Sonic and the Black Knight Review
Since the days of Saturn, Sega has been toying with new ways to advance the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Sonic Adventure was the most prominent, creating a must-play launch title for Dreamcast and a high-speed action experience that, nearly 10 years later, is still unrivaled.
Leaping to other consoles and handhelds, Sonic has jumped back and forth between offshoots (pinball, party games and most recently an RPG) to various 3D outings on the current and former generation of consoles. At the same time, Sega kept the classic gameplay of the Genesis days fresh in our minds with the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush Adventure series for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS.
But it wasn’t until Sonic and the Secret Rings arrived that Sonic Team finally struck gold between the old-school love and modern 3D gameplay. Using a mix of simple, easy-to-grasp controls and strategic (and cinematic) camera angles, it didn’t take long for the secret to get out – Sonic and the Secret Rings was the best sequel since Sonic Adventure.
Though Sonic Unleashed took the series in another direction last fall, the Secret Rings gameplay style has not been forgotten. This Wii-exclusive chapter is a mesh of medieval worlds and characters that award the blue hedgehog a new weapon.
Regardless of the dimension, Sonic is a linear, on-rails action game. When Black Knight’s camera is placed behind our favorite blue hedgehog, the linearity remains. His dimensional movements are limited to leaps within the environment, which are typically used to avoid traps and other hazards.
The 2D limitations gave developers the room to create that lovable racing game sensation where players can practically fly through a stage without thinking about world exploration, item collection or any of the other elements that typically surround an action/adventure. You’ll need at least one ring to survive an attack but that’s not really something players have to worry about. Rings are plentiful – Sonic will grab them just by dashing through crates as he makes his way toward the level’s end.
Black Knight excels with these stages, no question. But there’s a surprising change about to take place, and it’s a bit more damaging than any of the hurdles you may have encountered in Sonic and the Secret Rings. When an enemy appears in a level (they pop up out of nowhere), you can choose to jump over him and continue running toward the exit. If you choose to fight or if there are so many that it is not possible to jump over them all, a battle will ensue. This brings the running action to a screeching halt. Rather than jump on the enemies with a spinning attack (as most Sonic games allow), players must now shake the Wii remote to strike with a sword.
If there is one enemy, he’ll go down quickly and you’ll get back to the speedy excitement. But if there are several enemies, the gameplay goes something like this:
Shake the remote. Shake the remote. Shake the remote.
No running occurs in between the shaking. No fast-paced action ensues. All you do is shake the remote repeatedly until every enemy has been eliminated.
This is the beginning of Black Knight’s troubles. The fast-paced roller coaster levels only make up a small portion of the game. Most involve at least a few abrupt stops – many contain obscure objectives that, if not completed before reaching the goal, will force you to replay the level before going forward.
Some of the objectives include: give the townspeople 100 rings, rescue the townspeople, defeat 50 enemies, and finish using Soul Surge in the air. These objectives might appear to be standard, but when the game says “give 100 rings,” it means that you must first collect them and then stop moving to hand them out. For most games, that’d be the end of the story. But in order for the townspeople to accept your rings, you must participate in a silly mini-game that requires you to press buttons and/or the analog stick as their icons appear on screen. Not only is this a lame way to kill time, but it has nothing to do with Sonic the Hedgehog.
The other objectives involve their own share of speed-stopping distractions, such as the shake-it-like-a-crazy-man “defeat 50 enemies” requirement. Black Knight is not forthcoming with objective information – the description is all you get. So if you don’t understand what the game is trying to say, it could be a while before you figure out the solution. There were times when I passed a level and wasn’t even sure what I had just done to accomplish the listed objective.
Other, less positive moments led me to repeat a stage several times. Soul Surge, a move used to unleash energy and defeat enemies in one strike (hold B and shake the remote), is easy to perform. But when the game says, “Finish using Soul Surge on the ground,” it became a frustrating moment of trial and error.
What does the game mean by the word “finish”? I performed the move several times while on the ground – including once just before the goal – and the objective still was not met. The stage ended after five tries but I couldn’t tell you what I did to make that happen.
Review Scoring Details for Sonic and the Black Knight
The exciting moments are few and far between. Sonic and the Black Knight is primarily made up of repetitive Wii remote shaking and obscure objectives that do nothing for the series or for fans expecting Sonic-caliber thrills.
Once again, Sonic looks good on the Wii. The graphics are not at all extraordinary (the 10-year-old Sonic Adventure looks much better) but offer enough eye candy to keep players happy.
A couple decent sounds, a few decent songs, and a lot of repetition.
Caters to those with a weaker skill set.
If Sonic is going to be linear, the gameplay must be consistent.
A group of sluggish battle modes for up to four players.
Fans of Sonic and the Secret Rings may want to rent Black Knight to experience the speedy, roller coaster-inspired stages. But most players will be disappointed, frustrated and frequently annoyed by stage interruptions and other gameplay elements that should not exist.
GameZone Review Detail
Sonic looks good on the Wii but the gameplay is lacking
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 03/16/2009