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It Takes Two


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23 minutes ago, CarloOos said:

We appear to have collectively glossed over the accusation that Brothers was hugely misogynist, where’s that coming from? It’s been a while since I played it but I can’t remember anything controversial.
 

At one point you get lured by a monster that resembles Shelob, is that it?

 

9 minutes ago, Moz said:

The sum total of searching for a little while is this.

 

image.png.627829fb1c452dda5d9c1856849be1df.png

 

 

I was referring to my own opinions on Brothers, rather than any I read elsewhere  (though that pithy sentence does cover a good part of it); way back when I did the 2013 awards I discussed it as the game placed highly and I was quite drastically disappointed by it. It's not a short review, and this isn't really the thread for it, but if you really want to know where I'm coming from (and thus how much to discard my criticism/ignore my perspective on any of Josef Fares's games), this is what I wrote:


 

Spoiler

 

Expectation is a powerful thing.

 

I had read a good few reviews and comments about Brothers, and they'd led me to believe this: that I would play a game that was quite short, quite simple to play through, but told a heartfelt tale in beautiful environments with an interesting core mechanic.

 

What I got was indeed short, and simple, and it did have some lovingly designed evironments. It has some lovely vignettes to discover, and its storyline, drawing heavily on fairy tale, is careful to remember the crucial darkness and brutality which underlines such stories, to realise that to make a game suitable for children you don't need to soften every blow. I was genuinely impressed by the presentation throughout the game, the way it managed to condense what felt like an epic journey into a short game and filled with small tales - like the very best fairy tales.

 

The simultaneous control of two characters is, unfortunately, not brilliantly taken advantage of - it's a cute gimmick, but the puzzles are nothing we've not seen before, and never advance beyond having one brother turn a wheel while another pulls a lever, and most of the time it literally amounts to nothing more than press up (on two sticks at once!) to win. That, on its own, isn't enough to sink the game - a pleasant stroll through a fairytale with beautiful environments would be pleasure enough.

 

A shame, then, that the game is completely and utterly ruined by its rotten core of misogyny. At first, I thought the game was just pulling the typical game (and, well, media in general) trick of ignoring women - the women you come across are incidental, and follow completely generic tropes - dead mother as psychological stumbling block for child; elderly, friendly woman of no import; young, playful girl of no import;* captured woman (in a cage) in need of rescuing; other captured woman (tied up by a religious cult) in need of rescuing... Not exactly inspiring, but mundane issues, and in a game called Brothers starring two brothers, I expect a degree of male-centricism. It's a little disappointing, but understandable.

 

The issue which casts the problem into stark relief is the ending. And that does mean we are going heavily, super-heavily into spoiler territory here. So if you don't want the ending spoiled, avert thine eyes and skip the following spoiler.

 

Spoiler

 

The last character I mentioned, the second woman in need of rescue, continues with you from that point. At first she continues comfortably in the mould of helpless damsel - sitting in a boat while you row her to safety, waiting for you to solve puzzles for her - but eventually she starts to assist you, to join in and advise you. After a particularly dangerous situation the older brother and her embrace, and it sparks something off - things were actually looking up, there seemed to be a bit of character progression going on.

 

But the little brother is wary, and tries to encourage the elder to leave. And now the girl is taking them away from their goal (to get medecine for their father), and still the older brother won't listen... and they are directed into a cave by the girl who promptly turns into a giant spider creature and tries to eat them. Yes. The resulting sequence sees you having to kill the girl in particularly horrid fashion (pulling her legs off one by one), and ends with her killing the older brother in her death throes. Younger brother then buries him, gets the medecine, heads back to dad, and the final shot is of the father weeping at the grave of his eldest son.

