I just finished another playthrough of Knights and Bikes, this time on the Switch, and can't resist recommending it. The game takes place on the fictional British island of Penfurzy in 1987 (so amidst the recession of the time that hit the British islands especially hard). It starts out with island residents Demelza and her dad, who owns a miniature golf course on the island, spying a mysterious newcomer named Nessa. The two young girls become fast friends and spend the game searching for a mystic cursed treasure that legend has it is hidden somewhere on the island so that Demelza can save her father from having to sell and move off the island and Nessa can have a home there with them.
You control either Demelza or Nessa and can choose either a single-player mode (where you have the ability to swap out which character you control on the fly while the AI controls the other) or cooperatively with a friend either locally or online. The game is truly meant to be played cooperatively, but thanks to the basic intelligence of the AI, it works well either way. It's an action-adventure game in terms of genre. You explore the island (substantially on bikes, as the title suggests), solve mostly simple puzzles, defeat small hordes of foes, buy upgrades and decor for your bikes, and develop the girls' friendship as the self-proclaimed Penfurzy Rebel Bicycle Club.
Two of the things that makes this game stand out to me is the human believability of its characters and the sincerity with which the developers have captured their struggles and their desperate need of friendship; elements that are very much the heart and soul of the game. It does a fantastic job of putting me in that nostalgic place of remembering what it was like to be a kid in the pre-internet days and what it was like for me, as kind of a loner, to every so often find a friend who wanted to spend time just playing and doing stupid shit with me, making up fictional worlds and stuff. To that end, I also just love this game's cute implements. Like you fight enemies by pelting them with frisbees, water balloons, and plungers, and splashing them with puddle water and clear out cursed areas by playing a mix-tape, heal each other with band-aids and high fives and such. The girls, being young kids, make "motor sounds" verbally when they run around. (Nessa's are a little less obnoxious in the Switch version.) They'll seemingly randomly break into races and other contests with each other for nothing more than pride. You buy bike equipment and decor with empty wrappers and discarded tickets and other worthless trinkets you find around the island and have a simple fighting video game called Castleman. Even the loading screens bring a smile to my face with descriptors like "Jumping in puddles", "Kicking up leaves", "Pedaling uphill", "Editing mixtape", "Digging for treasure," goofy little kid stuff like that. Then there's the lush watercolor visual style that's just a perfect match for the larger tone of the game. The in-game music, where present, is awesome. Also, you get a pet goose and anarchy bike flags.
It's not a perfect game, mind you. You'll notice some frame rate slowdown on occasion, but nothing too severe. If it matters to you, it's not very difficult really (as much is beside the point; it's intended to be playable for young and old alike). Knights and Bikes is more of an interactive experience than a serious challenge. Progression is divided into "days", each of which (save for the first one) takes about an hour or a little more to play through, so a playthrough of the whole game is about six or seven hours, I'd say.
Without spoiling the game's conclusion, I will just say that sometimes the game blurs the imaginary and the real in a way that gets to the heart of the issues it wants to address. Seriously, see this game through to the end. It's worth it.
Here's a trailer. (I love this silly child punk song.)