Connect with us
Advertisement

Features

Knights and Bikes preview

“Our earliest thoughts on it were, ‘Let’s make a Goonies RPG!’” says Rex Crowle, of studio Foam Sword Games.

Published

on

Knights and Bikes

“Our earliest thoughts on it were, ‘Let’s make a Goonies RPG!’” says Rex Crowle, of studio Foam Sword Games.

It’s fair to say that as a jumping off point, that’s a winner. After working at Lionhead Studios on Black & White and Fable, Crowle worked with Media Molecule on LittleBigPlanet, before joining full-time as lead creator of Tearaway. Now he and fellow Media Molecule developer Moo Yu have formed Foam Sword and are bringing Knights and Bikes to the world.

Or rather, they’re bringing you to the world of Knights and Bikes. Set in the 1980s, the game’s two young heroes, Nessa and Demelza, will take to their BMX bikes to explore; they’ll engage in battle with enemies; and they’ll attempt to uncover the mysteries of Penfurzy – replete with medieval legends, chivalric knights, and tourist trap gift shops. If you have been to Cornwall, you’ll see that Penfurzy is a pitch-perfect love letter to creamy hills, rain-drizzled caravan sites, and of course, pasties. But for a game with such a niche setting, it carries with it a broad appeal. Crowle emphasised Richard Donner’s 1985 classic, The Goonies, and said, “It’s important to have a cultural touchstone.”

Advertisement

Knights and Bikes

Even for those that don’t have that way in, I’m not sure that you wouldn’t just fall for the game for its looks. Everything moves. That’s one of the first things you notice as you start to explore. It’s a 2D game that makes use of layering to charming effect.

This is real to them, and that’s the important thing
Moo Yu, Foam Sword Games

Advertisement

Birds chirrup, nested high up in trees that leap at you in the foreground; even standing still, Demelza’s frizzy orange hair has a squiggly life of its own; and every scene is packed with tiny details like garden gnomes that change when they are off-screen – you’ll think you’re going mad as the little guys ditch their hats or pop back up wearing glasses. The art is all hand-drawn by Crowle himself: “we’ve got a really simple art pipeline where essentially you just paint the stuff, put it straight into the game, and there it is.”

The game really comes to life when it’s played in co-op: Nessa is able to lob water balloons onto the floor to create puddles which Demelza can stomp into with her wellies, causing a makeshift area-of-effect attack – useful for defeating flaming foes! Exploration takes place on bike and on foot, turning up all sorts of treasures and trinkets – bottle-caps and junk mostly, but in the minds of the two children: priceless.

Knights and Bikes also speaks to a rich video game lineage. Moo Yu tells me, “We had Goonies as a reference, and then game-wise we went for Earthbound and Secret of Mana.” It’s a potent mix of referential nostalgia that colours the game with a layer of imagination. The notion that what’s happening could all be in the impressionable heads of the two heroes suggests a shade of magic realism.

Yu sees it as a way children deal with a world they aren’t yet equipped to understand. “When you’re in that stage you do rely on a lot of things, and ways of thinking about things. There’s definitely this idea of ‘could it be in their heads?'”

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Yu adds that at the same time, they were keen to dissolve this notion in Knights and Bikes. “This is real to them, and that’s the important thing.”

Aside from questioning what you see, it also adds cute comedy to the game. At one point, Yu and I come across a locked door; Demelza thinks the door is hungry and the way to open it is to feed it crisps; these ‘crisps’ happen to be in a ‘crisp cupboard’ (junction box) and when pried open, it does indeed spring the door’s mechanism – Demelza’s imagination is appeased and then we are on our way.

Sifting through and wearing garments of rose-tint is a dicey game to play. There is a slew of games out there with little more than a garnishing of synth, or a neon colour-palette looking to cash in on the near-mythic ‘80s. The line between homage and rip-off is a fine one, and Knights and Bikes deftly treads it.

Oh, and those titular bikes? You can joust on them.


Find out more about Knights and Bikes.

We have a favour to ask

Thumbsticks has a couple of main aims. We want to write interesting articles and cover games that most outlets won't, and we want to give opportunities to new writers and new voices. And right now, with the current state of online publishing? It's tough! We hate to ask, but if you want us to continue writing what others won't, or to keep covering weird indie games, or to be able to give opportunities to new writers – and only if you can afford it – then please consider supporting us on Patreon.

Recommended for you

Josh is a freelance writer. You’ll find him banging on about the vertices between games and film and music and poetry and books, but don’t let that put you off. He likes games. He likes writing. He also gets the biscuits in.

Advertisement

Latest from Thumbsticks

New Nintendo Switch eShop releases New Nintendo Switch eShop releases
News22 hours ago

New Nintendo Switch releases: January 24-29, 2022

Pokémon Legends Arceus and The Artful Escape are among this week’s new Nintendo Switch eShop releases.

New Xbox One game releases New Xbox One game releases
News2 days ago

New Xbox releases: January 24-29, 2022

Here are the new Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One releases you can look forward to in the coming week.

My Friend Peppa Pig My Friend Peppa Pig
News3 days ago

My Friend Peppa Pig is out now on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S

My Friend Peppa Pig is released today for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Mystery Gift Distribution Codes Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Mystery Gift Distribution Codes
Guides3 days ago

Guide: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Mystery Gifts and distribution events

Here's the complete guide to Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Mystery Gifts and distribution events.

Yakuza - Xbox Free Play Days Yakuza - Xbox Free Play Days
News3 days ago

Play three epic crime games for free on Xbox this weekend

Yakuza 3 Remastered, Yakuza 4 Remastered, and Yakuza 5 Remastered are currently free to play for Xbox Live Gold and...

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
News4 days ago

Following years of crunch, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga gets a release date

Warner Bros. Games confirms the release date for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga amid reports of crunch at developer TT...

Nintendo Switch Online - classic games Nintendo Switch Online - classic games
Guides4 days ago

Nintendo Switch Online: The big list of NES, SNES, N64 and Genesis games

Nintendo Switch Online includes access to a growing library of classic NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis games. Here’s the...

Death's Door - Xbox Game Pass Death's Door - Xbox Game Pass
News5 days ago

One of last year’s very best games is coming to Xbox Game Pass

Death's Door, Rainbow Six Extraction and Windjammers 2 are among this month's second wave of Xbox Game Pass titles.

Advertisement