Long summer days with nothing to do but hop on a bike and explore are a distant memory for most of us (not least today’s children, according to depressing headlines about how much time they are permitted to spend roaming outside). Knights and Bikes captures the nostalgia of British childhood holidays in worn-down caravan parks and small-scale adventures in seaside towns. Designed to be played with a friend, with both of you tapping a button to careen around on extremely 80s bikes, it is energetic and charming enough to make you laugh all the way through.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the developers’ connections to Media Molecule, makers of the most unassailably sweet video games around, there is a gooey emotional centre to Knights and Bikes. A genuinely touching story of loss and family hardship bolsters the whimsy of the madcap art, ramshackle seaside architecture, punky soundtrack and endearing writing.
In between hunting down the mysteries of Penfurzy island and bashing creepy objects possessed by a pirate curse, Demelza educates her new friend Nessa on the correct way to consume a scone. (Jam first, then cream, apparently: “If you do it the other way, you have to go in the sea.”)
The two girls have complementary skills – Nessa can chuck water balloons that Demelza can kick to douse flaming scenery, for instance – and Knights and Bikes encourages cooperation and friendly chatter between two players not just through puzzle design, but through friendly bike races and target practice. If you’re playing alone, the AI takes over the other character. It’s sometimes too competent, rushing ahead to solve a puzzle or bash up every enemy on-screen before you’ve had a chance to figure it out yourself, but that’s all the more reason to rope in a friend for this endearing, unusual little adventure.