I am in conflict about It takes two, the new game of Brothers: a tale of two sons and Output Hazelight studio. On the one hand, it is an adorable platform game with intuitive space puzzles and large home environments, with an ambiance reminiscent of Honey, I cut down on the kids or The Pagemaster. It’s a split-screen co-op adventure, and I had a lot of fun playing it online with my colleague Devindra Hardawar.
On the other hand, It takes two is uncomfortably cheesy. It tells a brutal story of two parents breaking the news of their divorce to their young daughter – but that’s not the disturbing part. The first levels of It takes two are littered with shallow platitudes about fixing a toxic relationship in order to maintain a nuclear family, and if that wasn’t painful enough, these ideas are presented by a talking love book with a cartoon face and an outrageous Spanish accent. The result is a perverse combination of Blink-182’s “Stay Together for the Kids” and Puss in Boots, surrounded by an otherwise entertaining platform world.
It takes two begins with a husband and wife arguing in their front yard, and as they mention the word “divorce,” the scene unfolds with their daughter staring mournfully from the upstairs window. She holds two handmade dolls from her parents, and she forces them to apologize and kiss. Later the girl opens a literal love book and says aloud to the figurines, “Look, it says here that love is work, you see? You have to work on it. You can’t just give up. She starts to cry and her tears magically trap her parents inside the dolls. They wake up in miniature and must work together to find their way back to their bodies.
The Book of Love serves as a couple’s guide when it comes to doll-sized pages, wielding pages that read things like “Fix Your Relationship” and “Collaboration” to introduce new levels. At one point, he beckons towards the couple’s overgrown greenhouse and says with self-righteous excitement, “This is what happens when you let go of your passion. “
After that line in my notes I wrote: “wow yikes ugh.” This remains an accurate and complete summary of my feelings regarding the narrative core of It takes two. However, in terms of gameplay, a lot is correct.
It takes two is a two-player, co-op-only adventure and can be played locally or online. In both formats, it’s a split screen, which serves the experience well, allowing players to explore individually without worrying about stretching the display to accommodate both avatars. At doll size, the world is huge and full of puzzles that are both clever and intuitive, requiring constant communication between players. Even walking around the environments is entertaining, as the characters do well and they are really adorable, especially when running. Hazelight specializes in creating cooperative experiences, and It takes two is a fantastic showcase of the studio’s expertise with this format.
In a media presentation for It takes two, creator Josef Fares conveyed the message that this game is a romantic comedy that does not bode well for the cheese intolerant. All signs indicate It takes two ending with the parents rekindling their love for each other, joining their full-sized bodies and telling their daughter that they are staying together. I imagine a final scene showing the girl smiling at her dolls and putting them away for good, saying she doesn’t need them anymore. Wink.
If so, I won’t play It takes two throughout, no matter how enjoyable the actual mechanics are. Such a naive and rose-tinted approach to relationships and parenting is an incredible twist for me, even in a comedic format. Indeed, if I play It takes two once it hits consoles and PC on March 26, I’ll be rooted for the main characters divorce. Or, if they stick together, the least they can do is burn that damn book.