Interdependence where members of a group are mutually dependent on others, rests at the core of all relationships according to Lyle Cox, the owner of Salt Lake City based Mountain Games and the designer and programmer behind Together, a two dimensional isometric puzzle game he designed that aims at creating that feeling with your coop partner of choice. While cooperative play has become a pretty common feature within most games in this always online age we live in, it is quite rare to find a game built solely upon it. Ico, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and even the Lego series required you to use multiple characters to progress, but you were never asked to have another player physically present to play and you couldn’t even call this a return to good old couch coop, as cooperative or competitive couch coop was similarly just a secondary feature. It’s a brave move and with the help of my girlfriend I endeavored to see how successful it is at this stage in it’s development.
My girlfriend and I commenced our interdependent quest to find a cure for a a deadly disease afflicting a loved one by choosing our side of the keyboard, which effectively also determined which of the sibling protagonists we would be playing as. Â While she is a girl, she is also younger than me, so perhaps it was fitting that she was Saif, the son of my character, Amna. Without further ado, we faced our first test of our cooperative metal, standing on two parallel buttons next to the start icon to both teach us a valuable game play lesson, that we need each other in order to do anything.
Mission accomplished we entered the first vibrant, isometrically oriented map with little wisps dotting the map that we needed to collect in order to remove the rocks blocking our path to the next stage. Slowly but surely we both became familiar, and quickly tired of the repetitious nature of one person standing on a block while the other went to collect a wisp, or stand on a second block so the first can bunny hop to the next block. But that soon changed soon after the introduction of this mysterious individual that looks like a basket carrying praying mantis wearing a fur coat and a wooden mask. After we realized we had to carefully maneuver him towards a special button in order to open another series of gates that the second player had to race through while the other player, in addition to managing Mr. Furry Mantis has to stand on another button, the magic began.
And it only continued to become more magical when poison spewing plants enter the fray and you have to race to your teammates rescue to revive them should they fall. If you both should hit the grass, your only recourse is to restart the level. The threat of a quick failure required us to employ some very careful strategic planning that lead to huge gasps of relief when we scraped through the level by the skin of our teeth. Or more often (and often due to a mistake on my part) muffled curses and threats of grievous bodily harm.
That tension, ensuing frustration and its inverse sweet satisfaction at dodging failure fulfilled Mr. Cox’s thesis for this game, that playing was as much about your relationship with the person you are playing with as much as it is about the game play systems, or the story.
My girlfriend and I survived the experience with our relationship intact, perhaps even strengthened, and provided some minor clipping bugs are addressed and perhaps a little more narrative is added as interludes between levels I think this grand experiment will prove to be well worth your time.
Together will be released on the PC (and potentially on Mac and Linux) at some point in the, hopefully near, future.