Justice for Cutie the Elephant.
I’ve written a few things about It Takes Two since it launched a month ago, but I’m yet to address the elephant in the room – literally. Hazelight Studios’ co-op title recently surpassed one million copies sold, and I have no doubts it will be in my top ten for the year when all is said and done, despite its messy attitude to divorce and the black hole of irritation that is Cody. However, anthropomorphic book Dr Hakim is the best new character of 2021 so far, so it all balances out.
But back to the elephant. The game is all about two voodoo doll-style versions of divorcing parents working together to regain their regular bodies after their daughter’s sadness trapped them in such a sorry state. It’s far less grim than it sounds, trust me. It’s mostly Pixar-esque comedy wrapped up in a simplistic love story, and one of the beats in this very simple narrative is that the parents decide they need to make their daughter cry. She cried when she made them dolls, so crying must undo the spell, right? Look, just roll with me here. The game doesn’t do a much better job of convincing the players that it will work than I’m doing right now explaining the logic of it all.
Part of this plot to make their own child cry in order to turn back into fully formed humans again involves breaking her favourite toy – Cutie the Elephant. It takes you a while to reach Cutie, with It Takes Two asking you to explore a whole world of toys and other playroom paraphernalia, including a trip to outer space to stave off the Moon Baboon. This whole time, Cody and May remain resolute in their plan to make their own daughter cry by killing Cutie the Elephant.
Despite bickering a lot, Cody and May are relatively nice people; they’re just unhappy and incompatible. But as they go through space and the playroom, they constantly discuss their plan to murder Cutie. Neither seems to have any reservations. May is unconvinced that the plan will work, but those doubts stem from her engineer’s mind being unable to accept the fanciful logic in play, not because of the ethical quandary around hurting her child or murdering a toy elephant; a toy that, in their reality of talking books, vacuum cleaners, and screwdrivers, is very much alive.
Their plan is laid on incredibly thick. They can’t go more than three or four steps without reminding each other that they’re going to kill the elephant soon. The game sets things up perfectly for a rug pull, and then… it doesn’t come. They actually go and kill the damn elephant.
And not just kill, either. The original plan is to push it off the wardrobe it sits atop, but Cutie does not go gently into that goodnight. Cutie whimpers and scurries away, eventually getting into a cardboard rocket ship to flee, before May hurls a nearby projectile and sends it crashing down. Despite May and Cody telling Cutie they have reservations as they apologetically tell her she must die so that they can live, May celebrates with glee as Cutie is sent hurtling back to earth.
She then gets her leg stuck while escaping, and you have to repeatedly button mash to pull her free, ripping off her leg in the process. You then pull her – by the leg stump – to throw her over the edge, but as her trunk grabs for something, her ear gets impaled in the floor. After another hard pull, this too is ripped away, with fluff ‘bleeding’ from her head as you continue to drag her to the edge. It’s like a scene from an especially grisly horror, with the victim flailing and spraying viscera, only it’s a cute and cuddly elephant, not a bloodied body.
You then finally kick her off the edge, and it doesn’t even work. You remain trapped as voodoo dolls, and aside from the disappointment at their plan failing, Cody and May seem able to move on very quickly. A little too quickly, if you ask me. What is wrong with these two? Maybe they deserve each other after all. There’s no lesson learned from this, no realisation that they are putting their own needs before their child’s happiness – something that might have allowed the game to explore the layers of divorce – and no character development whatsoever.
I love It Takes Two, but seriously Josef Fares, what the heck is up with this scene?
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