Knights and Bikes Review — A Whimsical Island Adventure
Two friends and their goose are on an adventure to save the quirky citizens of Penfurzy Island.
Knights and Bikes is a whimsical tale of two young girls embarking on a fantastical adventure to find a long-lost treasure. Developer Foam Sword takes obvious inspiration from other coming-of-age tales like The Goonies and Stand by Me for its narrative. It mixes that with a charming, hand-painted art style and solid exploration gameplay. While it doesn’t do anything that pushes the genre forward, it’s a solid effort for a young studio.
The game is built to be played as co-op, whether locally or online. However, even if you play by yourself, the A.I. is mostly good and will help you with puzzles as needed. Obviously, the game functions best when you have someone there to play with. However, this isn’t one of those games where you’re constantly babysitting your A.I. partner. If anything, the computer made some puzzles easier as it would immediately go do whatever action was required for me.
Regardless of how you decide to play, you’ll have the choice between the two protagonists. Demelza is the younger of the two and has a very active imagination. She is a native of Penfurzy Island and is ready and willing to show her new best friend the ropes. Nessa is something of a rebel and has come to Penfurzy in hopes of finding a long-lost treasure.
Both characters have their own set of attacks and actions. I won’t spoil some of the late-game additions, but from the start, the characters feel suitably unique. ‘Melza starts the game with her trademark wellies, which let her splash up water from the many puddles all over the island. Nessa, on the other hand, has a frisbee that functions more like a boomerang. As you play, you’ll gain access to two new attacks per character, which do a great job of switching up the action.
Unfortunately, the fights are pretty boring. You can easily combo the characters abilities together when solving puzzles. However, in the heat of a battle, it just feels like you’re spamming basic attacks until everyone else is dead. There are a few enemies later on that force you to change up tactics, but even those feel incredibly basic. Plus, there is nearly zero threat of dying. I never once felt threatened during a fight because I could so easily conquer the enemies.
All that being said, when the action slows, and you’re solving puzzles, the differences in the two characters really start to shine. The puzzles are a great mix of just challenging enough to make you feel smart and simple enough that you’re never stuck too long. Foam Sword does a great job of giving you new mechanics to play with throughout the entire experience. Nothing ever feels stale. Knights and Bikes feels carefully sculpted to give players a streamlined playthrough that never overstays its welcome.
I would be remiss if I didn’t quickly mention the bikes. They are, after all, part of the title. As you play, you’ll collect random trinkets. You can turn these into the local bike seller for new parts for your modern steed. I liked all the fun customization options and making each character’s bike look different. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor addition, but in a game with great art, it was nice getting to play around with the characters’ styles.
Speaking of art, the entire game is a constant joy to look at. The hand-painted visuals are reminiscent of something like Tearaway. Which makes sense considering a key member of Foam Swords’ staff was the creative director on that title. I came away very impressed with how well the art mixed the whimsical areas of the island with some of the darker areas the characters visit. I never expected this art style to be able to feel spooky, but the team flexed their creative muscles and delivered in every regard.
Sadly, I didn’t feel like the game’s audio matched up with the excellent visuals. It felt weirdly quiet through most of the game. Maybe this was by design, but it honestly felt like the team ran out of time to implement more than a few musical tracks. I also have to say that I avoided running as much as possible just because of the annoying sounds the characters made while doing so.
Though it’s not voiced, the dialogue felt appropriate for this style of game. I can easily see some people being quickly turned off by the “quirkiness”, but I thought it matched the tone and art style very well. I’m not often one who loves “random humor”, so I was a little surprised that it worked well for me here. It’s a mostly fun romp through a King Arthur-like story told from the perspective of a young tween. Is it a particularly riveting tale? No, but it does a good job of constantly providing you with momentum to see the quest through to its end.
All told, I would best describe Knights and Bikes as simply a good game. It doesn’t do anything extraordinary, but it’s worth your time. You can probably finish the story in a long afternoon, and you could certainly do worse with your $20. I also think this is a perfect game to play with someone who doesn’t play many games.
As I mentioned above, the game isn’t hard. You don’t need twitch reflexes or a firm grasp on how to use an analog stick. It feels a lot like a Lego game in that regard. All you need to enjoy Knights and Bikes is a sense of adventure and a willing friend. If like me, you’re constantly looking for something to play with a loved one who only has a passing interest in video games, this game is definitely one I’d recommend.