I’m fortunate enough not to know what it’s like to have my parents divorce, but from the outside looking in? Man, that’s going to be rough. Especially since most kids can’t turn to Dr. Hakim’s Book of Love, imbue it with the magical powers, and force their parents to go through a wild adventure that may or may not be an accredited form of couples counselling.
In fairness to them, Cody and May don’t look like the best-suited couple at the start of It Takes Two. They bicker as May comes home from work, Cody’s slovenly attitude and forgetfulness tangling with her go-getting businesswoman attitude, and it’s clear to see why they’ve decided to divorce. One magical transformation into the dolls that their daughter Rose has created of them, and they’re in for one hell of a ride to get back to their human forms. The question is, can they overcome their dislike of one another and maybe, just maybe, remember why they fell in love in the first place?
One thing runs through all of this, though; the game is co-op from start to finish. There’s no AI that you can play with, so you have to play the game with someone else. That can be playing locally with someone picking up a second pad, or it can be using the Friends Pass to share a single copy of the game with someone over the internet. It was a great feature for A Way Out, and it’s a great feature here as well.
From the off, you can tell the kind of tale this is going to be. It’s a rom-com through and through, with Cody and May confronted by the incredibly cheesy Dr. Hakim, the personified Book of Love. He is, it’s safe to say, an absolute rascal. He’ll always pop up just at the wrong time to throw a spanner in the works of Cody and May’s progress through the fantastical transformation of the home that they know, as they try to get back to their daughter and their… well, weird human body husks that remain.
Cody and May constantly bicker as they come across fantasy twists, fond memories, or discover things that they other did out of absent-mindedness or selfishness – these are characters with flaws that need to be overcome. Dr. Hakim and the fantasy world constantly forces them together, and you can tell even from the first couple of chapters in the game that the situations it’s cooking up are meant to get them to at least co-operate, if not immediately accept that they could actually still work together as a couple.
Journeying through the workshop together, they come across a talking hammer head, one of May’s old tools that was abandoned once she got her new job and lost her spare time. Taking it with them for a while, she gains the ability to slam onto the ground while Cody can throw and recall nails – the ability to thwack or impale one another gave Dom and me a lot of joy. Later on, the plot takes an even more fantastical tone, as the pair of them are conscripted by a militant squirrel resistance force to fight back against an encroaching wasp army, Cody being handed a gloopy nectar gun to stick enemies and objects and May a matchstick to ignite it into gorgeous explosions.
There’s a real Conker’s Bad Fur Day vibe to this segment as you battle wasps on a rollicking mini-adventure, not to mention some great and thoroughly inventive boss battles, and there’s always an engaging and active co-op dynamic that will have you working together.
The wackiness of the Squirrel Wasp War is also a sign of things to come. Hazelight has repeatedly said that they’ve gone for as much variety in this game as possible. No set-piece is going to be used twice, no specific game mechanic that’s introduced will repeat in a later chapter. I can’t wait to see all of the twists and turns the full game goes through.
The one thing I will highlight is that this feels like a game designed for relatively advanced gamers. The action platforming controls that it’s built on demand a familiarity with 3D platforming, and within the first five minutes of play, you have to grasp a double jump and dash move for getting across large gaps, which will be a challenge for relative newcomers to gaming. It’s quite forgiving elsewhere, with a simple button tap to jump in a rail-grinding segment and a generous aim lock-in third-person shooting, but then there’s a few fairly tricky boss fights that might have you retry a segment or two of the battle.
The game is played almost entirely in split-screen with Cody on one side and May on the other. It’s nowhere near as fluid a divide as the split-screen was in A Way Out, where this regularly shifted around, and typically stays right down the middle of the screen. When it does switch things up, it’s with a purpose, tied directly to the set piece, such as when cruising down an underground stream with Cody directing your vessel as May shoots at incoming dangers.
A plentiful supply of mini-games to take add a more competitive edge to proceedings as one of you cackles with laughter, popping up through the holes to taunt in a game of whack-a-mole. It’s one of many that you can seek out and find in corners of the game world, where other titles would have a rote collectible – Hazelight have gone out of their way to have more interactivity in place of them.
All in all, It Takes Two is shaping up to be a rollicking co-op adventure, whether you pass a pad to your other half and share a sofa, or get a buddy to play through it with you online. Given those competitive mini-games though, don’t count on it to actually save a marriage.