Indie action-adventures: “Knights and Bikes” (PC)

Foam Sword‘s and Double Fine‘s action-adventure Knights and Bikes isn’t only a nostalgic look back at the 80ies, but it embraces true adventuring spirit and imagination.

Knights and Bikes (PC)
(Canada 2019, developer: Foam Sword, publisher: Double Fine, platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

Young girls Nessa and Demelza explore the coasts of British island Penfurzy on their bikes to find a legendary treasure and lift a curse that takes hold of its inhabitants.

Back to the 80ies
The 80ies inspirations are clear to see, e.g. watching a cartoon show that looks similar to Masters of the Universe or playing a one-on-one fighting game on an NES-like console (and the obvious abbreviation Nes of Nessa’s name).

However, unlike the rather big group of kids in The Goonies hunting for a pirate treasure and being chased by criminals, here it’s two girls whose friendship is at the center of the experience, despite a curse that slowly takes over the island. They’re later joined by a goose and even the head of a pickled knight’s head, which aren’t the only fantastical elements.

Growing up
Fantasy elements aside, it’s a coming-of-age story about two girls who couldn’t be any more different: Nessa acts more grown-up, but doesn’t shy away from making some not so legal decisions, while Demelza’s imagination runs wil, with her sense of adventure becoming infectious.

However, it’s not all easy-going, as Demelza often tries to push away sad memories of her dead mother. A melancholy and tragic tone is always present, reflected in the way the characters are portrayed. Still, with all the pain, both girls learn what it means to grow up, become stronger and braver, be accepted by society and adults (or reject them) and let go of the past or comfortable material things.

DIY adventuring
Despite the occasional drama scene, the focus is still on having an adventure together and creating it along the way. This means that even mundane tasks like feeding geese is turned into a make-believe quest, with one goose also joining the party. The more one progresses, the more Demelza invents weirder situations.

The line between what is real and what is made up becomes blurred, and it’s telling that Demelza’s stubborness to see eviction notices destroying the story she tries to tell for both of them. One soon wonders what is happening and what is imagined, which makes for some interesting interpretations of the story.

Scary imaginary
Despite clearly being aimed at a younger audience or parents playing the game with their kids, there are quite a few scary elements, e.g. an abandoned theme park in which an army of gnomes in a dark room are shown or the two kids suddenly being locked inside a refrigerator. As the setting can change in a heartbeat due to Demelza’s wild imagination, inanimate objects like a bulldozer can become dragons or other monstrosities.

It’s rarely disturbing (except for people’s transformations due to the curse), but there are more than enough creepy scenes that are especially unsettling with the camera closing in, the use of creepy sounds or foreboding silence and ghostly shapes or fog in some locations.

An island full of adventure and strange people
The quest for treasure hunting might be what holds each chapter or new day together, but it’s the island Penfurzy and its inhabitants one is looking forward to explore and to meet. People are very eccentric, but all of them feel like real persons, e.g. a punk rock store owner who likes nothing better than listening to a specific album all day long with loud speakers or a librarian who promotes reading whenever she can but who is also quite strict about returning books on time.

It takes a while before the complete history of the island and the treasure is revealed, with some parts being re-enacted in a playful way, but it makes the treasure hunting even more meaningful.

Adventuring together
The game is a true co-op experience that fits the general theme of experiencing an adventure with a good friend. If one can’t or doesn’t want to use the local or online mode, the computer AI generally does a good job, too. Switching between characters is necessary in some battles and puzzles, but it’s clear that it was made with the co-op mode in mind: One can play a one-on-one beat-em-up console game, do various races or collect items within a limited time. These challenges don’t give the winner anything except some satisfaction to have beaten someone else.

Almost an open world
One feels as being part of an open-world, but except for looking for collectibles (that don’t offer any important rewards), the game is rather linear, making the player go from one objective to the next. As this involves some time-consuming backtracking at some points and there’s only one automatic savegame, it can often result in a tedious experience, either on foot or using bikes.

