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“It Takes Two”, a video game wonder, between Pixar and “Honey, I shrunk the kids”

In these times when the sad reality of Covid-19 does not seem to want to let go of its hold on our lives, the need to escape is stronger than ever, whether we are confined or “only” under curfew. For millions of French people, this mainly involves video games. In this context, It Takes Two could not have come at a better time. Developed by the Hazelight studio and published by Electronic Arts, this little wonder, available on PC, Xbox and Playstation, shines with its ingenuity, its malice, its humor and its benevolence. A game that is heartwarming, smiles and is (already) at the top of our list of the best titles of 2021.

Divorce, magic tears and living dolls

To detail our enthusiasm, let’s start with the story ofIt Takes Two, that of Rose, a little girl whose parents, May and Cody, are on the verge of divorce. A heartbreak for the child who does not understand how his father and his mother can no longer love each other. On hearing the news, she runs to take refuge in the shed at the bottom of the garden with her toys. Praying for her parents to be reconciled, she sheds a tear on her two favorite dolls. Dolls which, upon awakening, suddenly come to life: May and Cody are prisoners of these bodies of wool and clay!

Both parents imagine themselves the victim of a spell. Guided by a talking book, with a funny Spanish accent, written by Dr Hakim, a couples therapist, they understand that it was Rose’s sadness that turned them into dolls. It is up to them, who could barely speak to each other the day before, to cooperate to find their bodies and, as their extravagant guide specialist in love hopes, rekindle the flame. It is the start of an unforgettable adventure.

A very skillful co-op game

It Takes Two has the particularity of being playable only for two, locally on the same console or online with a friend (in this case, a single game is sufficient thanks to the Friend Pass, which allows a partner to be invited to their game). At the beginning, each one chooses which of the two parents he embodies. A choice that matters. Heroes may not have specific abilities, but they will benefit from different skills and accessories at each level.

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It is therefore with two brains and four hands that we dive into It Takes Two. In split screen, it is about progressing in levels which are inspired by everyday life. From the cellar to the attic via Rose’s bedroom and the garden, the familiar everyday settings become playgrounds conducive to exploration. To progress, you have to solve puzzles, operate platforms, use makeshift tools, all while constantly collaborating. The progress of the two players is closely linked and it is essential to help each other regularly.

The merry-go-round of life, providers of great emotions

There where It Takes Two transcends the well-framed genre of the platform / puzzle game, it is by constantly linking form and content. Each enigma, each trap, each enemy, each object crossed on the way by the miniaturized parents refers to an episode in their life together or to their relationship with their daughter Rose. This is how Cody and May find themselves confronting an old vacuum cleaner annoyed that it was put in the closet for lack of being fixed by the mother engineer. A sequence in the old tree in the garden reminds Cody that he had to get rid of a wasp nest: too late, he will now have to face them.

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With May the strong-headed mother and Cody the cool dad, two heroes who get away from it all, the writers of Hazelight have achieved a miracle: sketching a couple that is both unique and universal, symbolic and realistic. As the progress, arguments and unexpected bursts of laughter progress, the past and present relationship of the couple is woven with a finesse that has nothing to envy to the last Pixar films. Childish in appearance but terribly mature inside, the story ofIt Takes Two makes the players go through all the emotions, by turns melancholy, deadpan and touching.

A game as beautiful as a memory

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Each level corresponds to a specific place in the house. Where a pushed realism would have impressed by giving a “wow” effect, the developers preferred to bring a hint of magic by modeling each place to make it a fantastic world, with relief, corridors, plateaus and exploration areas . A trunk is thus transformed into a military base for overarmed squirrels. The kaleidoscope toy well known to children becomes an abstract passage where you lose your bearings. There is, without exaggerating, a surprise at every turn and we are always eager to discover the next one.

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With this exploration at ground level, references to cinema classics like Honey I shrunk the kids and Toy Story are obvious. And It Takes Two has nothing to envy to the mad creativity of the first nor to the emotional accuracy of the second. The rich, colorful and teeming universe of the game is also served by top-notch graphics. Again, Hazelight did not aim for millimeter precision. The studio preferred to give each object and each character the shape and colors that a child would give them if he had to draw them. And that gives a game as beautiful as a memory.

The successful bet of simplicity

The final coat that completes the almost perfect chemistry ofIt Takes Two is its very accessible playability. While most platform / puzzle games, like the excellent Little Nightmares 2, bet on an exacerbated difficulty, the game of Hazelight makes the bet of the facility. The first few levels are as instinctive as they are simple, a surprise that allows you to enter the game immediately without frustration. Seasoned players may regret the lack of challenge. But some sequences still require fingering and synchronization.

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Still, ease was the right card to play since it allows you to take full advantage of everything the title has to offer. Each level brings different game mechanics and transports us to a fantastic universe. As beautiful as it is ingenious, It Takes Two offers an exhilarating and moving adventure that gives you fishing. Rich, shiny, smart: this video game feel-good has all the arguments to transport us far from the hassle of everyday life.

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