Knights and Bikes is not exactly what I expected based on its name alone. Of all the things that could have been, such as knights jousting on bicycles, or an old-fashioned Road Rash style racing game, the last thing I would have expected was a plucky, emotional and whimsical adventure. Foam Sword and Double Fine Presents definitely put out something imaginative, but is it worth the cost of admission? Get ready for our Knights and Bikes review.
In many ways, the very early game is unassuming in nature. Nessa and Demelza are two young girls who meet each other as victims of circumstance, which soon evolves into a fast friendship. The story itself is multifaceted, with pieces that hinge around a treasure, a curse, and very real situations involving Demelza and her father. It would be tough to ever classify Demelza or Nessa as innocent, especially given the adventure they embark on, but as the story unfolds, a picture of a child’s understanding of the world begins to take shape. It’s these moments that are both amusing, and a little emotional.
As the two girls progress, they each learn new skills, receive bikes, and take on wild enemies. It would be a disservice to a future player to reveal too much of the story, but the premise alone should be enough to pique the interest of anyone who is a fan of classic adventure movies like The Goonies, E.T., or even Stranger Things. Nessa and Demelza begin their adventure on a golf course that tells the story of a band of knights that buried some treasure on the island but later died of some kind of curse. With the golf course in ruins and construction workers looking to tear it down, the girls unwittingly stop the demolition, while also unleashing the curse.
To progress through the game, players will have to figure out minor puzzles, battle-hungry golf balls, dodge flaming unicorns, and more, as they unfurl the secrets to the Penfurzy mysteries. Along the way, Nessa and Demelza will meet all manner of interesting characters, and every now and then, even play against each other in mini-games for fun. These types of minigames and the adventure as a whole is much more fun with a second player. Knights and Bikes allows for both a local and an online co-op playthrough.
While the story, gameplay, kooky characters and adventure as a whole were all a pleasant surprise, my major sticking point had to do with the control scheme. Normally, games like this would have some type of mouse support, but the controls stuck primarily to the WASD and the HUJK keys. Granted, controller support is also available and preferred, I feel like there was a missed opportunity where a mouse is concerned. Had I been playing the console version, this wouldn’t be an issue, but as a PC title, I believe most users expect at least some mouse support.
Aside from some minor issues like that, the hand-painted characters and levels give Knights and Bikes a truly unique feel, but it’s also quite impressive that, despite no actual dialog being spoken, the sounds used for characters and conversations still convey the feelings of each character well. Knights and Bikes delivers on many different levels. The game will certainly appeal to adventure lovers, 80’s adventure story lovers, and especially gamers that are looking for something enthusiastically unique.