It Takes Two needs little introduction (get it? ‘little’ because they’re dolls?). Since its initial release in March 2021, it’s seen colossal success and won many awards, and rightfully so. Regardless, I’d never gotten around to playing it myself – that is, until it made its way onto Switch, which truly feels like the perfect platform for it.
If you’ve managed to completely miss It Takes Two’s rise to popularity over the last year and a half, don’t worry, because the title tells you what you need to know – it’s pure co-op, meaning it takes two to make it through this one. Pushing the boundaries of narrative driven co-op in an industry that has swung so hard in the direction of PvP, combat-heavy titles in recent years, It Takes Two perfects the balance of give and take between its two main characters.
The story revolves around a married couple who have grown distant over the years. With the pressure of work and the responsibility of raising their young daughter, Rose, weighing heavily on them, Cody and May decide to separate. Heartbroken by her parents’ estrangement and impending divorce, Rose consults with a self-help book called The Book of Love by Dr Hakim in hopes of finding a way to heal the rift in her family.
Somehow, with a couple of Rose’s tears and a sprinkle of magic, Cody and May find themselves transported into the bodies of two of Rose’s dolls. From here, they must learn to work together and tap into what made them a successful couple in the first place in order to make it through and reunite with their daughter.
With you and a partner taking the reins as Cody and May, you set about exploring your house-turned-dreamscape as you try to survive and find a way back to your real bodies. Along the way, you’re ‘coached’ by Dr Hakim, the now-sentient Book of Love, whose over-enthusiastic input can seem somewhat meddlesome, but becomes an essential part of Cody and May’s journey to self-discovery.
In this game, co-op doesn’t just mean two or more players teaming up on the same side, it really does mean cooperation. No matter which character you choose or what level you’re exploring, both you and your co-op partner have your own strengths and weaknesses, and have to rely on communication and trust in order to make it through, which is a perfect if not a little on-the-nose allegory for the relationship between Cody and May.
It Takes Two is split into multiple miniature worlds full of ingenuitive puzzles that test your ability to think quickly and work together. Every level poses new challenges and sees you and your partner equipped with new skills to master, from a nail and hammer in the shed, to a pocket watch that Cody can use to control time and a stopwatch that allows May to clone herself. These unique skills are always a treat to explore, and cleverly push you to cooperate and discuss scenarios with your partner as you work out how the tools work together.
As soon as you’re getting used to one set of mechanics, It Takes Two swoops in and changes them up, meaning the gameplay never gets stale. This does, however, lead to some fumbling at the beginning of each level as you adjust to your new abilities and the loss of your old ones. I can’t tell you how many times my partner and I ended up falling to our demise because one of us pressed the wrong button, but this only adds to the fun and comradery, as you laugh it off and approach the situation again with a newfound sense of united determination.
It Takes Two’s environmental design is truly stellar. Exploring these wild and wonderful mutations of common, household mainstays is fascinating, and the way they’re shaped into imaginative, interactive worlds for you to galavant around is nothing short of genius.
Despite being turned into dolls, It Takes Two feels more reminiscent of The Borrowers or Arrietty than Toy Story, albeit with far more sentient vacuum cleaners and toolboxes. As a result of this intelligent environmental design, the game manages to feel extremely open and vibrant despite being quite linear, and working out how to overcome each of its obstacles truly feels like a triumph for both you and your partner.
In addition to the unique mechanics present in each level, there are also wonderful segments that nod to other genres and popular titles, from a bullet hell arena, to a Diablo-esque ARPG section, and even a classic round of fisticuffs à la Street Fighter or Tekken. It’s always a thrill to see the game switch up styles so fluidly, with each of these elements being handled gracefully and never overstaying their welcome.
Towards the end of each level, you find yourself facing off against a boss of some sort. These bosses are always incredibly well-designed, and no two of them are alike. Finding yourself in an arena, staring down the horns of a mechanical bull or an angry wasps’ nest, and having to think quickly and communicate is truly exhilarating. It also makes it all the more satisfying when you manage to get your head around the required strategies while simultaneously dodging incoming projectiles and heavy attacks.
It Takes Two proudly avoids the trope of collectibles (or as Josef Fares calls them, ‘shiny shit’), but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of incentives motivating you to explore every corner. Throughout the levels, you find multiple interactive features and gadgets that serve no other purpose than to entertain – and they do just that. My boyfriend and I spent plenty of time hopping on buttons, pulling picture book tabs, taking silly photos, and tinkering with toys just in the name of fun.
In addition to these amusing features, It Takes Two also offers a wide range of minigames, which usually pit you and your partner against each other. Featuring classics like tug of war, chess, whack-a-mole, and even a rhythm game called Bird Star, these little gems are always a treat to come across, and often end with some classic party game rivalry. Plus, they’re a great way to vent your frustrations if your partner has left you in the lurch one too many times in the main game.
When it comes to Switch-specific stuff, well – as I said at the beginning, I can’t think of a better platform for It Takes Two than this. It runs beautifully, and environments look stunning both in docked and handheld. We experienced minimal stuttering in our playthrough, controller input is snappy and responsive (we were using the Joycons and an official Pro controller), and it feels like the perfect game for the family-focused console.
Due to us playing pre-release and the friend’s pass not being available in-store yet, my partner and I have been playing split screen in docked mode. As much as I sometimes find split screen a little disorienting, I had next to no trouble getting used to it in this title, and the format dynamically changes when required, with certain sections being shared-screen, and others changing to a horizontal split as opposed to vertical split.
However, if you want to play on two separate screens, or you’re hoping to team up with someone through wireless play or online, you can do so through the aforementioned friend’s pass. This feature means that only one of you needs to own a copy of It Takes Two – all you have to do is launch the game, invite your pal to play, then have them download the friend’s pass from the Nintendo eShop.
While I highly recommend trying to play in the same room if possible (there’s something wonderful about experiencing this gem side-by-side), the flexibility the friends pass offers is an extremely thoughtful choice. Plus, you can always strategize with (or yell at) your co-op partner over voice chat or Discord.
Overall, It Takes Two is honestly a modern masterpiece well worth the hype, and is an undeniably perfect fit for the Switch. The story is lovely, the visuals are stunning, the puzzles are truly ingenious, and the fast-paced gameplay has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re playing with a romantic partner, a pal, or a family member, it’s a wonderful experience to share with a loved one, and a real beacon for co-op connoisseurs everywhere.
If this game fascinates you and you want to know more about the minds behind it, I implore you to check out our It Takes Two interview, where we discuss the game’s inspirations, aspirations, and journey to Switch with head of Hazelight studios, Josef Fares, along with Louis Polak and Scott Cromie from Turn Me Up Games.
It Takes Two Switch review
A glorious, pure co-op experience, It Takes Two perfects the balance of give and take through its ingenuitive puzzles, stellar storytelling, and enchanting environments. With communication at its core, it truly takes two to tango with this one, and I couldn’t think of a better home for it than the Nintendo Switch.