There are six games up for Game of the Year at The Game Awards, and six weekdays until the ceremony itself. In the run-up to the show, a different editor will be going to bat for each game in turn and arguing why it should take home the big one on December 9. I, however, am a) the boss, and b) writing about It Takes Two, so we might as well call it now. While I don't think 2021 has been spectacular compared to the likes of 2020, 2018, or 2017, It Takes Two is a stellar title and one that would be at home amongst the nominees of any year. As the triple-A scene begins to morph together in an unholy mess of cinematic cutscenes and bombastic bullets, It Takes Two offers something completely different, and is exactly the type of game we should be celebrating as an industry.
Hazelight’s It Takes Two is a good old fashioned couch co-op, but it's so much more than that. It's basically every game ever. On the surface, it's a co-op platformer with puzzles you must solve by working together, but the further you progress, the more genres it keeps throwing at you. You use a variety of guns throughout the game, occasionally tasked with just vaguely lobbing projectiles as you would expect in a cartoonish platformer, but at other times you'll need the precise aim of a more focused third-person shooter. That's just scratching the surface of what It Takes Two has on offer though.
Related: Hey Josef Fares, What The Heck Is Up With That Elephant Scene In It Takes Two?There's a Dark Souls-style boss, where you must learn the attack patterns, dodge, and whittle away their health. There's also a more Sunset Overdrive-esque encounter where you end up grinding rails around a giant enemy, peppering their weak spots with gunfire. It drops a brilliant Diablo dungeon-crawler game on you for about ten minutes, then throws it away, never to be seen again. It has a Street Fighter battle too, although unlike Street Fighter, the battle takes place on an aeroplane made of underpants and your opponent is an angry, militaristic squirrel. Name a type of game and it's probably here.
It's not just "oh wow, it's that game I like!" either. Each adventure into a new genre is breezy and perfectly timed. Every one is excellent in its own right, even the rhythm section which decides to merge itself with rail grinding for some reason. Any of them could have been expanded into a bigger experience, and it can sometimes be disappointing when a section ends and you felt like it was just getting started. The dungeon crawler section especially had potential to be so much bigger. But this is It Takes Two's genius – it always leaves you wanting more, and it never gets old.
Part of the reason I enjoyed It Takes Two so much is because I was able to play it all the way through with my partner, who usually never plays games. This might seem like a personal experience, and therefore not much of an argument in the grand scheme of The Game Awards, but it's incredibly universal. Many of It Takes Two's biggest fans connect with it specifically because of this style of playthrough. It's how our reviewer played it, and two more editors at the site as well. What's even more interesting is that between the four actual gamers at TheGamer, we did not all choose the same character. It's not as if May is the 'pro' character and Cody for the 'noob'. Both characters can be enjoyed by veterans or casuals, without the constant need to swap the controller to "let me do this bit, it'll be quicker." That's an underrated part of It Takes Two's game design, and something few other games this year can match.
It Takes Two isn't perfect, I understand that. I'm surprised that it's also up for Best Narrative, when it seems to be commonly agreed that the narrative is the weakest part of it. The game tells a tale of divorce, but then ends with a couple clearly not quite right for each other staying together anyway. It had a chance to say something more meaningful, but it ended up being a bit schmaltzy. Still, looking at the other five GOTY nominees, I'm not sure narrative comes into it all that much.
Deathloop is cool but fails to explain several key things about itself and has a fairly cheap twist, Psychonauts 2 is just a collection of stuff that happens, while Dread is a Metroid game. You get what you get – it's both too complicated and too simple. Resident Evil Village is… I mean, come on. Undead mould man? Sure. Ratchet & Clank's story is better than It Takes Two’s and less afraid to explore more complex, even troubling, emotions, but it's more than a little schmaltzy itself.
More than anything else, It Takes Two is the kind of game that we should be holding up as the pinnacle of what games can be. It's the most imaginative offering this year, it isn't trying to be a film or to chase the popularity of what came before, and it doesn't gatekeep this wonderful artform. Games are for everyone, and that's why It Takes Two should win Game of the Year.
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