Hazelight Studios’ Co-op Experiments Look to Evolve with It Takes Two

Back in 2013, acclaimed international film director Josef Fares transitioned between mediums with the release of his first video game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which received plenty of praise among critics and fans alike. Although it focused on the journey of and relationship between the aforementioned brothers in a fantasy world, Brothers was primarily designed as a single player experience, tasking the player with controlling each sibling simultaneously with their corresponding analog stick to complete various puzzles and challenges. Although the game eventually made it onto a variety of platforms after initially launching on the Xbox 360, its most recent port onto the Switch in 2019 may be the most intriguing, as publisher 505 Games included a co-op mode that fundamentally changed how the game was played, forcing two players to communicate with one another to overcome obstacles that were typically aimed at a single person.

After the success of Brothers, Fares continued to stick with the interactive medium and teamed up with EA to form Hazelight Studios in 2014, where he and his new team would spend the next four years creating his follow-up title, A Way Out. Unlike Brothers, A Way Out is exclusively a two-player online or local experience, with each player controlling Vincent or Leo as they attempt to escape prison and learn more about the lives and people that await their return. It’s forced co-op perspective allowed for plenty of experimentation with a variety of unique gameplay opportunities, encouraging players to build a relationship through stealth and combat sequences, but also through optional activities such as arm wrestling or Connect Four that served as a lighthearted distraction from the occasionally heavy story. A Way Out ultimately received more mixed reviews than its predecessor, but has managed to sell a respectable 3.5 million copies as of last month, opening the door for Hazelight Studios to start the work on its next project.

Next month sees the release of Fares’ third project, which carries the fitting name of It Takes Two. Just like A Way Out, It Takes Two requires an online or local partner to play the game with, but features a far more fantastical premise, as the troubled couple of Cody and May are both mysteriously transformed into dolls and must work together as they explore a magical kingdom and find a way back to their regular lives. The latest trailer highlights a similar focus on varied co-op gameplay, with Cody and May riding on frogs, fighting giant monsters and navigating the internal workings of a clock and other larger-than-life environments, at least from their shrunken-down perspective. The sheer breadth of unique mechanics and ideas on display helps It Takes Two stand out, making it tough to narrow down exactly what genre the game will fall into when it seemingly borrows from so many others at one point or another.

Despite the potential of the co-op shenanigans that await in It Takes Two, the forced co-op nature of the game can undeniably make it tough for everyone that wants to play it to see it through to its finale, especially during a time where it’s harder than ever to safely meet up with other people in the same space. Fortunately, Hazelight has already made accommodations for this inevitable problem through the introduction of the Friends Pass, which was also available in A Way Out. As long as one person buys the game, that player can then send an invite to another player that doesn’t own the game, allowing the two of them to play together at no additional cost (provided both players have the expected platform-based multiplayer subscription). In a time where online multiplayer experiences are more valuable for social bonding than ever, It Takes Two seems poised to come out at the right time, as long as it can capitalize on the strong gameplay fundamentals of Fares’ first two games. It Takes Two is set to launch on March 26 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, PS4 and Xbox One.