Wii Review: Sonic and the Black Knight

Oh Sonic, what have they done to you now?

Sonic returns to the Nintendo Wii to take a wild ride through the storybook world of Camelot in his all-new adventure Sonic and the Black Knight. Designed exclusively for the Wii, Sonic and the Black Knight brings a new twist to Sonic gameplay by combining Sonic’s legendary speed with frenetic swordplay action that makes full use of the unique Wii control system.

After reading a storybook of the Knights of the Round Table, Sonic finds himself alone in a strange and enchanted world that he soon learns is threatened by a sinister and growing force. He is befriended by the grand-daughter of the legendary wizard Merlin, who asks him to harness the power of the magic sword Caliburn to fight the underworld knights and unravel the mystery of the new villain who has suddenly appeared to seize Camelot.
Sonic Unleashed was a mixed bag, it had the great moments of the day stages where you played as Sonic, and then they ruined it all with that Werehog gimmick. At the time I reviewed it, I wondered if we would ever see a Sonic game that didn’t require a gimmick, why they couldn’t just give us a standard Sonic game. Capcom knew that Street Fighter IV wouldn’t work in 3D, so they made it in 2.5D and boy did it work. If only Sega took a leaf out of their book, then maybe Sonic might have a chance…which brings us to the inevitable downfall of Sonic and the Black Knight…

First of all, the story is complete nonsense and doesn’t really fit in with anything seen in a Sonic game before. Why they chose for Sonic to come to the era of King Arthur and fight him and his minions is just beyond me. Luckily it’s not that important to pay attention to, it’s just a shame that it’s so ridiculous…it even has a talking sword, seriously…what the hell?

If you have seen the game in motion, you’ll probably think it looks quite fun. I would agree that it does have its good moments, but they are so few and far between that fans (me included) will be annoyed. Essentially all you do is push forward on the analog stick, press A to jump, Z to block and waggle the Wiimote to swing the sword. That’s all the depth of the gameplay summed up, it’s incredibly shallow and waggling the Wiimote to swing the sword isn’t as satisfying as it should be, it lacks accuracy and hit detection is horrible. For example, during the first boss fight I ran upto a dragon (only to be blocked by an invisible wall) and had to line myself up for the swing attack, I tried swinging the Wiimote sideways, but Sonic just kept swinging his sword forward.
There are other boss battles through the game, but they are a joke. They offer no challenge at all; I didn’t even die once when trying to beat them. Only times I failed levels was when they were objectives like using a specific move on enemies and thanks to the poor hit detection, it took several attempts to get right. When Sonic is running fast, you don’t really have that much control over him other than the control methods I already mentioned, so it seems that Sonic is almost playing as if he’s in an “on-the-rails” type of game. Then again, if Sonic Team gave us full control of him at these moments, we would be spinning off the stages thanks to its rather bad design.

What I’m getting at is that when you are just running and jumping, the game is acceptable. It’s when you start swinging that damn sword where it all falls apart, Sonic slows down as does the flow of the game, it just doesn’t seem like it should even be a Sonic game. It’s just another example of how Sonic + Gimmick = Epic Fail. Why couldn’t they just make a standard game without these annoying things? It all seemed to start with Sonic Heroes where you had 3 characters at your side, then giving Shadow a machine gun, then giving Sonic and friends…hoverboards. Then the Werehog and now the swords! You’d have thought that Sonic Team might have learned their lesson by now, but it seems that they just can’t. It’s a shame, I was brought up with Sonic games and this is just another blow to my childhood hero.
The main mode is actually quite short, but there options to trade items with friends over Nintendo WFC. As well as the option for Battle Mode with modes such as Battle, Survival Battle, Ring Battle, Goblet Battle, Evasion Battle, Trap Battle, Battle Phantoms, Sudden Death, Battle Giants and Battle 100. It’s perhaps the best part of the game, even if it does feel entirely tacked on. Ironic really.

Visually, Sonic and the Black Knight is a good looking game. It has a great opening cutscene and then some good anime-style cutscenes between levels. Between those are the usual annoying voice-acting that we’ve come to expect from a Sonic game, but the music is actually quite catchy this time around…which makes a surprising change.

The Verdict

Sonic and the Black Knight is an incredibly short and shallow game that will infuriate fans hoping for the good old days of Sonic on the Mega Drive/Genesis. Can we ever get a Sonic game without a needless gimmick? Let’s hope that Sonic Team finally learns from its mistakes, so I won’t have to repeat them all in the next Sonic review.