Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC via Steam and Origin
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts / EA Originals
Gameplay: Co-op Action Adventure
Release Date: March 26, 2021
The developer of this is none other than the creative team at Hazelight Studios, known for creating A Way Out. The director of this project, Josef Fares, also created Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons with developer Starbreeze Studios. This game is a co-op only game; meaning, you cannot play this game by yourself! There is no option for an AI to control the second character so it has to be played with people playing and working together, along with sometimes competing against each other. This game offers both couch co-op and online co-op.
This game was absolutely a blast to play with my friend, so much so that I have started a second playthrough with a different friend. Both of these people who I played with, live in different states; and the overall fluidity of it felt like we were playing right next to each other. I played on PlayStation 5 in my first playthrough and we really only saw 1 issue with a small crash from the server. In my second playthrough with a different friend, again played on PS5, there have been a couple more issues that we found in different locations. Thankfully in both games, we didn’t lose much progress as the game does autosave quite a bit. This game supports cross generational online play; however, at the time of this writing, it does not support cross platform play. Typically, in order to play co-op games with other people, you would each need to buy the game. In this case, since co-op is baked into the gameplay and is required, only one of you has to buy the game.
For this game, they did something called the Friend’s Pass. This pass allows you to play the game with someone who actually owns the game. I purchased the game at launch and my friends downloaded the friend’s pass for free from the PlayStation store, and was able to play the entire game with me; with a couple of small caveats. For the first thing that I noticed, only the person who owns the game gets any trophies. The other thing was, unless a person who owns the game invites you; you cannot play it. This part makes a lot of sense since they are just playing it with the person who bought a copy. Other than that, everything else seemed like it was the exact same as someone who owns it.
In the game, you play as May and Cody; two people who are currently married but are getting a divorce. The story starts out with the couple fighting outside of the house, away from their daughter, Rose. Rose doesn’t want them to get a divorce and she wants them to become friends again. Over the course of just a little bit of time, Cody and May both turn into little clay dolls and you must find the way to become human again. Eventually, you find out why and how you were turned into these clay figures; it was because Rose cried tears on the dolls that she had created in your image. In order to become friends again, they have to fix their broken relationship. They are not alone in doing this, as someone is helping them accomplish this task, Dr. Hakim.
Dr. Hakim is a “love doctor” in the shape of a book. He is voice acted by the director of the game, Josef Fares, and he definitely is a great fit for the character. He helps May and Cody rebuild their broken relationship little by little over the course of multiple chapters and delves into the topics of romance of what you need to work on. Over the course of the game, you get to understand why they have grown apart and how you can help them become closer again. At the end of the game, the way in which the story leaves you question the current overall outcome, was definitely an interesting approach that I personally appreciated. Overall, the story is good for the message they are trying to tell, but I personally think it is the weakest part of the whole game.
Now, the story takes you on a multitude of locations and places to explore where no two feel similar. In each of the chapters of the game, there are sub chapters that have you explore certain areas. The first world you explore is a shed where you find Rose and you must reach her to figure out what is going on. The second world is a tree that you explore, then you get to explore all of Rose’s room, followed by another 4 worlds making it a total of 7; with loads of sub chapters to play. If you need to replay any of the sections you already played, that is available to do so.
Throughout the levels, you interact and meet different characters that either help or hurt you. Not to worry though, in each of the levels, you either get special abilities or weapons that help you progress. These weapons and abilities are only available to use in each of the respective levels so you don’t get to keep them throughout the rest of the game. For example, in one of the worlds, May gets the ability to clone herself, while Cody gets the ability to manipulate time for certain objects. In a different level, Cody gets a nectar bazooka weapon, while May gets a rocket launcher type of weapon. The reasoning for each of the abilities or weapons is typically explained before they are bestowed upon you.
Some of the levels, the focus is more so on combat while in other levels, there is very little to no combat. It offers a nice balance between fighting and exploration, and the fighting style is always a little bit different so it never feels dull. A couple of these are; dungeon crawler, and third person shooter. If one of the players die during a battle, you can come back in easily if you constantly press the triangle button. If both of the players die, they have to restart from the most recent checkpoint; meaning there is room for a little bit of error. Throughout all of the worlds, there are mini bosses and main bosses that all present different tactics in which you must work together in order to take down. Just be warned… some of the deaths for bosses are a little horrific.
In other times when you are not in combat situations, this game is very puzzle based. If you die outside of battle, you just respawn around the area you died. The puzzles typically require one person to help the other one evade areas, climb or cross areas, or work together to complete a task. These are not usually too hard to figure out if you can figure out what the abilities or weapons that you currently have, but on occasion it will take you a while to solve what you have to do. Not many of the puzzles require you to complete the same task as the last one, so it always felt fresh and not too repetitive.
Scattered in the different levels and worlds, there are a total of 25 mini games that you compete against the other player, There are many different games including chess, volleyball, whack a mole, shuffleboarding, and more. These games are typically very quick and optional, but they are fun and add in the competitive aspect that some people really like. In the game you have to work together in order to win, so it really is nice to have the option to also compete against each other from time to time. All of them feel different enough so it is a good selection that they had here.
Throughout the game, there are a huge amount of easter eggs that are littered throughout the game. There were three of them that I chose to highlight, but there are even more scattered in the game. One of the ones that stuck out to me was The Game Awards comments by Josef Fares. “F*** the Oscars” can be heard when you are looking out into space in world 3. Another one was also in world 3 that has an easter eggs from the game, A Way Out. A third one that I picked out was an easter egg from a totally different publisher; it was something from The Legend of Zelda series. They are not always the most easy to get to, but if you explore the different worlds, then you will find them; plus each of these rewards you a trophy on PlayStation, so go ahead and do it.
Now I am going to talk about the art style, audio design, voice acting, and pacing of the game. First off is the pacing of the game. Most of the time, it was great. At certain points of the game, some things seemed to drag on a bit too long for my liking, For example; the ice sliding section in world 5 and some of the rail sections throughout the game seemed like they were too long. Bad pacing doesn’t occur too often, but it does occasionally come up. Another example is the third world. The third world is the longest of all of the game since there are so many parts to it; however, when you look at the world, it makes sense why it is big. In third world, there is a section of the game that made both myself and the two of my friends feel nauseous after playing it. You are dropped into a kaleidoscope and must find a way to break it in order to escape. It goes by quick, but I ask why it was in the game.
Art style is something that I really like to highlight about this game. I love games that have a gorgeous aesthetic, and this game definitely does not disappoint. The game was made with Unreal Engine, and all of the visuals in the game are stunning. Whether it be the character models or the environments, everything had love and care put into it and was pleasing to the eye. Every world in the game had different visuals as well, so they weren’t just rehashing one level’s design multiple times; which I appreciated.
Next is the voice acting; and there really is nothing to complain about here. All of the voice actors definitely portrayed the characters in an accurate way with their emotions, expressions, and who their character is throughout the game. Lastly, the audio design in the game was definitely very solid overall between the boss music, the world ambiance, and even the sound effects that come in the game all feel like they belong. All in all, there isn’t too much to complain about within these 4 aspects, but it is definitely not perfect.
The game had a lot of love and care put into the overall design and creation of the project. Saying that though, I seriously wish that they threw in a little bit more complex parts of the story as it felt flat and predictable. That was probably the worst part of the overall experience, besides the kaleidoscope section of the third world. It doesn’t matter who you play with, it is an excellent co-op game that you do not see very often in modern day gaming. This game is absolutely worth the money if you have someone who you want to play the game with.