes Two and played the game on PC.