I must confess that most games I have a fondness for embrace violence a little more than they should. I am what some would label as a “gorehound,” dancing in the blood splatter like a Disney remake of Carrie. That being said, sometimes I stumble upon a game so full of life, fun and carefree whimsy that it hooks me into a fun ride that actually doesn’t involve embracing the caveman spirit of caving a skull in with a rock while screaming in just a loincloth.
Knights & Bikes is one such title, packed to the brim with joy even at a glance. The concept, writing, aesthetic and the animation style together bring a gleeful child’s perception of the world right to the center of everything. It is a perception that illustrates the world in a whimsical new light, without merely brushing over the darker angles as though they don’t even exist. I managed to get an interview with Rex Crowle, the artist half of the Foam Sword duo, in which we sit on crazy bikes to talk all about Knights & Bikes, which you can watch below.
Knights & Bikes is developed by Rex Crowle (who was the Creative Lead of Tearaway and did art & design for LittleBigPlanet 1 & 2 at Media Molecule) and Moo Yu (who was the Lead Gameplay Programmer on Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction and a Gameplay Programmer on LittleBigPlanet). This is as well as two collaborators: Kenny Young (who previously was the Head of Audio at Media Molecule) and Daniel Pemberton (a composer whose prior works includes scoring films like The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015)).
For good reason, I usually refrain from what may be a dry paragraph. However I wanted to emphasize how many people not only worked on Media Molecule titles (which for better or worse, always felt like condensed joyful innocence) but also in high positions. The reason is Knights & Bikes executes the “condensed joyful innocence” part incredibly well. Where a lesser game would come off as sickeningly saccharine, it instead disarms you. It wraps you in a warm embrace, nudging you, whispering lovingly “c’mon, let’s go on an adventure.”
Perhaps the core way it does this is by embracing this childlike spirit filled with wonder throughout the entire experience. You’ll have to get from A-to-B, sure, but there’s no reason you can’t race to it. Especially on bikes you’ve kitted out yourself. Along with your trusty friend who’ll be with you for your journey. That said, there are also other ways it coaxes you in. This includes some inspiration from Stranger Things and The Goonies to heart as it is set on an 80s English island.
What likely tipped the balance between “eh, looks rather lovely really” into something that grabbed my attention is an aspect I touched on earlier. I personally enjoyed Tearaway for what it was, a pure-hearted adventure, but it never connected to me for that reason. Something so chaste often feels so unreal for me, like a children’s show staring mascot versions of Conservative MPs (“ruh roh! It’s Borry Johnnysons with his mop of salad cream hair!”).
On the other hand, even with the childlike perception of wanting to collect random knick-knacks scattered about like interesting shells, Knights & Bikes is aware that childhood isn’t innocent. That bad things can happen that a child has to deal with. Yet these two sides blend into each other, reinforcing one another, rather than coming off as tone-deaf. A great example of this are the references to Nessa (one of the two main characters) being an orphan trying to find out who she really is, which in turn Demelza turns into part of her adventure around the island. An adventure that also includes biking it around investing a spooky mystery, and vanquishing skellymans.
Oh, and then there’s the bikes at the booth you sat on to play. I tried to snag some shots.
So I am interested in how Knights & Bikes will progress. I really hope it will manage to capture the experience of being a child again, not sheltered from life but witnessing it in your own magical youthful interpretation. Based on what I’ve seen so far and the talent behind it, this looks to offer that by the bucket load. Knights & Bikes comes with its own unique style to it, even trying to capture what it would be like growing up in 80s England outside of the major cities, where trends are always trying to catch up. Upon which is a delicious layer of co-op gameplay (that can be played solo).
There’s no release date quite yet of when Knights & Bikes will be coming onto Steam and PS4. However, if you want to follow Foam Sword so you’re up-to-date on development updates, you can find their website here.