Double Fine has a knack for recognizing childlike imagination and whimsy. They've done so through games like Costume Quest and Broken Age. And if Knights & Bikes is any indication, they've also learned to recognize when other developers share that same common quality.
Shacknews first encountered Knights & Bikes at E3 2017. It's from Foam Sword Games, a new development studio comprised of former developers whose credits include LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway, and Ratchet & Clank. They successfully raised over 100,000 pounds on Kickstarter and were since picked up by Double Fine's publishing arm. After years of development, Knights & Bikes is nearing its home stretch and Shacknews was on-hand at this year's PlayStation Experience to try it out.
Knights & Bikes is a cooperative adventure game that follows the story of Nessa and Demelza, two British girls in the late 1980s. They have a lot of imagination, which is why they go around their British island home in search of adventure, treasure, and trouble. The developers haven't been shy about stating their love for 80s movie classic "The Goonies" and aiming for that aesthetic with this game.
The central idea has both girls riding on their bikes. They go everywhere on their bikes. If they reach an out-of-the-way area, the objective becomes finding a way to bring their bikes over so that they could progress. One example saw the girls find their way into a junkyard, but to go any further, they had to work a nearby magnet on a crane to reach their bikes on the other side of the junkyard's fence.
In addition to standard beat-'em-up attacks, the two girls can also utilize a child's arsenal of weaponry, like frisbees and water balloons. They can even team up for certain attacks. Nessa, for example, can toss water balloons straight at enemies. But if they splash on the ground, Demelza can stomp on the puddles for an area-of-effect attack. There were several minor enemies, like mini-gloves, to plow through, but there were also larger boss characters that required using standard attacks and the nearby environment to defeat. Beating the boss character in this particular demo was cute, since it was fed into a nearby compactor that the girls imagined was a medieval dragon.
But Nessa & Demelza being children on bikes also plays into one of the game's more playful elements. Occasionally, an objective will pop up across a long distance and one of the kids will call for a race. So both players will race one another to the objective point. Whoever wins gets to trigger the objective, pull a lever, or get the spoils of whatever's at the finish line. It's a natural childhood activity and one that adds a lot to the game's atmosphere.
Throughout my time with Knights & Bikes, I was constantly reminded of Double Fine's Costume Quest, in that they both reveled in childlike innocence, witty banter, and were flowing with imagination. But Knights & Bikes specializes more in Castle Crashers-style combat and in its cooperative aesthetic, which looks to make it one of the few games on the horizon that one can feel truly comfortable with playing alongside a significant other.
I look forward to seeing what other kind of shenanigans these two kids wind up getting themselves into. Knights & Bikes is gearing up for a 2018 release on PlayStation 4 and PC.