It Takes Two is a co-op game that leans into its title in a couple different ways. First of all, the game must be played with two players who tag-team their way through an ongoing series of creative challenges.
That said, it’s also an adventure that centers on marriage and parenting, two very real challenges that demand their own version of cooperation: knowing when to give and take, and when to talk and listen.
In the game’s story we learn that parents Cody and May are hitting a pretty rough patch in their marriage. So rough and rocky, in fact, that they’ve decided to call it quits. The hardest challenge for them now is figuring out how to reveal their decision to their young daughter, Rose. But Rose has overheard their loud arguments and has already been fretting over the adults’ inability to connect and love each other the way they used to.
Rose has even constructed little dolls in her parents’ likeness, made of bits of wood, metal, yarn and clay. And she talks to the dolls about the feelings she can’t share with her real mom and dad. But while tearfully wishing that they might rediscover the connection they’ve lost, a magical thing happens. In a flash, the real Cody and May somehow wake up in the form of Rose’s little dolls and must find a way back to reality with the help of a tattered book that their daughter had found in the trash: The Book of Love.
It Takes Two plays out in an oversized fantasy world that’s sprinkled with a child’s imagination and seen from the perspective of a pair of four-inch-high dolls. It plays a little like a co-op Toy Soldiers game. Or perhaps a closer description would be playing through the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, if it was set in a bizarre world filled with big bosses that include things like a living tool box, stuffed toys and chess sets.
Players choose one of the pint-sized parents and make their way through everything from a wood shavings-littered work shed (with an angry misused vacuum cleaner overlord) to a toy scattered bedroom to a lily pad-leaping pond to a magical tiny nightclub housed inside an air conditioning vent. Each level and stage presents May and Cody with the challenge of finding a way, in their split-screen world, to help each other keep moving forward with unique skill sets that they each pick up along the way.
Cody, for instance, figures out how to carry and throw nails that he can launch into walls and offer a path of rungs for May to swing between. May picks up a hammer head, a water gun and other abilities that only she can yield. And together they must figure out how to push/pull, swing/tumble, thunk and flip their way past puzzling landscapes and anthropomorphic bosses.
This game is packed with wacky environments and quirky cooperative challenges that are really quite fun to play through. Players must learn to operate in a creative tag-team manner to keep moving on to the next imaginative fantasy location. But there are also fun mini-games scattered in here and there—music-rhythm games, whack-a-mole games, etc.—that don’t move the story forward as much as offer an enjoyable competitive element to the play.
Gradually, players will also recognize that each new area and set of game challenges tie directly into Cody and May’s reconciliation. The married pair starts to remember shared experiences of the past and how they once relied on and rallied each other. And bit by bit this overstretched couple begins to see that they have many feelings and shared goals that their harried lives have drained away from them. They discover that marriage, while demanding work and, well, co-op play, can still hold the fun and friendship they somehow let slip away.
For all of the game’s fun activities and solid lessons, there’s also a smattering of unexpected language. The s-word pops up here, along with a few uses of “d–n” and exclamations of “oh my god!” There’s also a bit of toilet humor in the mix.
The big boss battles can be a little violent feeling at times with raining nails and whirling saw blades and the like. And the Cody and May dolls can fall or be struck or impaled with sharp objects. But there’s no blood or mess. The dolls simply poof into smoke and then reconstitute.
There is some foul language here that seems out of character for a game that looks and feels so kid-friendly. However, the real lessons of It Takes Two are obviously designed for adults who may be manning the game controllers. And that makes this an interesting title for parents who want to have a little gaming fun on their own, while thinking a bit about the challenges and joys that life and marriage both hold.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.