in­diemas­ter

Mind the cy­cle-path in this glo­ri­ous ’80s ad­ven­ture

Games Master - - Contents -

In­tro­duc­ing Knights And Bikes, a hand-drawn ad­ven­ture from for­mer Lit­tleBigPlanet and Tear­away devs.

If Stranger Things has re­minded us of any­thing, it’s that kids on bikes are the true he­roes. The ones who just sad­dle up, work out the clues, get stuff done, and beat the bad guys. Per­haps we didn’t have our very own sum­mer that was iden­ti­cal to The Goonies – the ’80s have a lot to an­swer for – but we all have a mem­ory of how it felt to wake up with those days off stretch­ing ahead and a bike ready to take you on all kinds of ad­ven­tures. Knights And Bikes wants you to re­mem­ber ex­actly that feel­ing of true pos­si­bil­ity. For­get those credit card bills for now. This co-op and sin­gle-player ac­tion RPG lets you play as brave ped­allers Nessa and Demelza, who are on a quest to save their home of Pen­furzy, a fic­tional is­land off the Cor­nish coast, from fi­nan­cial ruin. Set firmly in the ’80s, Knights And Bikes is all about hurtling across a beau­ti­ful hand-drawn world and re­mem­ber­ing ex­actly what it was like to be a child who knew they could fix ev­ery­thing.

The devs have drawn from their own ex­pe­ri­ences, added Earth­bound and the Se­cret Of Mana in­flu­ences, and crafted an ad­ven­ture where sav­ing the grown-ups is top of the list. But what’s so at­trac­tive about that time for the team? “For me, the most im­por­tant as­pect is def­i­nitely imag­i­na­tion,” con­firms de­vel­oper Moo Yu. “I spent so much of my child­hood im­mersed in other worlds, whether they were books, videogames, or just some­thing I con­jured up in my back­yard. The thing that sticks out is that it wasn’t just make be­lieve to me back then, it was my re­al­ity. I think there’s a uni­ver­sal­ity to the power of imag­i­na­tion. When you’re a kid, it’s an im­por­tant way to ex­plore the world and learn about your­self, your abil­i­ties, and your val­ues. But it’s some­thing I’ve al­ways held onto for count­less things, from ex­press­ing my cre­ativ­ity or es­capism when I’m strug­gling to face the real world.”

Let it BMX

Ev­ery­thing about this world is seen through a child’s eyes. As Demelza and Nessa hur­tle around on their bikes,

“it’s all about re­mem­ber­ing ex­actly what it was like to be a child out to fix ev­ery­thing”

stam­ina is mea­sured by an asthma in­haler, toys are there to be played with, en­e­mies to be hit with fris­bees, and trea­sure to be found. Like a Red Bull and sher­bet high, ev­ery­thing here is con­stantly mov­ing, sparkling, and buzzing with en­ergy. As the pair quest to save the is­land, they build abil­i­ties and up­grade their bikes, but es­sen­tially this is all about, dare we say it, hav­ing fun. “One of the fea­tures we re­cently added to the game is the idea of chal­lenges,” ex­plains Yu. “It’s that lit­tle thing you do as a kid of mak­ing up silly mini-chal­lenges as you go along, whether it’s walk­ing on the pave­ment with­out step­ping on any cracks or try­ing to race to the flag­pole just be­cause it feels right. We’ve con­stantly had to go back over each fea­ture and think of our child­hoods and ask ‘how would a kid do this?’”

It’s not sur­pris­ing that team­work re­ally does help to make the dream work dur­ing Nessa and Demelza’s ad­ven­ture. Both have spe­cial moves, such as Fris­bee Lob and Pud­dle Splash, but that’s just the be­gin­ning of their skills, and to­gether the pair are stronger. Demelza has a stomp abil­ity that’s bet­ter with pud­dles around and Nessa can craft wa­ter bal­loons, which makes co-op team­work even more fun. “I re­ally like think­ing about ways the girls can work to­gether with their abil­i­ties,” says Yu. “So the wa­ter bal­loon was our first ex­per­i­ment with that, where each girl has an abil­ity that is strong on it’s own, but to­gether be­comes ex­tremely pow­er­ful. I’m al­ways look­ing for more ways to ex­press the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two girls with me­chan­ics.”

Vi­cious cy­cle

And it’s not all sweet­ness and light. The chang­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the char­ac­ters is key to the story. There might be a goose and a sev­ered head in­volved, but this is still a story about peo­ple. “Nessa and Demelza im­me­di­ately hit it off with their proac­tive ap­proaches to tak­ing on the world,” teases Yu. “But they are both very strong willed in­di­vid­u­als with their own goals, abil­i­ties, and strug­gles. Through­out the game, you’ll get to dig into each of their minds, but also see how things play out be­tween them.” Mir­ror­ing the re­la­tion­ship in the game, while you’re free to take on Knights And Bikes alone, the team re­ally wants you to play to­gether.

“When I was a kid, ev­ery game seemed like it had lo­cal mul­ti­player in one way or an­other, but that seemed less com­mon as I got older,” Yu ex­plains. “Work­ing on Lit­tleBigPlanet re­minded me what it was like to play games with friends and fam­ily, and what a joy it is to share gam­ing with oth­ers.”

It’s this love that shines through in ev­ery hand-drawn de­tail of Knights And Bikes. Ev­ery­thing has been crafted for sheer fun, and we haven’t seen the half of it. Quests and bat­tle dun­geons await in the full game and the story is beg­ging to be ex­plored. We’re as ex­cited as kids on Christ­mas Eve about this one.

It’s all about co-op, but if you want to play sin­gle-player, an AI is more than happy to be your sub­sti­tute best friend.

The fic­tional is­land of Pen­furzy is in­spired by the game’s Cor­nish-born artist Rex Crowle’s child­hood and has that empty Bri­tish tourist town feel.

It’s not just about bomb­ing around and ex­plor­ing Pen­furzy on two wheels. There’s plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for on-foot ac­tion too. Af­ter all, stomp­ing about in pud­dles and throw­ing fris­bees at pos­sessed crea­tures is tricky from the back of a bike.

Oh, and did we men­tion the goose? The ma­jes­ti­cally named Cap­tain Honkers be­longs to Demelza and is use­ful for peck­ing un­wanted spirit en­e­mies. Handy.

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