It Takes Two is an odd game. Not only does the mix of genres, level styles, and side activities make it feel like it’s every game ever, but it presents itself as a cuddly, kid friendly game while dealing with mature themes and throwing in lots of jokes for grown ups. Of course, tackling complex themes with winking adult humour in an ostensibly childish setting has worked wonders for Pixar for decades – Cars trilogy not withstanding – so that alone shouldn’t be held against It Takes Two. That being said, this is a game that revolves entirely and simplistically around a divorce, and by the end, it had me hoping that the couple would just break up already.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the central characters, Cody and May – Dr Hakim is so much more fun. Cody becomes especially irritating, complaining that his wife does not support his passion for gardening – even though Cody has no job and she works long hours as an engineer. That’s a separate issue though. I didn’t want these two to get divorced as a punishment, or because I wanted them to fail, or out of resentment. Sometimes, divorce is just the best solution, and that’s why the game’s weirdly anti-climactic ending was such a letdown.
The game begins with the couple arguing, and it’s clear that this is a common occurrence. They aren’t bad people – irritating and self-centred, sure, but mostly they seem like average folk that just aren’t particularly compatible. It appears as if they decide to divorce while arguing, though there is also a sense that this isn’t the first time this idea has been floated. At the very least, both of them have thought about divorce before. It’s clear they’re not happy. They then decide to tell their daughter together, and I will say that the timing of this feels off. Either they have discussed divorce before, but decided against it – in which case, sleep on it before telling your kid – or they haven’t discussed it before – in which case, still fucking sleep on it before telling your kid.
But okay, the game wants to keep the pacing up, so the parents tell their child immediately. Naturally, she’s a little upset by this, which leads to her creating the unsetting voodoo dolls of her parents you spend the game playing as. Throughout the game, the parents continue to bicker with each other, and seem to have irreconcilable differences. May works too much, but it seems as though she enjoys her work despite the stresses, and they live in a very nice house thanks entirely to her pay cheque, so you can understand her feeling the pressure. Cody, meanwhile, struggles with commitment and taking things seriously. He’s the fun parent, but he doesn’t really have many responsibilities.
From a raw gameplay point of view, the game is incredible, but its narrative lets it down, especially when dealing with as sensitive a subject as a child dealing with a parental divorce. As solutions to the roadblocks in May and Cody’s relationship, Cody is encouraged to reignite his passion for gardening – something he has always had the resources, space, and ability to do anyway, he just felt May didn’t support him. She didn’t abuse or belittle him, he just didn’t think she was that enthusiastic about it. Mate, she’s at work all day and you’re in the house. Just do a bit of gardening.
Meanwhile, May is pushed to pick up her passion for singing. When she finally gets the courage to sing again, she sounds incredible – but so what? She has a fantastic job as an engineer that she loves. She’s going through a troubled marriage, so no, she’s not belting out hits while she struts around her home. She is the sole breadwinner in the house, and is under the stress that comes with that position while constantly feeling a lack of support from Cody at home. ‘Do a bit of singing’ just isn’t a solution.
We do see the couple revisit some of their old memories, and work together effectively, but that doesn’t mean they should stay married. The reason the game made me root for divorce was because it seemed right for them. It’s admirable that they can put their differences aside to help their child, but also… yeah. Your kid comes first. That doesn’t mean you need to stay trapped in an unhappy marriage that fulfills neither of you.
The game seems to present the idea that people get divorced because they don’t love each other enough, because they don’t work hard enough at their relationship, or maybe even just because they’re bad people. But that just isn’t true. And that’s why I was waiting for It Takes Two to flip the script. To remind us that actually, sometimes good people try hard at things and it just doesn’t work. Instead, May sings, Cody kisses her, their child runs away to the bus stop and is promptly rescued, and everything is happy families. It would have been a much more powerful ending if May and Cody went through all of this and the lesson learned was to put their differences aside for their child a little bit more, to understand that even in divorce, they need to be a team for her. It might copy the Pixar blend of childish and grown up storytelling, but it’s far less brave when it comes to the big issues.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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