After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the two man team of industry vets at Foam Sword Games present Knights and Bikes. Published by Double Fine, this 1-2 player story sees Nessa and Demelza, an unlikely pairing on a journey through Penfurzy - a british Island inspired by the UK region of Cornwall. The duo is on a quest to find lost treasure in this hand painted world set in the 1980’s. With their bikes, their imagination, and a powerful bond, Nessa and Demelza embark on an unforgettable adventure.
What immediately hits you when jumping into Knights and Bikes is the fantastical art style. The island of Penfurzy and its inhabitants look like something plucked straight out of a children's story book. This creates a very warm and cozy atmosphere. Everything is cute, to the point where even watching a dragon burn a guy to a crisp was kind of a pleasant visual. This was all a deliberate decision, as the developers wanted players to view the world in the same way a child would. This choice works to give Knights and Bikes its own special style. It also helps in making some more risque or mature moments much more palatable, allowing the devs to stay on that family friendly mark. However, the off the beaten path art style makes the HUD awkward and hard to read at times.
Knights and Bikes can be played alone, but it’s strongly suggested that you play with a partner if you can. Many of the puzzles are designed for two players to cooperate with each other, and there’s also a sense of camaraderie that you get from experiencing Nessa and Demelza’s story with a friend. I had a good 50/50 split of solo vs co-op play when playing through for review and can second this idea. I had no problems playing through by myself, but I enjoyed the gameplay and puzzle solving a bit more when in couch co-op. If you’re not a fan of same screen co-op, you can also team up with a player online.
The two protagonists of Knights and Bikes have their own abilities that offer different ways to approach combat and puzzles. For example, Nessa’s plastic discs can hit targets at a distance and reach multiple areas at once. Demelza can use her boots to kick at the surface to uncover items as well as stomp on targets. A number of the puzzles throughout the game will require you to use both abilities in tandem to move forward. When playing solo, the other character will automatically perform their ability in synchronization with yours. In co-op, you’ll have to coordinate efforts with your ally to properly execute tasks.
This is the bread and butter of any game that leans into co-op. Forcing players to communicate with each other to get past obstacles is the hook of gameplay. Designing the characters so that they aren’t capable of the same abilities is a solid way of driving these principals home.
You don’t have to make it very far in the story to get to the titular bikes. If Nessa and Demelza are the Knights, then their bikes are the trusty steeds. The bicycles are a key component to gameplay as they provide a new way to traverse the world, along with added bonuses. The bikes can also be customized to the teeth with options to change their wheels, chain guards, faceplates, and mud guards. You can also use them in races against others.
The unexpected journey
The story of Knights and Bikes is one of wonder and friendship. We watch Nessa and Demelza go from a random pairing in search of treasure to a loyal duo. Their personalities play off of each other well and you really see them mature over the course of the narrative. Knights and Bikes is pretty light hearted in tone, but there are some legitimate emotional moments further into the story.
Knights and Bikes is an action-adventure that tells the tale of two kids in 80’s england. The search for a legendary treasure brings them together to craft heartwarming coming of age story. Although it’s best played in co-op mode, there’s a fair amount of fun to be had in playing alone too. Throw in the fact that Knights and Bikes features clearly defined mechanics along with some powerful instances and you’ve got yourself quite the charming indie experience.
Knights and Bikes
- Hand-painted art design
- Endearing story
- Fun puzzles
- Clunky HUD