Look Mum, no hands!
Knights and Bikes is thoroughly loaded with charm. From the colorful and expressive hand-painted art to the lovable characters and fun writing, Foam Sword Games’ upcoming action-adventure is sure to put a smile on your face. With Double Fine at the helm, Knight and Bikes was surrounded by the likes of Samurai Gunn 2 and RAD at EGX Rezzed this year. It seems very appropriate that Double Fine are the ones helping it see the light of day, since Knights and Bikes seems born from their distinctive personality and unique design approach.
On first impression, Knights and Bikes immediately reminded me of Costume Quest, Double Fine’s Paper Mario-style RPG centered around a group of kids having fun with their overblown imagination. After introducing myself to Rex Crowle, creative lead on Tearaway and now the main brain behind Knights and Bikes, I sat down to run through the demo with him. Co-op functionality allows two players to take on the roles of Demelza and Nessa (you’ll be able to switch between them on the fly if you’re playing solo), the leads of this sweet little adventure, so we spent the next 20 minutes running around and chatting about the game.
Before getting down to business, Rex set the stage. Knights and Bikes takes place on a fictional Cornish island in the 1980’s. The island is intended to be a few miles off the coast and is inspired by where Rex grew up. As we played through a chunk of this Secret of Mana-inspired experience, Rex excitedly told me about the slices of local culture peppered throughout, like mini-games centered around correctly filling jam scones and making cornish pasties. It’s clear just how much of a passion project this is for him. Knights and Bikes is an incredibly wholesome game, wearing its ‘The Goonies meets Secret of Mana’ influences proudly, and chatting to the main man behind it only further cemented that.
The demo starts in the caravan park run by Demelza’s parents. The place is run down after years of declining tourist business and things are looking bleak. After having spent the night in Demelza’s tent, we spend the morning exploring the island. The two kids, the innocent and naive Demelza, and Nessa, the older and more troublesome island stowaway, have a fun, playful relationship that shows itself through their interactions. Health is restored by high-fiving each other, puddles of rainwater can be kicked at each other, and the pair are always engaged in charming banter.
After wandering around for a while, getting a grasp on the controls and movement options to breezily run and roll to our hearts’ content, we come across the golf course that thrusts the narrative forward. It tells the legend of a treasure allegedly hidden on the island, a treasure with untold riches. Naturally, the girls are immediately convinced they should find it and claim it for themselves.
By this time, we’ve both acquired a couple of abilities. These are largely asymmetrical, toying with the idea that “kids get jealous of what their friends have,” according to Rex. For example, Demelza (my character) received a pair of wellies that allow her to stomp and kick, whereas Rex acquired a “flying disc” (he told me Frisbee is still copyrighted) that can be thrown a short distance. Rex teased some of the more outlandish things the girls will find and utilise, like a faulty Nintendo Power Glove that can be used to electrify puddles.
Presentationally, Knights and Bikes is absolutely stellar. The art is gorgeous and emotive, while the jaunty music, scored by Daniel Pemberton of Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse fame, brings the island to life wonderfully. The sound design is equally evocative and delightful. The UI is astonishingly minimalist communicating info to the player without so much as a health bar on the screen. Populated by on-screen prompts and environmental cues, it does a great job of telling you everything you need to know without disrupting the game’s abundance of style.
Rex tells me about the process of producing the art, in particular, animating the bikes that both characters can ride. They’re responsive and smoothly animated, something which Rex tells me was a nightmare to get properly working.
“We found out that certain things about the art style made it easier for a two-person team,” Rex continues. “All the 2D art and the 3D you see [made things easier], but the bike was a nightmare because, to get that smooth movement, we needed 32 different directions of the bike, 32 directions for the front wheel, and so on. It gets very complicated.”
Ultimately, Knights and Bikes made a fantastic first impression. It immediately envelops you with its infectious arsenal of charm, presenting with a gorgeous art style, sweet music, and two lovable mascots. The demo was detailed and polished, suggesting a game loaded with variety and depth. If Secret of Mana-style gameplay and Goonies-inspired wonder sound like your thing, Knights and Bikes is filled with an abundance of both. Although no release date has been set in stone, Rex is confident that the game is close to being finished and will hopefully see a summer release.
Dan is a UK-based lover of games, music, and movies. He can usually be found buried in RPGs, shooters, roguelikes, and sometimes World of Warcraft, but really he’ll play anything he can get his hands on.