Home Console It Takes Two is an Endlessly Creative Ode to Romantic Cooperation

It Takes Two is an Endlessly Creative Ode to Romantic Cooperation

by Jeb Happy

We are so spoiled by modern technology. I’ve been playing It Takes Two with my long-distance girlfriend for the past couple of months, and after finally reaching the game’s end, we both lamented our experience coming to an end. A game devoted to preserving closeness despite a literal and figurative distance, and the notion of childlike wonder being rediscovered through collaboration and grand spectacle — it seems like the game was made for us. Arguably no other game has the capacity to provoke rumination on cooperation between two people between such vast distances, which makes it nothing short of a formative miracle.

No other developer from the past decade has been so studiously compelled by the storytelling potential of cooperative play, and It Takes Two is now their crowning achievement. Endlessly creative, the game dispels traditional gameplay loops to revel in the immediacy of collaborative puzzle-solving, and most importantly the symbolic effects governing their narrative significance. The result is a co-op game about co-op games, a deeply reflective work inspired by numerous genres from platformers to 3D shooters to hack-and-slash RPGs and even fighting games.

In It Takes Two, players battle massive defiled flowers, soar through dark skies on the backs of mechanical birds, ice skate with balletic agility and velocity, get massages from cuddly insects, and even do mortal kombat with a squirrel general. One psychedelic sequence recalls 2001: A Space Odyssey if it were a rock opera, suggesting a night at the club falling in love under the amorous effects of LSD. But what’s most important is that every element of its level design necessitates collaborative thinking in order to progress. Communication and joy intermingle with rousing and self-aware storytelling.

Frankly, the game is exhilarating — so colorful and energetic, the whimsy of wonder and discovery seeping out of every pore. It is also genuinely very funny; the eccentric Dr. Hakim offers a refreshing reminder of comedy’s ability to both entertain and provoke thought, as his ramblings on synergy and passion and time help to spell out the game’s mature philosophy regarding the tragic nature of fading romance. It’s easy to view him as a stand-in for the studio’s equally eccentric director, Josef Fares, who even performed the character’s motion-capture, with wondrously goofy zeal. Remedial procedure by way of outlandish pomp. “Isn’t that blackmail?” “No, it’s therapy!”

The eternal moment warps our memories, stretching the mind along a linear strand from there to here. It’s no wonder that adults often get so caught up in the anxieties of everyday social living, that they so easily ignore the beauty of the world surrounding them at every waking moment. It Takes Two shrinks the lead ailing couple down to the size of a couple of trinkets — May, a wooden doll (to infer her stuck-up, though stable temperament), and Cody, a wax figure (unreserved but irresolute) — offering the players an entirely different, magical perspective of the mundane. From the tool shed to the backyard to deep space to the home garden to a child’s bedroom fort to the literal heavens above, the journey suggests an enticingly metaphysical venture through the rampant imagination of a young girl who worries her parents are giving up on her.

Death is fairly inconsequential in It Takes Two, though both player-characters fear it all throughout. Death is normally a minor obstruction; until both players die at the same time, which takes them back to the most recent checkpoint. Even death instigates a cooperative thought process; there is no end until both of us extinguish. But the game never allows morbidity to infect its joyous disposition (well, besides a rather unnerving sequence involving the murder of an elephant princess which shockingly connotes rape through its discomfiting gameplay; a sequence which taints the vibrancy but nevertheless still prompts consideration for its jarring tonal shift).

The story thankfully isn’t a flimsy attempt at Hallmark-style redemption-building. Instead, writers Fares and Soni Jorgensen use videogame polish and presentation to wax nostalgic on the wonders of childlike creativity and curiosity, to offer up a reminder of the innocence and excitement inherent in every drained, listless adult who’s let their passions and aspirations slip through their once-tight grasp, thanks to time’s ever-escalating rift. It Takes Two is an often revelatory example of show and tell, beholden to splurging on its excessive sentimental delights as a means of coping with the ever-changing present.

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