Remember when you were a kid, stretching your arms out to each side and becoming an airplane? Zooming around the backyard making noises that amounted to something like “Neeeerrrooowwww vrrrrooooowww?” Playing make-believe is hard wired into our brains from a very early age. In fact, it’s often the very reason we play video games. We’re playing make-believe in a more, let’s say, sophisticated environment, instead of running around in the street as a 28-year old playing airplane. Knights and Bikes is a game that takes players back the roots of their adolescence.
What are the roots of adolescence without a friend? So of course Knights and Bikes is a co-op adventure, and it’s great to see a game with such prominent couch co-op getting this much attention. The two characters, Nessa and Demelza, are on a quest to save their island, and everything is presented in the style of a kid’s point of view. Junk is collected as valuable treasure, bikes are seen as almost horse-like, and of course there are the gnomes. Oh, the gnomes.
Knights and Bikes is a visually stunning game from a couple of the minds behind LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway, and Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, and that history shows. The hand-painted graphics in motion are more stunning than these screenshots can convey. It’s like my childhood imagination is coming to life on the screen in front of me, but that feeling is helped along by the sound effects, some overt and others subtle. Little things like the horse sounds when you mount your bike and the airplane sounds the kids make when they race each other through one portion of the level put a smile on my face in a way that few other things can.
Each kid has their own unique fighting styles to take on the threats — or perceived threats — on the island, but there’s quite a reward for teaming up and using attacks together, doing things like splashing enemies with mud puddles created by your friend. It’s amazing how Foam Swords can make a co-op game feel both cooperative and competitive at the same time. Knights and Bikes takes place in 1987, so there’s a distinct feel of the childhood adventures of The Goonies and Stranger Things. Moving through a forest on bikes led to to an imposing looking theme park, and eventually to an epic boss battle against an “evil librarian.”
The demo is a very small glimpse into the co-op adventure offered by Knights and Bikes, and it made me want to play more the moment it was over. Knights and Bikes is a brilliantly artistic take on what it’s like to be a kid all over again, and with the popularity of Stranger Things on Netflix, I can see Knights and Bikes really opening up players’ imaginations and making quite a splash, one full of mud, scraped knees and imaginary creatures.
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