Knights and Bikes is a game about riding bikes, throwing frisbees and splashing in muddy puddles with your best friend and your companion goose. It is wholesome and bursting with childlike joy, but it is absolutely the kind of game that you can enjoy well into adulthood.
The game centres around Nessa and Demelza, who become friends when Nessa stows away in Demelza’s caravan and go on adventures with their pet goose, Captain Honkers. Both Nessa and Demelza are playable characters and each has their own set of skills that help you explore the island of Penfurzy and its rich history.
Knights and Bikes is designed to be a co-op game, which reinforces the theme of friendship that is woven throughout. If you’re playing alone, you can switch between playing as Nessa and Demelza. This way you get the full experience of the game without having to play through the same story over again just to use a different ability to get through the puzzles.
Penfurzy island is the perfect setting for this game. It is based on Cornwall in the UK, as it was in the 1980s. The detail that goes into creating it is wonderful, with characteristically British rain falling into deep puddles and graffiti on the side of a caravan calling out the Thatcher government. It is tied charmingly into the folklore that feeds the narrative. Penfurzy is colourful and alive, with animals rustling in the undergrowth and all kinds of fun characters scattered around looking out for Demelza and Nessa on their adventures. The two girls wander around the island and learn about the pirates that once lived there and the treasure that might still be buried somewhere nearby.
The story is genuinely lovely. The main narrative is driven by exploring each area of the island. As you go, you don’t just learn about the exciting history of the place, but of what’s happening now. You see how the island has been affected by Thatcher’s austerity, how the caravan park is having to shut down. You see how Demelza’s family and friends are coping with the loss of her mother.
All of this happens in the background, as you see the story through the lens of Demelza’s childhood innocence. It gives Knights and Bikes a beautiful emotional weight, without detracting from the over joyfulness of the game as a whole.
The design style is as evocative of childhood as the rest of the game. It’s all hand-painted scenes in soft pastel colours and vibrant cartoonish energy.
Knights and Bikes is a wonderful game. It is sweet and colourful and transports you effortlessly to the simple pleasures of youth.