Remember what it was like to be a kid? We all had a childhood and we all had pretend adventures, usually with friends. Such is the case in Knights and Bikes, which follows two young girls as they have what starts as a pretend adventure of their own. This top-down co-op adventure game has unique art and a lot of heart. But is that enough to make it worth actually playing?
The story follows two young girls named Demelza and Nessa. Demelza lives on Penfurzy Island with her father, and Nessa had just smuggled herself to said island on a boat. The two meet and become fast friends. However, Demelza’s father is deep in debt and risks losing his home if he can’t come up with the money. Demelza and Nessa come up with an exciting plan: find the hidden treasure of Penfurzy Island. Not a bad idea, except they accidentally release the curse associated with the treasure. Now the two must stop the curse, find the treasure, save the town, and have fun along the way.
It’s a cute story, and I found myself quickly attached to both characters. Demelza is hyperactive and imaginative, while Nessa is cool as ice, and the two manage to play off of each other in an adorable and believable way, but they aren’t the only ones. In fact, the side characters are brilliant as well. I felt bad for Demelza’s father, and his attempts to cope while dealing with both his lack of money and being a single father hits close to home. I loved the weird librarian, and how she encourages the girls to go on adventures. I’m even a fan of the weird old lady who just stares off into the distance because I’m pretty sure there’s a great story behind her and I’d love to discover it.
Friends Ride Together
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to grab a friend to play with you. You can play Knights and Bikes just fine solo, but the game really does excel in co-op and offers both local and online play. If you do play solo you’ll have the option to switch between Demelza and Nessa at any point. The AI does a pretty good job solving puzzles with you, and at times would even solve puzzles before I even knew one was happening. They also do fine in combat and kept up with me most of the time. AI did have the occasional issue with getting stuck on rocks though, and a couple of times I had to swap characters so I could free them.
You’ll be exploring Penfurzy Island in your quest to stop the curse and find the treasure, and along the way, you’ll have to use each of the girl’s items to fight monsters and solve puzzles. Both of them have a role to fill, with Demelza better at melee combat while Nessa gets the ranged attacks. Each of their three weapons has a basic and charged attack, and some can even be combined to make something more interesting. For example, Nessa can throw water balloons that create puddles on the ground, then Demelza cans stomp in them to cause splash damage. You’ll use these against a variety of weird enemies, such as living gauntlets, angry golf balls, and flaming amusement park mascot heads.
Combat is never difficult, but can often get hectic and messy. It’s pretty easy to lose your characters in the ensuing battle, and more than once I had to perform a bunch of rolls one after another just to spot my character again. However, even if they were lost, I could often just smash the attack button and that would defeat anyone who was near me anyway. The abilities are at least fun to use, and I always got a kick watching Nessa’s frisbee bounce off of enemies and accidentally hit others along the way.
I Wanna Ride My Bike
As the game advances the characters get new abilities, but they’re handed out at a strange pace. Demelza starts the game with her bike, something that lets her get around quickly, but Nessa doesn’t get hers until about two or three hours into the game, meaning for a while one player has to run awkwardly behind the other. One dungeon sees Nessa get a curse-dispelling boombox, while Demelza gets an electricity conducting power glove. When you get to the dungeon’s boss, however, it almost entirely focuses on Demelza’s new power, meaning Nessa’s player gets to stand around awkwardly waiting for their friend to finish a boss fight.
When you’re not fighting, you’re usually solving some simple puzzles. Nothing I saw in the game really made me think long and hard, and I often had the solution figured out in a few minutes tops. The few times I was stumped was less because the puzzle was tough and more because a piece of it was hidden in some obscure corner. Thankfully, this wasn’t very often. Usually, I was doing little more than throwing switches or moving cranes back and forth. In a way, it reminded me of a LEGO game, but with fewer blocks and things being assembled in front of your eyes. Still, it’s enjoyable.
If there’s one part of Knights and Bikes I expect to be divisive, it’s the art. The entire game looks like it was drawn in crayon. It’s extremely expressive and sometimes bizarre. Demelza makes some of the most over-exaggerated facial expressions I’ve ever seen in a video game, which I imagine some people will find adorable and others will find annoying. It’s probably worth figuring out which camp you’re in right away because the style never lets up. There’s also a fantastic soundtrack that centers around a couple of awesome leitmotifs that are used in creative ways. It helps promote a sense of wonder that works extremely well for the game.
There Was a Queen Song About This, Right?
However, the art style does lead to one unfortunate downside. There’s some weird, seemingly important information that is often kept hidden from the player. One notable example is how much money you have. You’ll collect money (which takes the form of worms, pins, trading cards, and other weird little items) that you can spend on upgrading your bike, but how much you have is basically a shrug. When you go to buy something it’s haphazardly thrown into a pile on a table. You also can’t see how much items cost easily, with the shopkeeper just sort of scooping up what he wants. Another weird one is that you use bandages to heal, but they’re represented by little scattered dots that are difficult to see and will only appear if one of the characters is hurt. It’d be nice to know if the bandages I was picking up even mattered; if you didn’t need any the characters still grabbed them anyway.
Knights and Bikes is a fun, frantic, top-down adventure game with some light puzzle and combat elements that I imagine would be more appreciated by either a younger crowd or a parent playing with their kid. If you’re looking for a solid co-op adventure, this can easily fill the void. Even solo it’s still fun enough to be worth a look. Just be ready for a few awkward moments, and a seriously terrible UI.
Knights and Bikes review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.