More like It Takes Too Long
There are plenty of games out there that can be played co-op. Adding a friend or two to the action usually helps to heighten the fun and working together as opposed to competing with each other is a nice change of pace from how games usually go. There are, however, very few games that basically require co-op; one of the most notable of those games is 2018’s A Way Out, which put players in control of two jailbreaking convicts attempting to evade recapture. A Way Out was well received critically and is generally a very fun experience, so expectations were slightly high for developer Hazelight Studio’s next title. Once again they came out with a dedicated co-op experience, but this time in the form of a cooperative 3D puzzle platformer, It Takes Two. Originally released on other platforms in March of 2021, the Switch is a bit late to the party. However, what better platform could there possibly be for a game like this than the Switch? It seems perfectly suited to the task of a co-op platformer! At least, one would think, but unfortunately that does not appear to be the case.
In It Takes Two, players take control of Cody and May, a married couple in the midst of a divorce. This situation is, understandably, upsetting for their daughter Rose, who is now looking for any way to help her parents patch up their relationship. She turns to a mysterious book for help while playing with two dolls made to look like her parents, but when the emotions become too much and her tears fall on the dolls, some form of magical spell is cast. Cody and May wake up now inhabiting Rose’s dolls and being spoken to by Rose’s book, which is now alive and referring to itself as their “therapist” Dr. Hakim. The fighting couple must learn to cooperate if they want to solve the various puzzles and break through the obstacles placed between them to be able to return to their regular bodies, but can they really do it? Or is their relationship already too far gone?
Gameplay in It Takes Two is overall pretty standard for the genre. Both characters can sprint, jump, double jump, wall jump, etc. Platforming as a whole is tight and responsive, with characters never really feeling like you’re not entirely in control of where they go. Moving around just generally feels good, and things like grappling points and grind rails especially heighten the fun. By far the most interesting part of It Takes Two’s gameplay is that it is always subtly changing, with each area having its own unique mechanics all built around making the players work together. For example in the very first area, Cody is given nails that he can throw and stick into walls, while May is given a hammer that can be used to smash large switches or other things in need of smashing. This leads to puzzle solving that requires Cody to create grapple points for May using his nails so that she can get across a gap, and these mechanics always go both ways. Some of these mechanics are better than others, but each one is creative and fresh, with some even throwing the game temporarily into a different genre.
Unfortunately, no matter how fresh the changing mechanics may be it still doesn’t help with one of It Takes Two’s biggest issues: its length. Clocking in at around 11-12 hours, It Takes Two feels far too long for the type of game it is. This length would not be an issue if it were your usual single player game, but having to work with two peoples’ adult schedules just to figure out a time when we could both be available to play became a hassle when every time the end seemed nowhere in sight. This is exacerbated by a feeling in almost every section that the mechanics and area have overstayed their welcome. For a game that is locked completely to co-op, and encouraged to play the whole thing with the same partner, it’s just too much to not have outside annoyances start to creep in.
There are also the major issues that come along with the game’s port to the Switch, all of which are incredibly noticeable and in some cases highly inconvenient. Lighting was constantly flickering in and out, with some scenes even missing lighting that is not only present on other platforms but sometimes was originally there to help guide players through puzzle solutions. Textures have gotten a noticeable downgrade throughout the game, so much so that a lot of the time we didn’t even have to check whether or not an object or location was supposed to look like that. The framerate will also dip on occasion, and while this never messes with the platforming it is still hard to ignore. By far the biggest problem, however, is the fact that the Switch version adds several loading screens that simply aren’t present on other platforms, such as the PS4. These regularly happen mid-cutscene, breaking up the pacing of the story quite a bit, and go on long enough that we would not be surprised if they alone added about an hour to the game’s runtime.
It Takes Two is a very fun game that should honestly be about half its length, but the Switch very much does not feel like the place you should go to play it. The major graphical downgrades and added loading screens make it hard to recommend no matter how good the gameplay feels or how clever the writing is. If you’re looking for a fun game to play alongside your significant other or a friend, It Takes Two is among your better options in general, but you’d likely have a far better experience on PlayStation or PC than on Switch.