It Takes Two is Hazelight Studios’ newest EA Originals title. Aiming to break the mold by putting players into the shoes of two parents on the brink of divorce, you’re thrown into a wonderland of magic and mayhem. Transformed into dolls, both player and character must work together to navigate Dr. Hakim’s trials to turn back into a human and be reunited with your daughter, Rose.
With prior titles such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out, Josef Fares is known for crafting memorable cinematic gaming experiences. Since that time, though, Josef and his team at Hazelight Studios are pushing to break the mold of their past work.
Dexerto was previously given access to a preview build of the game, where we shared our opinions on the first two levels of It Takes Two. Now, with our hands on a full review copy, we’ll break down our take on the experience as a whole.
It Takes Two key details
- Price: $39.99 / £34.99
- Developer: Hazelight Studios
- Release date: 26 March, 2021
- Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X
It Takes Two Gameplay Trailer
It Takes Two: A joy-inducing experience
It Takes Two’s world is as vibrant and beautifully crafted as it is fun to explore. Each new area within a particular level is unique – you’ll find no rehashed or reused layouts here. The third level, which focuses on May and Cody being transported away into space from their daughter’s pillow fort, will make you want to go out and bounce around on a bouncy castle ASAP. Oh, wait. You can do that, too!
Nothing in the game world is placed ‘just because’. It all ties the storyline together, and Fares and Hazelight have done a stellar job at utilizing the world as one of its most important characters.
The game’s narrative and visuals were inspired by animation powerhouses like Pixar. While that inspiration is clear throughout, it never feels like a rip-off; still taking its own identity seriously.
Taking players from head-spinning locations like a country garden, a Swiss town, a gigantic clock tower, outer space, and a towering, dungeon-crawling castle – each new level in It Takes Two is fresh.
A game for gamers
It Takes Two was made for old-school gamers, and its mechanics and puzzles will be familiar enough to those who have played iconic titles like Mario, Spyro, and Crash Bandicoot. They do take some time to get used to, however, and while people new to gaming may struggle initially, they never feel overbearing.
Each level provides both May and Cody with unique, fantastic skills, such as Cody’s flamethrower-like gun that shoots tree sap and explodes upon impact when shot with May’s match rifle. Ever wanted to defy gravity to walk on the ceiling with moon boots, or be able to turn into a giant and shrink back down to the size of an insect at the press of a button? How about bending time and space, or cloning yourself to get two things done at once? This is the game for you.
One standout moment is undoubtedly the third level, which takes players from their daughter’s pillow fort up into space while being chased by Rose’s self-proclaimed protector, Moon Baboon. Yes, that’s a baboon that’s in an astronaut suit – and it’s the most insane but perfectly sensical thing in the world of It Takes Two.
It is peppered with pop-culture references, easter eggs, and homages to some of gaming’s greats – particularly Nintendo. Fancy playing a bit of a Tetris-style mini-game with 8-bit sounds that feel right out of Super Mario Bros? You can do that. How about a Diablo-style dungeon crawler? Check. There’s even an Alien reference with an “in space, no-one can hear you scream” line, and a mini-game that sees Cody shrunken down to the size of a marble while May shoots him around a pinball machine. Everything has been included for a reason to evoke nostalgia and joy, and it’s not all in plain sight, either.
The world design encourages you to venture off of the beaten path and explore its unique take on completionism, too. Fares has been incredibly open about the lack of “shiny sh*t,” instead, opting to include mini-games and easter eggs to find throughout.
There’s even interactable elements like lava lamps that change color, and plug sockets that electrocute you, or a photo booth set up by squirrels that you can take pictures in. None of these reward you with a physical achievement, but they leave a smile on your face and deliver a good dose of serotonin.
The characters shine
While the overarching theme of the story is fun and light-hearted, the meat of the story feels real and gritty. Focusing on two parents who are about to tell their child, Rose, that they’re filing for divorce, they are completely imperfect characters.
May is a workaholic who has little time nowadays to spend with her daughter and husband, focused on being the breadwinner for the relationship to support her family financially.
Cody is a stay-at-home dad who resents May for spending too much time away from home, neglecting their relationship. An adult who has lost his direction in life, his spark and passion for gardening has been lost.
Both ultimately seem to blame one another for their relationship woes, with Cody saying to May: “When you’re never around, we lose us.”
The story understands that people change and grow apart, but the message of the story focuses on the pair finding that spark again that originally brought them together but has tarnished over time. May and Cody initially want to work together to get back to their daughter Rose, though with the help of Dr. Hakim’s trials come out of the experience forever changed. They end up loving one another perhaps more than they did before.
The game is unafraid to show us how selfish these characters can be, too. One harrowing moment that will undoubtedly make players feel uncomfortable is when the pair attempt to kill one of Rose’s favorites toys (who happens to be the cutest, friendliest toy you’ve ever come across) in hopes of making her cry to return them to human form.
They’re only thinking of themselves, and it shows an ugly side to the couple. The developers don’t shy away from making you feel uncomfortable as they reveal who these characters are.
At the end of the day, though, this is a romcom. The jokes, fun, and laughs continually flow, but the darker parts of the story cut through that to prevent it from feeling stale.
Kinks to be ironed out
It Takes Two is incredibly ambitious. Each new area presents you with mechanics that are completely different from the last, and sometimes it can feel as if this hinders some of the mechanics from truly being refined to their fullest.
These issues were also present in our initial preview, but it does feel as if tweaks have been made to improve skills like Cody’s nail ability in the first level being difficult to recall.
Bugs are present in many games, and It Takes Two is no different. While none of these detract from the magic, it can take you out of the experience for a moment. From being catapulted from a tornado created by wasps into a rock wall and being unable to get out, to not being able to properly grab onto walls at times, the respawn and reload from checkpoint features do come in handy.
Despite these kinks, the sheer creativity of each new mechanic, and how many there are, is like visiting a theme park and going on every ride possible to get the full experience. There is so much to do in the game, and it’ll leave a smile on your face for sure. Hazelight has done a truly magnificent job bringing this concept to life.
From layered, nuanced characters with deep backstories that are imperfect and real, to a fleshed out and vibrant world that is a character in its own right, It Takes Two is a joy to jump into.
EA has allowed Hazelight free rein to run wild and craft something that is truly unique. The genre shifts between cinematic narrative, to platformer, to action-adventure in the blink of an eye, and yet never feels like it’s throwing too much at you all at once.
This is a game to be experienced with loved ones; to help challenge and deepen your own relationships as you work together – and most of all – it’s an absolute blast.
*It Takes Two is available March 26, 2021.