Knights and Bikes sends players back to when life was more magical. In this world, treasure maps are real, local legends come to life, and your bike is an extension of yourself. Though the game is set in the ‘80s, nostalgia for a specific era isn’t the centerpiece; developer Foam Sword Games instead focuses on a more universal sense of turning back the clock. Knights and Bikes successfully captures child-like wonder and fun in an unabashedly wholesome adventure – with just the right amount of danger.
The tale follows Nessa and Demelza, two new acquaintances who build a friendship and search for treasure on the fictional island of Penfurzy. Though the setting seems quaint and sleepy on the surface, Nessa and Demelza learn about legendary knights, an ancient curse, and more during their travels. Even amid these fantastical developments, the emphasis remains on the two girls and their interactions, and that’s what makes the experience so charming. They play video games together, sleep in sleeping bags, race each other, laugh, and argue. These moments stack up, building a relationship that feels authentic and even heartwarming, whether they’re just biking through the woods or exploring an ancient quarry.
The journey progresses through a mixture of straightforward action and puzzle-solving. Each girl earns different abilities along the way, and if you’re playing alone, you can swap between them at any time. You often need to alternate between Nessa and Demelza’s powers to beat enemies or reach new areas. For example, Demelza’s plunger-mines are the only way to take out shielded foes, and Nessa’s blaring boombox clears cursed clouds from your path. This all works fine for solo players thanks to capable partner A.I., but to fully appreciate the sense of cooperation, you should recruit a friend or family member. That element of teamwork (and the occasional competitive minigame) is surprisingly helpful in reinforcing the budding friendship between the two heroes.
None of the situations are so demanding that they require skilled human assistance. On one hand, this simplicity suits the game’s tone well; Knights and Bikes is easy to pick up for players of all skill levels, and no scenario is complex enough to become a serious roadblock. On the other hand, the encounters and obstacles grow tedious over time because they ask so little of you. Battles against possessed golf balls and gauntlets are cute at first, but don’t involve enough skill or strategy to be interesting. And calling anything here a “puzzle” is a stretch, since minimal brainpower is needed to figure out how to clear the way forward. Standing on switches, turning on generators, and destroying blockades are recurring tasks.
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Knights and Bikes could use more bite and variety to keep players engaged, but many other elements help make up for lost ground. The island of Penfurzy itself is a great setting, with gorgeous painted visuals that give the tourist town (and the surrounding areas) a storybook quality. The supporting cast is also amusing, like the friendly bike shop owner and old librarian. These characters all have their moments and then exit gracefully; with the exception of the funny pet goose who follows the girls around, no one else steals the spotlight. The customizable bikes are another highlight, and I enjoyed applying new paints, flags, and faceplates. It’s all just cosmetic, but also provides a personal connection to the game’s most persistent and important mode of transportation.
The gameplay may not always grab your attention, but the clever writing, fun character designs, and great sound effects, ensure that your exploits in Penfurzy are memorable. Drawing on source material like The Goonies and Stand By Me, Knights and Bikes strikes an endearing balance between normal and strange; the line between reality and imagination may be blurry throughout Nessa and Demelza’s quest, but at least you never have to sort it out alone.
Summary: Knights and Bikes successfully captures child-like wonder and fun in an unabashedly wholesome adventure – with just the right amount of danger.
Concept: Ride bikes and make a friend! Along the way, uncover the secret of an ancient treasure and save adults from certain doom
Graphics: Gorgeous art makes all of the characters and environments radiate a storybook vibe
Sound: From the background music to the little effects, excellent sound design helps build a believable world
Playability: Your available moves are easy to understand and execute, to the point that battles and puzzles feel routine before long
Entertainment: Even when the action gets predictable, the charming presentation and small touches keep the sense of adventure alive
Replay: Moderately Low
Author: Joe Juba
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