It Takes Two is the essential co-op experience, presenting an amalgamation of mechanics and designs originating from the most revered multiplayer genres. It refuses to let the player rest, barraging them with plenty of excellent ideas. Although not every one of these ideas stick, they always feel different enough to justify their existence.
Both narratively and mechanically, the game expects the player to travel a mile a minute as they explore new worlds, gain new abilities and decipher clever puzzles. As a cherry on top, all of this is set to an adorable backdrop featuring a bickering couple pushed along on their journey by an irksome book of love.
A charismatic journey
It Takes Two takes a head-butting, married couple, Cody and May, and throws them into an unwilling journey full of shenanigans that challenge them to repair their relationship. The two had decided to divorce, and although they seemed dead set on this decision, their daughter is unhappy with the circumstances. She pulls out a love therapy book and wishes on it, asking the author (Dr. Hakim) to help the duo become friends again. She then takes two handmade figures of her parents and roleplays as if they loved each other again, uncontrollably shedding tears that land directly on them.
Cody and May find themselves shrunk down into clay and wooden forms, respectively. This obviously causes the couple to panic, but nonetheless, they work together to reach their daughter and ask for help. However, Dr. Hakim, a living incarnation of the book with goofy arms and legs, causes an enormous amount of trouble. He refuses to assist Cody and May in returning to their normal forms until they repair their relationship, inciting a series of wacky events that take the player through many unique settings.
Cody and May frequently banter and are often quite critical of each other, but as the game progresses, we subtly see their rudeness diminish. And although they don’t love each other anymore, these circumstances (and hatred for the obnoxious Dr. Hakim) creates a sense of kinship where they must work together to get what they want. This leads to scenes that are heartbreaking; one in particular seemed as if it were straight out of a horror film. However, to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into further detail.
Diversity of mechanics
It’s hard to identify It Takes Two as belonging to a single genre, as it can be a puzzler, platformer, racer, third-person shooter, stealth game, hack-and-slash, isometric dungeon crawler, fighter, or flight simulator.
The puzzle aspect of It Takes Two is the most prominent, as Cody and May receive a designated gadget depending on the area they’re exploring. These usually synergize quite well, and are necessary for the gauntlet of puzzles present within each environment.
For example, throughout the Clocktower chapter, Cody gains the ability to modify time while May can speedily teleport to clones of herself. With this, Cody plays a supportive role to assist May in progressing through the level. In another chapter, May receives a hammer, which allows her to destroy obstacles and activate buttons that move platforms. Cody finds a projectile nail that lets him keep those platforms in place or create hinge points for May to swing across with her hammer. And when Cody gets a sap gun that lets him spew goop onto enemies, May receives a flame-propulsion rifle that lets her detonate that sap. Cody and May unlock plenty more of these abilities as they travel throughout the chapters.
To top it all off, there are 25 mini-games you can compete against your friend in, including chess, volleyball, musical chairs and snowball fights. To avoid spoilers, I won’t reveal every single gimmick in It Takes Two, but with 13 hours of play time, the amount of diverse ideas are undeniably impressive.
Fundamentally, the purpose of these mechanics makes the title of the game relevant: it takes two players to get anything done. The entirety of It Takes Two relies on you and your friend working together to figure things out, as a majority of abilities, battles and puzzles require synergy between Cody and May in order to emerge successful.
Some ideas work better than others
Since It Takes Two features a conglomeration of genres and ideas, it’s unsurprising that not all of them land. In particular, the third-person shooting mechanics and dungeon-crawler portion never match up to the greatness of the platforming and puzzling segments.
The section where Cody attains a sap gun and May can detonate that sap with her rifle is fun, but it’s one of the less engaging parts of the game. Unlike other third-person shooters, the player is stuck with a single weapon as they battle through waves of killer wasps. This means most fights operate similarly, requiring a consistent use of the same strategy from the player to proceed.
However, the battles do get exciting again when new antagonists and bosses are introduced, as the Wasp Queen has engaging phases which require the player to jump over hazards, target weak spots, and slide across the field to dodge a terrifying amount of enemies trying to smash the duo. And players need to be careful with the Shield Wasp enemy, as their front is immune to sap, which means May needs to act as a distraction as Cody positions himself behind the enemy and strikes.
The puzzle sections of this chapter are far better. With the sap gun, Cody can weigh down objects to assist May in traversing gaps, while May can detonate sap to destroy obstacles in their way. For example, players will face an obstacle involving eight locks keeping a lid in place. To proceed, Cody needs to line up the sap along the side of the lid in a way that allows May to detonate all of them in a chain reaction. However, the sap gun isn’t infinite, so Cody needs to be careful in how he positions the liquid. Another section requires Cody to use his sap gun to move wheels that allow May to jump between them. Each puzzle feels different, yet most of the combat sections get old pretty quickly when there aren’t new elements to keep things fresh.
It Takes Two also has an underwhelming dungeon-crawler level. Although the existence of this idea is exciting, it suffers from the same faux pas as the third-person shooting portions: a lack of puzzles and a focus on repetitive combat sections. Thankfully, the level only lasts about ten minutes, but it’s one of the weaker parts of the game.
Plenty of lovely environments
It Takes Two doesn’t just present mechanical variety; it also takes players on a rollercoaster as they explore dozens of diverse setpieces. Cody and May will find themselves battling wasps inside of a tree, flying mechanical birds around a clocktower, bouncing atop pillow forts in space, skating around a town inside of a snowglobe, riding spiders throughout a lush garden, exploring the gates of heaven inside a violin, and much more.
