Sometimes the simplest games are the ones that touch you the most.
And that’s certainly how I felt playing Knights and Bikes, a game I didn’t even know existed until last week, but now it’s one I’ll never forget.
It’s a dream collaboration, quite honestly. Published by the fantastic Double Fine and developed by Foam Sword, made up of ex Media Molecule leads.
Knights and Bikes is about the bonds of friendship, of uniting toward a common goal and caring for one another during the most difficult of times. And feeding geese apparently.
Demelza is a young, fiercely independent girl who has just been through a very personal and traumatic experience with a member of her family. As time goes by, she finds her relationship with the rest of her family diminishing, seeking more alone time.
But when she bumps into Nessa, a young girl who’s seemingly stranded on the same island as her, desperately looking for a place to stay, a connection is formed.
Suddenly you have two young girls seeking adventure, going on hunts for buried treasure, and trying to make the most of a landscape that’s been ravaged by an economic downturn. It is the 1980s after all.
This is a world before mobile phones and the internet. A time where reality TV wasn’t real and money was hard to come by. It’s all about badges and bikes and imagination.
But these two girls have each other and at it’s core that’s where the game really shines, whether you’re playing couch co-op, online with a friend, or even with the AI.
To be honest, there’s nothing particularly challenging here. You’ll find yourself breezing through at a nice steady pace, but the content that is here is smart and well developed to make both characters feel relevant to the ongoing story.
It might be something simple as standing on a switch to open up a gate, or using one ability over another, gaining new equipment through the game. Then there’s the healing mechanic which sees both girls high five each other and bandage the other up if they get hurt.
Knights and Bikes just feels like the easiest game to fall in love with if you were a child of the 80s with its Goonies and Stranger Things vibes. Even if you weren’t, there’s this really beloved art style that will feel familiar to fans of Costume Quest and Tearaway alike.
And it’s the rare thing of an actual adventure/puzzle game that’s co-operative. Normally if you want to co-op with a friend you’re shouting at them to chop up carrots so you can complete a stew, or reviving them if they’ve eaten too many bullets.
Here, you’re casually working through a story together. Connecting through a game just as Nessa and Demelza are. You’ll both want to find out what happens next and maybe even console one another through some of the game’s more emotional moments.
For me, it was the tender moment where Nessa put her arm on Demelza’s shoulder as she recounted the tragic story that had brought her so much pain. I felt the thump of my heart and the twinge in my stomach. It was lovely.
And that’s something so many games really fail to capture. Despite reams of text that go into detail about backstory, likes, dislikes, and everything else in-between, you can still feel a bit of a disconnect. Whereas I was immediately intrigued by Nessa and I felt Demelza’s pain.
Sometimes it really is the simplest games that make you feel something special. Knights and BIkes is that game.
Sure, it’s short and sweet, and isn’t particularly challenging. It’s never necessary for you to co-op and can be completed off your own back, but it’s a game with more heart and soul in one of its six day chapters than many AAA games have in their forty hour campaigns.
Truly, a wonderful surprise!
Knights and Bikes is available now on PC and PS4. Reviewed on PS4.
Review code supplied by the publisher