Knights and Bikes Review – A Fine Family Friendly Co-op Romp – Indie Insights

The transcript for the video review of Knights and Bikes for the PS4 can be found below:

Hey welcome to get indie gaming to a new episode of my before you buy series where I present some unfiltered game play and my impressions of some of the most anticipated indie game releases.  We’re headed into the late summer fall period which traditionally sees a spike in the number of games getting released and this year is no exception. The first of these to feature on get indie gaming in this busy period is Knights and Bikes which is out today August 27thon PC and Playstation 4.

This is the debut offering from developer Foam Sword consisting of Rex Crowle and Moo Yu both former Media Molecule staff with a wealth of experience on such hits as Little Big Planet.

Having spent much of my youth living on Guernsey in the channel islands, I quite honestly cant look at the game’s quaintly British Cornish Island setting of Penfurzy without self-referencing the look and feel and experiences of my childhood.  Just like the two girls featured here, me my sister and our friends spent much of the weekend and school holidays dreaming up and acting out our own adventures.

With the island of Guernsey being littered with left over buildings and structures from the second world war and Napoleonic era,we certainly had enough of a historical references to let our imaginations run amock fighting off pirates and other assorted bad guys and ruffians over the years.  All of these battles and escapades were also fully aided by the bikes we had has children and the relative freedom living on a small and reasonably safe little island in the middle of the English Channel offered.

In Knights and Bikes we have two protagonists. Damelza lives on the island with her father and then we have Nessa who at the beginning of the game comes all alone to the island on the last ferry of the season.  Damelza has lost her mother and her father is heavily in debt and facing eviction. Having meet the girls become instant friends and set upon their own quest and adventure to discover the hidden treasure that legend says is to be found somewhere on the island.

What happens over the next six in game days sees you control one of the characters in either couch or online co-op mode with their also being a single player option where you can switch between the two with an AI taking care of the business of the other player.

I found the game at its best when playing in co-op mode with a friend or family next to me on the sofa where we could easily discuss our plans in going about completing the various tasks to which you’re assigned.  The single player option is fine enough with the AI to my eye sometimes being a little too clever and keen to help solve a number of in game puzzles.

More than a few times my AI partner had gone ahead and solved a puzzle or toggled some action to move the game forward without me having been aware there was a puzzle to solve.  All in the AI is one of the better systems I’ve seen of late in terms of how it interacts with you although once in a while my AI partner would become stuck on say a rock or other part of the environment although it’s easy enough to swap into the marooned lady and manually fix the issue.   This really is no biggie and isn’t a game breaker so for now, it’s just one of those things.

The AI also copes well within he combat aspects of the game which in fairness is never unduly hard and having played this with others from ages 7 to someone in their 70’s, I can confidently say the combat elements where you go up against things such as cursed golf balls, living swords and amusement park mascots and more besides can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

It’s not without its faults. Some of the exploration side of the game and traveling from point a to point b can feel a little bit prolonged – busy work even to the point where most of the levels are 10 – 15 minutes too long.

The upgrade system to the girl’s bikes is also under developed with you spending a kind of currency you pick up from defeating enemies and turning over rocks or opening chests. However there’s no explanation from the game if and when you have enough pseudo cash for a given upgrade which feels odd and misplaced.

Also at times my PS4 on which I played the game did stutter on occasions with frame rate issues particularly during boss segments which takes a little away from the clear artistic shine that’s at the heart of Knights and Bikes.  One other huge annoyance which had me looking in the settings to turn down the sound effects is the whine cum moan cum I need ear plugs noise emmited when the girls go into their running mode. I found this instantly jarring and dear goodness I wish I could turn it off.

As I mentioned just a moment ago, the artwork here is simply and utterly beautiful. It’s all hand drawn and reminds me of a child’s pop up story book all created with waxy Crayola type crayons.  The two protagonists and everyone you meet in the game from a bloke with a bread, the librarian and an old lady staring into the sea are beautifully put together. Demelza is furnished with some of the most striking facial expressions I’ve ever seen which I quite enjoyed although others around me thought them to be at times a touch unnecessary.

The sound track is also finely done with perhaps the opening song featuring music you might hear from a child’s punk band is likely to grate with many although once that early section is over, aurally things improve to my ears and remain top notch throughout.

As for the story and overall character development, the writers have pulled together something I assume resonates from their own past. Penfurzy could be like one of the sea side towns featured in the smiths every day is like Sunday where communities and sections of the British Islands were hit by the recession and downturn in the late 80’s.

The recent death of Demelza’s mother is also touchingly referenced and subtly  woven into the tale without it being too in your face or dominant in the narrative. As for the girls each have their own high and low points within their character traits. Nessa can at times be just a little bit too cool for school and Demelza with her general zaniness does skirt the into the section of the Venn diagram marked annoying but really neither two cross the line into being fully dislikeable.

Knights and Bikes for the most part succeeds in being a fun and family friendly game with a fine overall story with a cracking art style and musical score. It does have it’s short comings which I’m able to forgive and look over although others may not be as so charitable.   As I alluded to at the start of my impressions, the game wins a place in my heart for making me think and reminisce on my own childhood and the at times stupidly dangerous  adventures I had growing up on Guernsey. Looking back they were happy times and I’m gald developers Foam Sword were able to take me back into that overall mind set.

Note:

Knights and Bikes was played in a PS4 full retail pre launch copy given to Get Indie Gaming for review purposes.  For an overview of our review editorial stance, please take a look here. 

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