It Takes Two review: We need a break from this divorce game

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Over the past decade, video game creators have tackled more adult topics like depression, parenthood, and grieving for lost loved ones. It takes two continues the trend by adapting a broken marriage into a cooperative action-adventure game.

Cody and May decided it was better to break up than stay together. But when their child Rose unwittingly curses them into doll bodies, the couple must learn to love each other again with the help of The book of love, a talking book, anthropomorphic, with a dubious accent that oscillates between Italian, French, Spanish and Implacable. What better way for two players to explore the trials of marital separation than through physical puzzles and platforming challenges?

This cooperative-first mentality is not a shock given that It takes two was created by Hazelight Studios, which made a name for itself with its two-player prison escape family comedy-drama, Output. It takes two also depends on another player coming into the fold (either through an online connection or in couch co-op). To lower the entry bar, the game actually comes with a “Friend Pass” that allows you to invite anyone to join you online, even if they don’t own the game itself. that someone else should Joining you on this journey is another matter altogether.

Separation anxiety

A struggling couple sits uncomfortably in a gondola in It Takes Two.

Image: Hazelight Studios/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Since two players are mandatory in It takes twowe (Plante! Frushtick!) performed together as future divorcees May and Cody.

The actual game manages to be even weirder and more unsettling than its elevator pitch suggests. One minute we watch a cinematic of Rose neglected by the comatose bodies of her parents, whose consciousnesses have been transported into invisible toys; The next moment we’re a pair of sentient squirrel-killing dolls with a tiny missile launcher attached to a toy airplane kept afloat by heart-patterned man’s boxer shorts.

We constantly wondered who It takes two is for us to have made our way through the game. The writing feels like a throwback to another era, with the subtlety and emotional depth of a TGIF sitcom. Its portrayal of marital conflict is thinner than what we saw in the glut of 1990s divorce films (Mrs. Doubtfire, Liar Liar, Santa), without ever revealing the real problems of the couple. The game repeatedly emphasizes that the divorce can be resolved if the couple can simply learn to love each other again, always pivoting when the story gets too close to issues of money, sex, and child-rearing responsibilities. children. It would appear that the target player is a child who wants to cling to a deeply simplistic idea of ​​relationships.

An anthropomorphic book annoys a couple contemplating divorce in It Takes Two.

Image: Hazelight Studios/Electronic Arts via Polygon

But kids are unlikely to enjoy the many outdated references (the Pringles jingle, “Double Rainbow!”) and pun-laden dialogue in It takes two. With little notice, the game will take on such a grown-up and dark turn that some parents playing with kids might rush to turn off the console. At some point, Cody and May decide that the only way to reverse the spell that has been cast on them is to bring their daughter to cry over them. (To be fair, it’s almost entirely Cody’s idea.) To achieve this, the couple concludes they must to kill their daughter’s favorite toy, a stuffed elephant named Cutie.

Like the dolls Cody and May now inhabit, Cutie was brought to life by fate, and after learning of the assassination plot, the elephant begs for her life. “Where are you taking me? Please stop!” she cries as the pair drag her to an untimely death on a nearby cliff. While being dragged, one of Cutie’s ears gets caught in a nearby seam ripper, and she is ripped off with a tug from Cody and May. “You don’t have to do this!” I love Rosé!” Cutie cries, just before she is kicked to death.

Bizarre choices like this reverberate throughout the history of It takes two. The writing is far too childish and simplistic to be enjoyed by adults, but includes twists so dark that exposing children to the game would be problematic. Its ending sounds particularly dishonest and undeserved in its immaturity.

Communication is key

A couple contemplating divorce deliberately attempt to murder their daughter's favorite toy to make the child cry in It Takes Two.

Image: Hazelight Studios/Electronic Arts via Polygon

The game of It takes two fares better than its writing, although its quality fluctuates considerably throughout the 10-hour ride.

Whether you’re playing online or on the couch, both players will watch the action in split-screen, allowing both parties to see their partner’s point of view – a boon for collaboration. It’s a choice that sacrifices visual punch for readability and further establishes Hazelight Studios as a premier creator of cooperative games.

It takes two is divided into chapters set in different corners of the family’s house, yard and garden. In almost every section, May and Cody have unique skills that must be combined to fight enemies or solve puzzles. At an early stage, Cody fires explosive honey that sticks to hornets and wooden barriers. May fires matches that can ignite mud, causing wonderfully over-the-top explosions.

Because neither gimmick is particularly rich or deep, the game works best when quickly switching between playstyles, like a very narrative board game.

A husband walks away from his wife in It Takes Two.

Image: Hazelight Studios/Electronic Arts via Polygon

The pace slows considerably in the second half, however. A number of chapters last far too long, with The book of love requiring the couple to complete three mini-puzzles to unlock an elevator, granting access to three more mini-puzzles. These redundant tasks ultimately lead to a missing piece of a larger goal. By the end, we felt like we were filling out a marriage counseling checklist for this nagging talking book, rather than watching a couple have meaningful conversations and experience heartfelt change.

Time and again, the game undermines itself. May and Cody survive a thrilling stealth mission involving sleepy moles, only for the talking book to appear with more work. A beautiful cutscene is interrupted by the talking book pushing the tunes and shouting empty romance advice. The book becomes a symbol of dread. When it appears, we know that the air will be sucked out of the room.

Need an honest partner

A troubled couple look at the sad statistics of their child's life in It Takes Two.

Image: Hazelight Studios/Electronic Arts via Polygon

It takes two is a collision of two sub-subgenres of 1990s cinema: the comedy-drama about family divorce (Mrs. Doubtfire, Liar Liar, Santa) and the “what if I was even smaller?” children’s comedyHoney, I reduced the children; Fern Gully; Borrowers).

It’s a divorce story that we found ourselves rooting for divorce. Cody and May not only seem unloving, but also like toxic parents. Taking advice from such an unkind source – the awful talking book – makes their arc even more unbelievable and misguided.

And yet, like all these films mentioned above, It takes two is sometimes kept afloat by its developers’ willingness to make inexplicable creative decisions. For every element of the game that bored us, another would have us gaping at its absurdity (see: killing squirrels and torturing stuffed elephants).

Most big-budget games could use an editor to remove unnecessary elements that seem to exist to extend the length of the adventure and justify the price on the box. It takes two would benefit from a similar trim, requiring a more experienced writer to fix weak narrative and dialogue, alongside a producer to make the tough choices between which segments of the game are fun and which are downright boring.

Without this edit, the game feels unbalanced, like a solo played by a singer who runs too many errands, unaware that the audience has gone from entertained to annoyed.

It takes two will be released on March 26 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was tested on Xbox Series X using download codes provided by Electronic Arts. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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