Knights and Bikes is an adventure game that feels like a nostalgia trip with people you have never met before but could swear you grew up with.
Knights and Bikes is an action-adventure game that manages to capture the spirit of many classic Super Nintendo games while also successfully replicating the experience of being a kid growing up in the pre-Internet days in a way that most games could only hope to achieve.
Knights and Bikes is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that managed to bring in over one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds from backers back in 2016. The story is set in the '80s and follows two young girls named Nessa and Demelza, who are searching for buried treasure on Penfurzy island off the coast of Cornwall in England. The local legends state that a group of knights once built a castle on Penfurzy island and that their treasure was still there. Nessa and Demelza team up with their trusty pet goose and ride their bikes around the island in search of the lost treasure, in what turns into a heartfelt journey between two girls in desperate need of friendship.
Knights and Bikes is a co-op game, with each player taking on the role of either Demelza or Nessa. It's also possible to play the game online with a friend, or solo with the AI controlling the other character. Demelza and Nessa gain different weapons over the course of the game, providing them unique tools to solve puzzles and fight enemies. Demelza has access to items like a pair of wellington boots that can be used to kick up pools of water and a long-ranged plunger that can pull down barriers, while Nessa can use items like a frisbee to strike enemies from afar and water balloons that can put out fires. The idea of childish implements being used as weapons is reminiscent of games like EarthBound and it fits the tone of the game well.
The events of Knights and Bikes take place over six days, as Demelza and Nessa search the island for clues as to the location of the treasure. It soon becomes apparent that an ancient curse has been unleashed and the two are accosted by all manner of possessed items on their journey. Knights and Bikes consists of exploration sequences that are broken up by combat encounters and puzzles, as the players search the island and discover new areas on each of the six days.
The two characters own bikes and these are used to traverse the island more quickly. Knights and Bikes can be compared to the games in The Legend of Zelda series in regards to its gameplay, but it has a much deeper focus on character building and storytelling. It's possible to earn currency (in the form of random knick-knacks that are found around the island or won in battle) which can be spent on items used to customize each bike. The game places a lot of focus on the scenes where the girls are just riding their bikes through the wilderness and it manages to capture the essence of what it feels like to be a kid who is hanging out with a friend, rather than going on an epic journey.
It's this focus on capturing the childhood experience that makes Knights and Bikes stand out from so many similar indie titles. Demelza and Nessa will sometimes stop on their journey and have a brief contest (such as racing to the bottom of a hill or fighting with action figures) with nothing at stake other than the pride of the player. It's moments like this that really stick out and make Knights and Bikes a memorable experience.
The player sees the world through the eyes of Demelza and she transplants her imagination onto everything, which transforms the dreary island off the coast of England into a land where knights still ride their noble steeds into battle and monsters lurk in every corner, which is reflected in the game's amazing visuals.
The most striking aspect of Knights and Bikes is its graphics. The game looks like a watercolor painting come to life and it's hard not to feel as if the world is a playable children's book. The animations are also stellar and the creators did an amazing job of making Demelza and Nessa feel like real kids in the way that they act.
The only major sticking point is in regards to the sound effects, as the noises made by Demelza and Nessa when they run are so annoying that they are on par with the baby crying in Yoshi's Island. The fact that the player will be running around a lot (unless they like moving at a snail's pace) makes this issue all the worse. If ever there was a game that needed a toggle for the sound effects in the menu, it's Knights and Bikes. There are also issues in regards to finding entrances and exits from locations, as it isn't always clear if an area is traversable or not, which can result in some frustrating running around and searching every corner in order to proceed.
Knights and Bikes wears its inspirations on its sleeves and the promotional material for the game even describes it as being heavily inspired by The Goonies. The game is also inspired by a lot of Super Nintendo games, with the world defined by childhood imagination of EarthBound, while using the co-op adventuring of Secret of Mana. Knights and Bikes isn't just a copy of a bunch of other nostalgic properties, as it stands on its own with its clever writing, vibrant game world, and playful gameplay that never takes itself too seriously. There are many written works that attempt to replicate the feeling of being a kid and most of them fall flat because they are created by adults with flawed memories of their own childhood experiences, but Knights and Bikes perfectly captures that feeling of being a kid and going on a grand adventure that is full of danger and peril, but also making sure that you get home in time for dinner.
Knights and Bikes is out now for PC and PlayStation 4. Screen Rant was provided a digital copy of the PlayStation 4 version of the game for the purposes of this review.