2020 was basically a disaster of a year. As with many people around the world, it felt for me a little like the joy had been sucked out of life. Here I was, unable to meet friends easily, separated from my family half a world away, with not a lot on the horizon to look forward to. Then, Sony announced the PS5. I know it might seem silly, but in a way, the PlayStation 5 is what helped me get through the rougher patches of 2020. Knowing I had something coming that I was looking forward to was the buoy keeping me afloat amid the pandemic. I was desperate for some kind of new experience.
In June 2020, EA announced It Takes Two, an online co-op game that would be releasing in 2021. The visuals were bright, the level designs looked exciting and the gameplay looked to be wildly varied. I was pretty much immediately sold. Another waiting game began. Then, in March 2021, actually a little earlier than I had thought I would have to wait, the game launched. I snatched it up, but then began the second conundrum – who to play it with? I mentioned the game to my friend Jack over in the UK and we decided to give it a go together. What a joy it ended up being.
It Takes Two tells the story of a married couple on the brink of divorce and their weirdly goblin-looking child. Seeing her parents close to breaking up, the little girl cries on a magic book which transforms the parents into miniature versions of themselves trapped in a magical version of their house and garden. It’s a pretty unique concept, one that is able to provide clear reason for the game not allowing for single-player fun. The theme here is coming together, working on something to make it better and overcoming problems as a team. The story might sometimes become a little simplistic, but it wears its heart on its sleeve and manages to keep the player engaged for the most part.
The gameplay is where It Takes Two really shines however. As you explore the game’s various levels, the gameplay style shifts and steps into entirely new genres, from shooter to top-down isometric RPG over to platforming and rhythm game. As I played with my friend, we continued to be blown away by the fact that we just couldn’t predict what was coming next. It was exhilarating. Sure, some ideas worked better than others, but the game’s ambition cannot be faulted, especially when it manages to pull so many disparate ideas into one cohesive package.
My favourite level in the game incorporated elements of third-person shooting games, where we were defending a group of squirrels from some aggressive wasps inside of a giant tree. Even within that framework we were constantly present with new and varying challenges which meant the game never really grew stale gameplay-wise. The controls are tight and movement is quick and fluid which meant simply moving around was also fun. Then, of course, in multiplayer games there’s always the opportunity to make your own entertainment – pretending you’re about to cooperate before setting your partner up to fail and die stayed entertaining throughout the roughly fifteen-hour journey.
It Takes Two is a generally very upbeat game – even though the protagonists are facing a pretty dark situation with their impending divorce, it tries to keep things light and breezy. Until you meet a certain elephant. Let me tell you now, the trauma that has been placed on me as a result of having to brutally tear apart a kids’ stuffed toy so unexpectedly will stick with me for a while. It came so out of the blue, me and my friend were stunned as we were playing, commenting on how we couldn’t quite believe what we were having to do. It’s an intense moment that has made for some pretty amusing YouTube videos from let’s players.
Playing It Takes Two made me feel connected to my friend during a pandemic that had us even more separated than we would have been otherwise, and I really appreciated that at a time I felt I needed it most. I’ve never really been into multiplayer games – the lack of story often means I lack motivation to continue and end up getting tired quickly. It Takes Two however has opened my eyes to the fun of cooperative gaming – upon finishing the game, both me and Jack immediately found ourselves wondering what was next for us. We’ve settled on Overcooked 2, which looks like it will also be a blast.