Y’know, after “A Way Out,” I really wasn’t expecting another one of these. Did it sell particularly well, or do Ubisoft executives find Josef Fares as charismatic and endearing as I do? Either way, I certainly wasn’t expecting “It Takes Two.” Another hard co-op game, except aimed at couples? And with 3D platforming and combat? They’re certainly looking to capitalize on a niche, I’ll give them that.
But I’m not in a relationship, so why the hell am I playing this game? Well, because my friend David and I were watching the 2020 game awards when we saw the trailer for this game, and he said “huh, that looks neat.” Lo and behold, a few months later, the game drops on steam, and my friend David messages me a picture of the game installing, followed by a link to the “It Takes Two" friends pass. And honestly if it wasn’t for the friends pass, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the game, so props where props are due to that. The game as a whole is extremely approachable once you look past the somewhat unusual core premise, and only needing one person to actually own the game was a somewhat risky move that I think really paid off. I’ll say right now that because of that, I ended up buying “A Way Out” when it went on sale so that my friend David and I could play through it.
And that brings us to what is the most important part of both of Fares’ games: the person you play with. Sure I’ll talk about the game itself, but that’s not what makes the experience. Given that you literally don’t have a choice but to play it co-op, deciding who you’ll play with is going to make or break the game for you. And fortunately for me, my good friend David really is what made the game for me. So this isn’t really going to be a review, at least not until the last couple paragraphs or so. This is more going to be an account of an event in history: the David & Jack play-through of Ubisoft’s “It Takes Two.”
So for context, the basic premise of the game is that the titular two, May and Cody, are a couple in the process of divorce. Distraught, their daughter essentially wishes upon a star that they’ll stay together, whereupon May and Cody’s minds get transferred to the little dolls their daughter made of each of them. From there, the two have to traverse through an “Alice in Wonderland”-ified version of their home to find a way to get back to their bodies. Along the way they are accosted by a marriage counseling book their daughter bought that comes to life to try and fix their relationship. Got all that? Good.
Our journey began as many others do, on the start menu. David immediately opted to pick May, leaving a young and naive Jack Hamilton to pick Cody. Unbeknownst to either of us, May gets to do all the interesting things. Thus started the long process of minor irritation that would define my experience with the game. After getting through the intro, we were immediately dumped into what is essentially the core gameplay loop: puzzles and platforming revolving around level-based gimmick abilities. I was given a set of three throwing nails that would boomerang back to me, meanwhile David got a hammer.
And that brings us to the next big point about the game: the capacity for messing with each other. David could straight up kill me with the hammer, meanwhile my nails had control over much of the platforming he had to do, and the game only gets more conducive to messing with each other as it goes on. If any of you remember the maze from the “Portal 2” co-op, it's essentially that, but for the whole game. And to be fair, the whole game is kinda built around it. The game is packed with tons of little competitive mini-games and other toys to mess around with. There are several areas in the game that are basically mini sandboxes, where you can progress the story, or you can go look at all of the little knick-knacks splayed out all over the place. None of them elicit much more than a simple “that’s neat,” so I didn’t really take too great an interest in them. Unfortunately, David did.
Even though we were playing the game over wifi, it still displays in splitscreen, mostly to help coordinate the puzzles. But it also meant that there were far too many times where I would find myself at a checkpoint, only to look over and see David messing with the etch-a-sketch or something way behind me. And that really summates my experience with the game for me: David’s shenanigans. David is the kind of person that laughs at everything, saying his name in a silly enough voice will get a giggle out of him. It also helps that he has an extremely contagious laugh. So whenever one or both of us would repeatedly mess up a puzzle or platforming section he would just start giggling uncontrollably. David’s also the kind of person to latch onto really dumb jokes just to make himself laugh. During our play-through, there was nothing he found funnier than informing me that a particular task would, in fact, take two to complete. So every time we came across a puzzle, or one of those doors that arbitrarily required both players to open, there would just be giggling bubbling up through his mic until he said “Well Jack, I think uh… I think with this one it uh… it takes two.” And every time my irate reaction would elicit only further guffawing at his own dumb joke.
But dealing with David’s tomfoolery really is what made the game for me. Whenever we booted it up, I wasn’t looking forward to the next chapter in repairing Cody and May’s relationship, I was waiting for the next time we found an exit and David would say “there it is, a way out.” David is exactly the kind of guy that I love playing these games with, he never gets frustrated, always manages to keep the mood light, never fails to make me laugh, and is equally willing to laugh at all of my dumb bits. Looking over to his screen only to find him wandering off to Neverland never failed to bring a smile to my face. And by the end of the game I was making just as many jokes about how the puzzles “take two.”
As for the game itself, it's fine. It really does play like a grab bag of gimmicks, with none going on too long to become stale but also not having enough depth to be really interesting or engaging. There are certainly a couple stand-out moments, like one really out of place bit right in the middle where you mutilate one of the daughter’s stuffed animals that actually messed me up. But the game has enough interesting bits and bobs to keep you engaged, and overall is very well tailored to the co-op experience. There is also one really cringey reference to “A Way Out” tucked away just off the beat and path of one level.
But as I said before, your enjoyment of the game isn’t really going to come from it. It’s going to come from the person sitting next to you, or bumming around in the Discord call with you. It is a cooperative game in the most tried and true sense, where cooperation is the game.
Final score: X/10, where X is the amount out of 10 you would rate being around whoever you decide to play the game with. Or whoever happened to blow $40 and begged you to play with them.