Lots of bicycling
The bicycle theme might be appropriate for the setting and it’s certainly a unique way of exploring the island, but the mechanics often get in the way. For one, pedalling from one location to another is tedious, especially with each girl suffering from asthma slowing down more. Even when using a boost, it becomes too tiresome, which becomes most noticeable in the last part of the game that has seemingly endless mountain trails to follow and not much happening in between. Constantly going on foot and finding ways to get back on the bikes doesn’t help much, either.

The bikes can be upgraded, but most of these are of a cosmetic nature, with various bits and pieces that can be bought. However, the currency in the form of fake gems und useless stuff one picks up after destroying objects or enemies isn’t counted, so one never really knows how much one carries around. One never works for a particular upgrade or item, making it a pretty useless addition. Only the tires that allow racing through deep mud are necessary, but these don’t require any grinding or looking for money.

Special abilities and puzzles
The further one progresses, the more special abilities each character acquires, e.g. extinguishing fire with water balloons, destroying objects with a music box or using a toilet plunger for explosive mines and pulling down doors.

With more tools, the more cerebral and hard work the puzzles become. While these are mostly inventive, ideas run out in the latter part of the game and almost become tedious with too many levers to pull and performing the same actions. Unfortunately clues are rare and one often runs around without knowing what to do or where to go, which is especially annoying without a fast-travel function.

No need for fighting
The fighting sequences are the weakest part of the game, as evading burning or flying objects and hitting enemies just ends up being hectic and tiresome without much strategy involved. In some cases, the companion’s AI also fails, and because one has to use sticking plasters to heal each other (while high-fiving), seeing the computer friend give up the ghost in the most stupid ways and running to her for reviving adds to frustration.

While one can choose between different fighting styles with more abilities, the constant enemy encounters aren’t much fun, even if the enemy designs are unique, e.g. a bulldozer, golf balls, or even targets coming alive and running away.

Despite being imaginative, boss fights are often aggravating. They are usually light puzzles themselves requiring the use of all abilities, e.g. allowing cables to run currents by pushing switches, creating puddles of water, electrifying these and at the same time fighting enemies and dashing away from other dangers, resulting in extreme chaos.

Comic children’s book look and punk sounds
The comic or children’s book drawings are charming and unique, with some great character artwork that is complemented by facial expressions which constantly change depending on the situation, so one can see happiness, sadness, anger, and all kinds of other emotions in each character’s face. The environments are also well-drawn, although some camera position problems make it easy to lose sight of the characters or some items and entrances or exits.

The soundtrack is great and covers all kinds of genres, like psychedelic rock, punk rock, new wave, or more moody pieces that feature especially great drum parts. While voice acting can only be found in a few scenes, e.g. a talking automaton, it’s not much of a concern. Only the constant nonsense babbling when the two girls pretend to be riding their bikes while running can get rather annoying after a while. Except for this, the ambient sounds are especially atmospheric, e.g. seaside sounds like waves clashing, thunder rolling, or sea gulls crying.

An adventure of friendship
Knights and Bikes tells a wonderful story about friendship, the power and dangers of imagination, childhood, adulthood, and so many other important parts of life. Presenting two main characters that are easy to relate to and more memorable NPCs, the island of Penfurzy is difficult not to fall in love with.

However, the gameplay often stands in the way to fully enjoy the treasure hunting experience, with too many repetitive and chaotic fights, same-y puzzles, and a surprisingly slow biking experience. It’s a shame, because the presentation is unique with its cartoon-like art style, great music and sound design. With so many interesting ideas, one wonders if it wouldn’t have worked much better as a classic point-and-click adventure game or TV show (as there are already two books released so far).

Score: 7.5/10

Buy the game for PC on

Buy the game for PS4 on
the PSN store

Buy the game for Xbox One on
the Xbox store

Buy the game for Nintendo Switch on
the Nintendo eShop

Official website

If you liked reading this article, make sure to LIKE it or comment on it on EMR’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps ;).

About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
This entry was posted in Game reviews, Gaming. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Indie action-adventures: “Knights and Bikes” (PC)

  1. Pingback: Overview of (blog) life in May 2021 | Emotional Multimedia Ride

  2. Pingback: Halloween 2021 Movie Special, Day 6: “Daniel Isn’t Real” | Emotional Multimedia Ride

  3. Pingback: GOG release: “Return to Monkey Island” | Emotional Multimedia Ride

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.