It’s rare for a cooperative platformer to launch to such success, let alone win the illustrious Game of the Year award at the annual Game Awards ceremony. But that’s exactly what Hazelight Studios did with It Takes Two, a game that felt fresh at the time and still holds up as one of the greatest platformers ever made.
As part of the PlayStation Plus catalog for July 2023, Extra and Premium subscribers will gain access to It Takes Two at no additional cost, so now is the perfect time to dive in. The PS Plus catalog version also includes a Friend Pass, allowing you to invite a buddy to play for free.
Right off the bat, It Takes Two ropes players in with its interesting premise. It’s about Cody and May, a couple planning to divorce who are suddenly transformed into dolls and sent on a journey to repair their relationship. The game must be played with a friend, which truly drives home the spirit of collaboration.
Along the way, the couple learns to work together through a series of wildly inventive gameplay segments. It Takes Two’s greatest strength is the sheer variety in gameplay, as something ridiculous and bombastic happens seemingly every 10 minutes or so, which keeps things interesting. I truly never knew what to expect from one moment to the next, leading to one of the most surprising gameplay experiences I’ve ever had.
We won’t spoil it here, but suffice to say that each new segment offers something unexpected and remarkable, not just from a gameplay perspective, but in terms of the story and overall theme. Every section requires you to work with your co-op partner to get through, and the game acknowledges that some objectives are harder for one character or the other (just like parenting). One puzzle may require May to lead the way, while Cody provides support, but the next task may be the opposite.
The way the objectives mirror the interworkings of a real relationship is so smart and is something that video games haven’t really explored much. Oftentimes, cooperative play is integrated into games purely as a means for having fun — which is great — but It Takes Two pushes that a step further and ties it to the overall message of the game, giving it more weight.
At the start, Cody and May are practically intolerable. They bicker frequently, make questionable parenting decisions, and are just downright unlikable. But as they’re forced to work together, they discover things about themselves, eventually learning the error of their ways. Seeing the duo evolve over the course of the game is easily one of the most satisfying aspects of It Takes Two. This is especially true since they change in believable ways that don’t feel shoehorned or expected.
It Takes Two’s top-notch presentation ties the whole thing together. The performances and visuals feel like something out of a Pixar or Dreamworks film. This adds to the immersion and allure, further keeping the player invested.
The entire game is filled with memorable moments, but one specific segment stands out. There’s a particular moment involving an elephant (you’ll know it when you get there) that brought several tears to my — and my co-op partner’s — eyes. The way it’s presented is just so sad and truly pushes the gravity of the situation in a compelling, yet horrifying way.
That’s the thing about It Takes Two: It isn’t afraid to cross into uncomfortable territory, leaving behind the sunshine and rainbows we’ve grown used to from many platformers of the past. Even the game’s director Josef Fares admits that It Takes Two is “f*cked up.”
It Takes Two is easily one of the most refreshing, varied, and inventive games in recent years. It tells a surprising story with a satisfying conclusion that will stick with you long after you put down your controller.