It Takes Two preview – EA’s dazzling co-op game uses all the tools in the toybox

It Takes Two game previewEA

It Takes Two is the latest co-op game in line for EA Originals, where players inhabit two humans transformed into dolls. Working together, it’s your aim to rekindle their broken relationship from the cusp of divorce – but you must face a whole load of trials and tribulations to achieve that.

*Check out our full review of It Takes Two here

Its developer, Hazelight Studios, was founded by Josef Fares in 2014 off the back of the successful Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons title. After the powerhouse that was the first studio’s release, A Way Out — which scooped a BAFTA for the Multiplayer category back in 2019 — Josef and his team are breaking the mold, and it’s “a whole ‘nother level” with their latest outing.

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Having been granted early access to It Takes Two, we now know a lot more about the world, delving deeper than what has already been seen in the trailers.

A far cry from the prison cell blocks of their last game, this refreshing project is undoubtedly full of inspiration from film and gaming’s big studios. Fares, himself, even admits they were trying to tell stories and make characters in a similar way to Pixar.

The self-described romantic comedy is also “a love letter to Nintendo,” with players being able to find Easter Eggs that reference his favorite games. Outside of those niche details, though, it’s fair to say that this is a wild ride.

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Exploring the It Takes Two universe

It Takes Two preview wasp hive DexertoHazelight Studios
It Takes Two is gorgeous, with stunning vistas at every corner.

Diving into the shoes of May and Cody, both player and character are tasked with working as a team to find their daughter, Rose, after she wishes to The Book of Love, written by Dr. Hakim, to help fix her family’s issues. Starting out in their garden shed, players are slowly introduced to controls that are introduced intuitively through gameplay – never feeling forced or rushed.

Players must work together to find solutions to some tremendously difficult tasks, and that could be anything from scaling huge walls to fending off an air attack from a battalion of squirrels. It’s not easy, by any means, but the challenge is something that makes the game very exciting to play. 

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Existing within this incredibly detailed, carefully crafted landscape is a joy to experience. Fares and his team have clearly moved away from games that focus on collectibles for a highly-polished, interactive place with small moments outside of the gameplay loop that are there to flesh out the world we’re inhabiting.

The game’s mechanics and cinematics really tie in with the overall message of ‘love conquers all’ in It Takes Two. For example, the game uses its mechanics within cinematics, too. It isn’t just hand-waved as a feature without explanation. Similarly, the button-mashing revive mechanic during boss encounters shows a love heart slowly filling up before bringing you back into play.

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It Takes Two Dexerto AcornHazelight Studios
Squirrel tech is undoubtedly a cut above the rest.

If challenges are your thing, this has all of those bases covered. The game’s boss fights are incredibly fun, and might even end up causing you to throw a controller or two when you both inevitably get wiped out. Ever wanted to fight a vacuum cleaner set on wreaking havoc and vengeance for treating him poorly? Look no further.

It Takes Two’s puzzles are incredibly challenging, too. A giant lab with an acorn built by squirrels features one of the most headache-inducing moments within the preview. Utilizing all the tools at your disposal to navigate their cogs and pulleys, it took time and careful thought to understand the physics of what you were doing before you were able to work together to progress.

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Fares describes it as being a rom-com, but it always confidently straddles the line between funny and moving, seamlessly delivering a compelling tale that keeps you wanting more.

At one point, May had to fend off a squirrel with an American accent in moment you might expect to see in Tekken or Street Fighter. This all takes place on top of a plane made out of underpants, just to highlight how random things can get. If that and the talking, attacking squirrels are anything to go off, we’d safely say this is an unpredictable game to play.

Each character also has their own unique set of skills for navigating their way around. May is an agile character, more suited for people who are really into their shooter games. For example, she can swing across large gaps with her hammer and really get around easily. On the other hand, Cody is more of a tank. If you’re looking to deal a good amount of damage but take the slower path, he’s your guy. 

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While these two styles of play are potentially ways to re-experience the game, the focus of It Takes Two is not on replayability. Fares said: “It shouldn’t be the most important thing of a game. I, in general, am not a big fan of going collecting. I’d rather us have to create a world that is interesting and interactive instead of just collecting stuff.”

No collectibles to be seen

A lot of similar co-op games have taken the collectible route in the past, encouraging people to look out for certain things along the way. However, It Takes Two does not have anything to collect – and there’s a reason for that. 

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Fares understands that collectibles can be used to take players off of the beaten path, though, but feels that there’s other ways to do this: “I know shiny sh*t [is] there for a reason, to lead the player, but you can lead it from another way. You can have a world that is interactive; try it, test it, play it –  have a mini-game there.”

“So, you don’t have any collectibles in It Takes Two, which is something that we are very proud of, instead, having a world that you want to explore.”

It Takes Two Dexerto VacuumHazelight Studios
It Takes Two has a whole host of characters that keep you on your toes.

This vision pays off incredibly well. With couples challenges that fit in with the flow of the pair fixing their relationship, like the tug-o’-war mini-game or the shooting range that are dotted throughout the world instead of typical collectibles. You actively feel as if they serve the purpose of strengthening (or challenging) both the character and player’s relationships. In that sense, nothing in this game feels tacked on or out of place.

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Relatively polished

Bugs, mechanical issues, and a lack of polish were few and far between. Stuttering cinematics were present from time-to-time, but it was never completely clear whether this was due to our online connection or issues with our preview build.

Similarly, clunky mechanics got in the way of the game’s flow, mainly Cody’s nail-throwing ability. It can be difficult to recall specific nails to the player when there’s a whole host of them already out, and this sometimes results in deaths for May, or slight annoyances in having to redo a particular moment. Button presses can, at times, feel counterintuitive, specifically May’s nail swing ability.

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That being said, each mechanic introduced into It Takes Two is fresh and exciting. Nothing feels similar, or uninspired. Abilities and tools come and go throughout, just as the way that you approach the game does.

It’s a joy-filled, serotonin-inducing experience that will undoubtedly leave a smile on your face and make you reflect on your own personal relationships.

It Takes Two releases on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on March 26, 2021.