 

So what is the moral of this game? What are we meant to take away from it? Throughout the game you will come across two companions: a male ogre, seeking his captured mate (the first woman you have to rescue), who is a loyal ally. And a woman who appears to be in need of help, but is in fact AN EVIL SPIDER CREATURE WHO WANTS TO EAT YOU. The quite literal message in this game is bros before hos; that women are either ineffectual, or they are backstabbing monsters. ALL of the positive, helpful characters in the game are men: the doctor who starts your quest, the ogre who helps you progress, the inventor who lets you use his flying machine. The only woman who helps you betrays you. Even the parents are portrayed with a similar dichotomy: the mother is only ever ineffectual, shown drowning (not in a storm, not saving anyone, just drowning in a lake) and appearing as a wraith who can't interact with the world; while the father, though helpless at the start of the game and distraught at the end, at least gets shown in a sympathetic flashback, teaching his eldest son how to fish. The father gets to be nurturing and have a plot arc; the mother gets to die. And as if to taunt the player, the one female character with any agency in the game, the one who gets anything approaching a plot arc, it turns out was actually just an evil monster. Surprise!

 

 

It is not the only game to treat women this way (though to be frank, few approach its concentrated misogyny), but there are factors that make this worse than usual. Partly to do with expectations: this is a game presented as something warm, something family friendly, something constructive. Largely to do with context: this is a two hour game with simple gameplay: its main aim is to have the player experience a narrative, and so the narrative becomes the most significant aspect of the game. Fill that narrative with insidiously negative portrayals of women and it's far more significant than, say, a fighting game with a vestigial plot having shitty character design.

 

And insidious is the word. The reason I went into this game not realising what I was going to get is, I believe, not because the people whose reviews and comments I'd read are misogynists, or that they don't care about women's issues, but that the misogyny is deep-rooted but not overt. There are no big-breasted, scantily-clad women in this game. There is no dialogue, no verbal denouncements of women. Everything about it is hidden in the actions of characters, in the presentation throughout the game of female characters. It's not obvious, but it is pervasive. Where I went into Persona 4 expecting lazy stereotyping and shallow characters and slowly realised that each character was written with surprising warmth and depth, I went into Brothers expecting a warm, enlightened experience and had it eroded by the awful choice of stereotypes chosen to represent women in the game. Yes, some of those stereotypes come from fairy tales, but even taking into consideration the age of said fairy tales, I can think of none so relentlessly devoid of positive female characters, packed so completely with agency-free or evil women.

 

I hope that for most people it simply washed over them without any effect whatsoever, but for me it didn't wash over: it turned what started as a charming, interesting game into a massive disappointment. And it made me terribly, terribly angry. From unease at the start of the game, to outright disgust by the end, it destroyed my enjoyment of the game, tainted the entire experience. I can understand why people weren't affected by it, and why they voted the game highly, so I can understand why it charted. But as much as I might rail against other games getting high in the listings, this is the only one that I sincerely, morally hate, and actually wish did not exist. So, er, sorry about that, fans of the game.

 

*and for whom, I discovered afterwards, there is inexplicably an achievement for upsetting by stealing and throwing away her ball. Particularly striking when every other achievement in the game is for helping people/creatures.

 

 

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43 minutes ago, Eighthours said:

Is the game (It Takes Two) split-screen even when in online co-op? I'm going to play locally, but I'm just interested.


Yes it’s split screen online too

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This is brilliant. Insipid, tropey story, sure, but it's just a vehicle for a really great co-op game. Some people think too much. That Eurogamer dude's overreaction is daft.

 

Also it looks sensational (PC).

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I like it.

Seems like it might be a meaty package too.

The story is a bit , I dunno....

The gameplay is a good average but fun and it’s wrapped up in a more unique package.

 

Its no Astro bots but it’s good.

 

...and of course it’s Unreal engine so it looks and runs great.

 

might have liked a slightly more dynamic spit screen during online play. So I get 2/3 and my mate gets 1/3 perhaps.

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Enjoying this, yeah the story is bobbins, but playing through it couch co-op it's keeping my teenager away from Fortnite for a bit. I do find it a bit soul destroying she's working out all the wee puzzle bits before me. The apprentice has become the master. 

 

Getting the odd stutter on series X but it clears up after a few seconds. More noticeable on the

Spoiler

Wasp level

 

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1 hour ago, Nosejam said:

Was intending on playing this with the non gaming wife, is it easy enough to play? Failing that, is it suitable for a 12 year old?

