Friendship and imagination combine in a co-op adventure inspired by Earthbound and The Goonies with Foam Sword Games' debut title.
I'll admit; I'm one of those people who gets hyped about anything that cites Earthbound as an inspiration yet something really grabbed me about Knights and Bikes when I first saw it as it took the whimsy and ridiculousness from Earthbound and added an overwhelming amount of charm. The title itself would've been enough to snag my attention, conjuring images of people jousting while riding bikes or perhaps hitting a big ramp to put some hurt on a dragon and save the kingdom.
Thankfully, the adventure in Knights and Bikes is far better than I would've imagined. Demelza and Nessa come across each other by chance one day and suddenly, Demelza (the lovable little weirdo she is) has herself a real friend. She escorts her new friend around Penfurzy, a mess of an island, showing off her favorite sights and her family history with a sense of pride until a horrible curse is unleashed. Toy swords, golf balls, and all other sorts of objects are transformed into wicked baddies that then attack our spirited heroines. Worse yet, the curse seems to be actively trying to stop the girls from their newfound adventure of seeking out the legendary treasure that's hidden somewhere on the island. If they can find it, Demelza can use the money to help her father keep their property and maybe Nessa can finally have a home of her own. However, like every great adventure, it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey.
Knights and Bikes is dripping with cuteness and humour. The girls cheer and laugh when they run, high-five to heal one another, and ride bikes that can be heavily customized with some sweet horns and epic flags. Demelza's treasure-sniffing goose is along for the ride, too, and you can stop and pet him whenever you want! The girls are also remarkably expressive and there aren't strong enough words to capture how epic the looks on their faces are at any given moment.
The biggest surprise about Knights and Bikes is its realism. Yes, the girls go on an adventure that defies all belief but as the player, you can pick up on so much that they don't (or choose not to). The guy who sells your bike customization gear, for example, is happy to take the junk you find under rocks and loot from baddies because to Demelza and Nessa, all of that junk is valuable treasure. Demelza's dad was a roadie for her mom and you can see just how much she loves him because every time he's on the screen, he looks like the most majestic roadie in existence with wind constantly blowing perfectly through his hair and jacket. Everything about Knights and Bikes has some level of realism blended with imagination and it takes a little creativity to peel those layers back; but, what's real anyway?
Then, there's the friendship between Demelza and Nessa. The 2 of them have a bit of a rough start but quickly become the best of friends. Every bit of conversation has the perfect blend of relatability and ridiculousness. They both have their own driving forces, their reasons for their friendship, and even a bit of jealousy for each other. They find every excuse to turn in-game events into a competition such as racing, seeing who can hit the most targets or collect the most items, and even playing video games against each other. You can play with another friend online or locally and if you feel like going it solo, you can swap between the girls freely while AI handles the other. They put their friendship to work in the gameplay, too, as each girl has a weapon that can be better utilized if the couple act together with it and both girls will be put to good use for the slew of puzzles as well.
Speaking of puzzles, Knights and Bikes is really a puzzle game at heart. Don't get me wrong, you'll fight plenty of enemies but most of the campaign is spent running around trying to figure out where to go and how to get there. The majority of these puzzles aren't complex at all and typically boil down to using the right item in the right place or merely figuring out where to go. All of that being said, the puzzles are just as charming as everything else and it's terrific just how well they play into the setting and story. By the end of the campaign, I'm pretty sure that I used each weapon that the girls accrued for multiple uses such as puzzles, bashing stuff apart, and combat.
While I loved most of the puzzles and they were all lovely once I knew what to do, there were several times when I didn't realize that I could go somewhere or the camera hid a path that made progress a bit irritating. On the bright side, if you're playing solo and get stuck, you can run around swapping characters and the AI will sometimes use something to solve a puzzle for you. Handy, right?
Combat is just as whimsical as everything else (are you noticing a theme here?) because you use weapons like a Frisbee, water balloons, Wellies, and even a power glove to wreck every enemy that you come across without mercy. Unlike with the puzzles and adventure aspect, combat really doesn't offer much of a challenge but it's still fun and quite clever.
Knights and Bikes presents a superb adventure that will definitely stick with you for a long time. You never want some games to end and in Knights and Bikes' case, the characters will make you never want to say goodbye. No matter where Nessa and Demelza go, I definitely want to follow along. Now, excuse me while I go hunt down every piece of merch for this game; I need all of it!
- + Imagination + Friendship = Awesomeness!
- + Developers clearly poured their hearts into every detail of the game world
- + Demelza and Nessa rule, even with AI
- - It's sometimes difficult to figure out what to do in order to progress