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