We knew we were in for a good time with Knights and Bikes when its stand at EGX Rezzed 2017 featured bicycles to sit on instead of the usual plastic stools. If the developer's aim was to put a smile on people's faces before they even began the demo, it 100 per cent succeeded. This kind of creative approach should come as no surprise, however, as the two-man team building the game worked on titles such as LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway, and Ratchet & Clank.
The theme of childish glee runs from the stand itself right through the demo. Knights and Bikes is a wondrous, playful adventure starring Nessa and Demelza as they make their way across the fictional Cornish island of Penfurzy astride their trusty bikes. We hopped into co-op with Rex Crowle of Foam Sword to get a feel for the Goonies-inspired debut game.
Immediately noticeable is its distinctive art style. The island setting is alive with colour and warmth, with the layered 2D assets creating a 3D effect that works brilliantly. Its controls are just as accomplished. The bike handles smoothly, and it's a lot of fun simply riding around. On-foot works well, too, with most commands just a single button press away. Attacks are on circle and triangle, with square a dodge roll and X a jump. As a consequence, combat is fast and straightforward – although there are plenty of possibilities to mix things up on the fly. As Nessa, we were able to throw water balloons at our foes, including a larger version that left a giant puddle on the ground. A player controlling Demelza can then jump in the puddle to cause an area-of-effect splash attack.
Just as quickly as you can co-operate for some cool attacks, Nessa and Demelza – as children often do – can turn their attention to one-upmanship instead. This was shown by their spontaneous decision to race to the nearby souvenir shop. Everything in Knights and Bikes speaks to this core idea of childlike whimsy and sense of adventure. Another example is the loot, here represented by throwaway items that you used to collect as kids – things like badges, pinecones, and bread-clips.
The demo may have been brief, but we couldn't help but fall in love with Knights and Bikes. It's often said of cutesy games that they're full of charm, but this title actually is; the hand-drawn art style is just lovely, Nessa and Demelza are great characters, and the two-kids-on-an-epic-adventure vibe will hook in players of all ages. It's a shame that Foam Sword couldn't quite get the game out for its initial release target – this month – but this demo has shown that the team's on the right track. The delay has afforded it the time to implement whole new systems, as its Kickstarter updates will testify, meaning a better experience in the end.
Once the game does launch, however, we'd strongly suggest sitting on a traditional, non-bike-shaped chair.
Are you coming along for the ride with Knights and Bikes? Get in touch with your inner child in the comments section below.