 

I would say no to the wife, I am playing with my youngest lad (15) and my wife would have had no chance.  Some of the sections can be a bit troublesome for non gamers imo

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23 hours ago, Eighthours said:

ShopTo is selling codes for this for £17.85. Get on it!

 

Unless i've gone barmy, i have just redeemed my shopto code thats been accepted and the game is not there... do they use a different method?

 

EDIT!  EDIT!  - Most strange.  Instead of the game auto installing, you have to go back into the MS store and it says " you own this " 

- and you have to manually install it.  Never had to do that before!

 

( Well thats how it went for me )

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4 hours ago, Nosejam said:

Was intending on playing this with the non gaming wife, is it easy enough to play? Failing that, is it suitable for a 12 year old?

Been playing couch co op with my 11 year old son and no problems so far.

We are on the wasp levels and enjoying it so far. Looks great on series X apart from occasional slowdown. 

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Having an absolutely wonderful time playing this with my son. Some really great mechanics and looks stunning. Most importantly it’s so much fun!  
 

You guys were right, I don’t think a non gamer would do well, lots of accuracy and button knowledge needed. 
 

How good is the boss at the end of level 2?! We were both punching the air after, incredible.

 

@elmo Would love to see some of TCGS stream this, make it happen!

 

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I'm absolutely LOVING this, am playing with my very casual gamer girfriend and yeah some bits are a little challenging but honestly it's fine because you only 'fail' if BOTH die at the same time (and even then, checkpoints are generous). So as long as one of you are good with games you can easily carry the other I believe. It's really clever like that, I think Luigi's Mansion did something similar. 

 

The story initially seems a bit cringe but after the opening it takes itself far less seriously and honestly, I've not laughed so much at a game for so long. It's tone is just right for us, the voice performances are fantastic.

 

After 3 hours of play it feels like a perfect balance of puzzle/action. It's constantly feeding you new ideas and concepts along the way, it was hard to put down as we were eager to see where it took us next. 

 

Really hope people are not put off playing with a less gaming experience kid or partner because I feel like this scenario is where It Takes Two really brings something special to the table. It's a great way to showcase just how fun co-op videogames can be, in a way you don't typically see done well these days (UnRavel, cough cough)

 

 

 

 

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Yeah I'm also playing with someone inexperienced in gaming and its no problem. The checkpoints are extremely generous and one character can easily carry the other forward. The action bits you can also just button spam (not that it removes any enjoyment). The intro cutscene was not great, but this is an excellent couch co-op game so far (4 hours in)

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3 hours ago, Hello Goaty ♥ said:

 

Unless i've gone barmy, i have just redeemed my shopto code thats been accepted and the game is not there... do they use a different method?

 

EDIT!  EDIT!  - Most strange.  Instead of the game auto installing, you have to go back into the MS store and it says " you own this " 

- and you have to manually install it.  Never had to do that before!

 

( Well thats how it went for me )


Weird indeed! Did you redeem it on the console itself? When I did that, the game just started downloading. 

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Played about 4 hours today with my daughter and we’ve had a blast. Every level introduces something new and it’s lovely to look at. 
 As for all the negative commentary about the story or context - can’t say either of us have had issue so far  

 So far for the experience it’s the best game I’ve played this year. 

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The story / cutscenes barely feature. It's just so brimming with ideas. There's a few cool little easter eggs too

 

Spoiler

His 'fuck the oscars' speech

A Way Out action figures

 

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Played another few hours with the Mrs tonight. It just gets better and better with the level design and co-op creativity. Graphics on the PS5 are stunning too. Great game

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11 hours ago, TommyG said:

It just gets better and better with the level design and co-op creativity. Graphics on the PS5 are stunning too. Great game

 

Without spoiling anything there's a lot of variety too, and it's pretty substantial. I thought it would be the garden area and then that's it.  It is way more AAA than I expected, there's so many unique areas and assets and they all look fantastic. It really does get better and more creative throughout. The individual skills are unique and its not just one person stand on this or press this.

 

I'm really impressed with how well the difficulty is pitched. Not a single argument so far, just lots and lots of fun. Yet still doesn't feel like its too easy or scripted. I kinda envy people who get to play this with a child of the right age rather than someone else in their late 30s.

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