All of these ideas are accompanied by staggering environmental detail and a gorgeous array of colors. While exploring the garden, there’s an assortment of brown mushrooms, mossy stones, rich green grass, corrupted tree bark, nuts that crack under the player’s feet, little insects that traverse clear paths, and oversized man-made objects that provide a proper sense of scale.
And when Cody and May take flight upon mechanical birds, the sight of dusky mist dancing around the lifeless forest contrasts beautifully with the soft light emanating from the clocktower’s entrance. This atmosphere is unsettling, but it also instills a desire to reach the safety of the light as soon as possible.
It Takes Two isn’t a difficult puzzle game. In fact, only once throughout the entire journey did my friend and I get stuck for more than a few minutes. However, puzzles utilize each gimmick’s mechanical foundation incredibly well, and considering that both Cody and May need to work together to get things done, finding solutions often feels satisfying.
Traversing hazardous obstacle courses that another player has control of is often hilarious. This creates an amusing tension when one fails the other, and creates an even greater sense of kinship when they succeed. Even when a puzzle isn’t remotely challenging, It Takes Two often wows with its cool application of each mechanic.
When Cody and May each receive one half of a magnet, the two can activate them at the same time to slam into one another and reach platforms that were otherwise inaccessible. Cody eventually gets the ability to turn into plants, and as the couple try and stealth past a few adorable moles in the garden, Cody transforms into the grass that May sneaks through. When the couple is falling to their doom, Cody unwinds time and tries to assist May in traversing a gauntlet of platforms to get to safety. All of these moments had me saying, “Wow, that’s cool” out loud.
However, I do wish that It Takes Two had more challenging puzzles that made full use of each mechanic in ways that really test the player’s skill and knowledge. These wouldn’t have to be part of the campaign, instead acting as off-the-beaten-path side quests. It could be similar to the Helltower in the Clocktower chapter, which was a completely optional platforming challenge that took quite a bit of time to get done.
Although It Takes Two has charismatic protagonists, intense story twists and exciting pacing, its finale leaves a lot to be desired. To avoid spoiling the climax, I won’t reveal exact details, but a major conflict is unveiled shortly after the last chapter of the game. And when this happened, I assumed that players would have to trudge through another exciting world with new gimmicks and mechanics to resolve the problem.
However, this isn’t the case. This plot point finds its resolution only a couple of minutes after it’s actually revealed, which is strange considering it’s the most important narrative beat in the game.
It’s also quite strange how it’s delivered to the players. Spoiler warning for the second half of the story: Dr. Hakim sends Cody and May to four different worlds to find the pieces of a destroyed note that their daughter wrote to them. This plot point is delivered to the couple on this note, but only when they return to normal. If the game had delivered this conflict while they were still in clay and doll form, we could have experienced the exciting climax I was hoping for.
It Takes Two PC performance
It Takes Two turned out to be a bugless experience. At most, there were moments where it felt like the lock-on feature wasn’t locking on properly, but this only happened a few times in the Tree chapter. However, I had an issue with the game’s performance.
It Takes Two’s special effects caused stuttering on my PC (even with Effects Quality on Low). Dr. Hakim brings a ton of pink confetti with him whenever he teleports into a scene, and this is often when my PC would stutter. The existence of other effects, from gigantic explosions to magical abilities, would cause similar issues.
It Takes Two PC requirements
I tested It Takes Two on my desktop, which is equipped with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 GPU with 4GB of VRAM and an Intel Core i7-6700K CPU. When I initially launched the game with all settings on High, the opening cutscene was full of stutters. After a bit of messing around, I played the game at 1080p with some settings on High, but for the most part, I kept most of them on either Medium or Low. With this set-up, I managed a pretty consistent 45-50 frames per second.
Quality presets can be changed between Low, Medium and High. This alters the quality of textures, shadows, details, effects, shaders and post-processing. Anti-Aliasing can be switched between FXAA, Temporal AA, MSAA 2x and MSAA 4x. Anisotropic filtering can also be put at 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x, or none. Frame rates can go between 30, 60, 120 or unlocked. There’s also a slider available for resolution scale, which goes from 50% to 200%. V-Sync is also available.
The minimum requirements to run It Takes Two includes Windows 8.1 or 10, an AMD FX 6100 CPU or Intel Core i3-2100T CPU, 8GB of RAM, AMD Radeon R7 260X GPU or Nvidia Geforce GTX 660 GPU and 50GB of free storage space.
The recommended requirements to run It Takes Two includes Windows 8.1 or 10, an AMD Ryzen 3 1300X CPU or Intel Core i5 3570K CPU, 16GB of RAM, AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU or Nvidia Geforce GTX 980 GPU and 50GB of free storage space.
It Takes Two is comparable to an amusement park. There are plenty of attractions to engage with, and while not all of them are excellent, the overall experience is enhanced thanks to the staggering number of diverse concepts. The game could not work without its variety, as some of the existing ideas would fall flat if the player were expected to commit to them for more than an hour. On the other hand, some of the best gimmicks could have used further application, perhaps in the form of optional challenges hidden throughout chapters.
However, the narrative needed an extra chapter to solidify the intensity of its finale. Revealing an unforeseen conflict that the couple resolve in only a couple of minutes — with no gameplay in between — makes the conclusion feel unearned.
Regardless, It Takes Two is chock full of creative puzzles, beautiful environments and unique mechanics. It’s one of the best co-op games out there, and it’s a great choice for parties of two looking for a way to spend 13 hours together.