A Kick for Kickstarters: Knights and Bikes

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Do you know when you can tell it’s Kickstarter season? When so many launch in a nigh-concurrent fashion that it’s difficult to keep up with them. While developers have launched their crowdfunding campaigns now because we’ve cleared the big holiday season, that’s also possibly due to feeling inspired by the sheer amount of revenue campaigns collectively made through the service last year. Regardless of whether most of that was accrued through high profile Kickstarters, that high number alone is enough to convince onlookers that crowdfunding remains a formidable force for gaming. Developers are taking this opportunity to see if their publisher-unfriendly idea can also be given life by potential fans.

Take Knights and Bikes, for instance, a campaign for an action/adventure/RPG title by startup Foam Sword Games. Though many instinctively search for details upon visiting a Kickstarter page for a new title, it’s possible the first thing you’ll initially ponder is why its art style bears such a striking resemblance to Sony’s and Media Molecule’s Tearaway. It’s no blatant rip-off, as several of its creative heads work for the aforementioned developer. That includes Rex Crowle, who served as lead creator and designer for Tearaway and its enhanced Unfolded version, along with LittleBigPlanet.

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The keyword in the last paragraph’s penultimate sentence is “work,” not “worked,” since they’re actually raising money while remaining employed at the Sony-owned developer. Media Molecule is busy with Dreams for PS4, so they won’t have the resources to provide development assistance. Don’t be surprised if the staff involved with this project depart from there if it’s funded.

Knights and Bikes has both single-player and multiplayer options, and its world’s themes take inspiration from games like Earthbound and Secret of Mana, and movies like The Goonies. The player will vicariously relive their childhood through protagonists Nessa and Demelza, girls who desire to discover the legends behind the island of Penfurzy sometime in the 1980s. They’d like to do it fast, since rough times are ahead for the island financially and structurally, for reasons currently unknown. Both human characters will be able to recruit other islanders, along with mysterious creatures during their quest. From here, you can see which elements the developers were inspired by in those aforementioned titles, though Crowle’s childhood was also a source for its themes.

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Earthbound/Mother-inspired games have shown up in sizable numbers on Kickstarter in the last year, though they didn’t rival the number of Metroidvanias, roguelikes, and Souls-inspired games (or a combination of the two) which graced the service. But expect to see more in light of Undertale’s overwhelming success, which has sold nearly 1.2 million copies on Steam alone — and those numbers don’t include sales from the DRM-free version sold on Toby’s website. (That also means it’s vastly outsold any Earthbound game, incidentally.) That should be OK if the experiences proposed by each developer are distinct from each other. Earthbound-inspired titles tend to take partial inspiration from their creators’ past experiences, and we’ve all had unique upbringings. Knights and Bikes fits that mold.

It’s evident the team is proud of their work with its beautiful art style, given how examples are dispersed throughout the pitch video and page in still and animated GIF forms. Despite that, it’s made enough money to qualify as a good lower mid-tier campaign, though it feels like it should be making so much more with how much content they’ve prepared. Chances are that’s due to their art style being obscure compared to many others, as proven by Tearaway not taking off in big numbers on Vita or PS4. Pledges have brought the campaign to a little under $100,000 as of this writing, not far enough from its $142,577 initial goal (converted from its British Pound total, since they’re in London) to be concerning, especially with 15 days remaining.

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With Knights and Bikes’ aesthetics, it would have been awkward if it wasn’t coming to a PlayStation platform, given its previously-mentioned visual similarities to Tearaway. Not to fear. Despite being announced only for PC, Mac, and Linux initially, a PS4 version was confirmed with a PlayStation Blog post. This is also a good way for it to receive some advertising through Sony’s social media channels, which will be beneficial for the rush in funding that will inevitably arrive in the campaign’s last few days.

Provided everything goes according to plan, Foam Sword Games plans to deliver the title in April 2017. Considering I can’t remember the last time a crowdfunded title made its planned release timeframe, don’t be surprised if that slips. The team appears competent, so they should keep backers aware of everything happening behind the scenes during its development.

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