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Sonic and the Black Knight (Wii) Review

Review for Sonic and the Black Knight on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Sonic and the Black Knight follows Sonic and the Secret Rings as the second instalment in the 'Sonic Storybook' series for the Wii. While SatSR featured an Arabian Nights theme, Black Knight takes its inspiration from Arthurian legend, with well known characters from the Sonic universe filling in for the knights of the round table, the lady of the lake, and so on. The game's backdrop isn't it's most significant new feature, however...

Just like its predecessor, the Black Knight is on-rails - allowing players to dodge from side to side, jump, and brake/speed up, but not move freely. Support for the Nunchuk is a welcome alternative to the somewhat flaky motion-based controls featured in SatSR, but it's not perfect. Despite the analogue stick's increased accuracy, making subtle strafing movements is nigh on impossible - especially in the air - and it's rare to ever feel particularly in control. Despite tarnishing what should otherwise be the game's most exhilarating moments, these flaws could have been overlooked if it weren't for an even larger issue.

As you may have noticed, Sonic wields a blade in the Black Knight. Not just any blade either, but rather Caliburn, aka Excalibur (although the two aren't the same in the game). In addition to mentoring Sonic in the ways of becoming a knight (it's a talking sword), Caliburn serves as the game's most significant gameplay change. In addition to racing around at great speeds, players are now required to fend off hordes of foes by wildly flailing the Wii Remote to initiate sword strikes. Despite fans constant clattering for a 'back to basics' Sonic experience, this waggling constitutes a major part of the Black Knight.

Screenshot for Sonic and the Black Knight on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Unfortunately, the sword mechanic is inherently flawed. Not only is there a noticeable delay between performing the required gestures - some of which are ignored entirely - and seeing the on-screen result, it disrupts the flow of the game. While it is occasionally possible to glide through a swarm of opponents without losing too much momentum, the majority of encounters will result in bringing Sonic to an abrupt halt while you're forced to mindlessly waggle away. The game makes no effort to map gestures to specific actions, ensuring that combat constitutes little more than an awkward alternative to button-mashing.

To make matters worse, enemies are only spawned out of thin air when, and only when, Sonic is within a very close proximity. The required mix of quick reflexes (to stay alive) and patience (to see the battle through) is rarely a happy combination. Eventually the constant stopping and starting can become so frustrating that you might be tempted to simply avoid confrontations altogether, but doing so is no easy task! For instance, Sonic's homing dash attack no longer does any actual damage, which prevents you from making a clean getaway should you accidentally find yourself locked onto an opponent.

Screenshot for Sonic and the Black Knight on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

It's not just enemies that are poorly placed, though; level design is rather poor on the whole. While there are moments of on-rails excitement, moments of frustration - due to falling stalactites, or bottomless pits that appear as if from nowhere - are far more common. It's often hard to tell where the path you're following really is. Sharp corners often divert Sonic onto a perpendicular trajectory with no forewarning. Not only does this look bizarre, it serves as a reminder that the primary reason you can't simply run forwards endlessly to complete a level is a series of unfair obstacles that can only be elegantly conquered by memorizing their positions for future playthroughs.

Herein lies the issue of replay value. The core Black Knight story can be seen to completion within a matter of a few hours, but doing so unlocks additional playable characters and a slew of new missions. The catch is thus: most of these new missions take place in slightly altered versions of previous levels. While this feels like a bit of a copout, it won't be unfamiliar to SatSR players. What is less forgivable is the array of missions objectives. These range from uninspiring but playable 'Defeat X enemies' or 'Collect X rings' through to 'Find X Hidden Fairies' and Mastery Stages that place limits on sword swings.

Screenshot for Sonic and the Black Knight on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

What's so bad about the latter two, you ask? Well, the former relies on careful exploration of stages which really isn't suited to an on-rails experience. Backtracking is impossible on some levels, and just plain irksome on most others. Said levels tend to compensate by offering an excess of collectibles, but that doesn't make things much more enjoyable. The latter might sound swell on paper - less mundane combat! - but in reality it boils down to a series of unavoidable obstacles that can only be overcome by using your limited sword swings to defeat specific foes. How do you know which enemies to defeat? Trial and error, of course!

To bolster these optional side-quests, the Black Knight features a series of RPG-esque extras that encourage replay. Combat styles can be upgraded, and items - used to create new weapons or imbue characters with new traits - can be collected during missions. Creating weapons is an unrewarding process, however, due to the fact that the advantages of each new creation is never made plain. The larger issue with these upgrades, however, is that they require excessive grinding to max out completely, but they don't provide enough of an incentive to return to a level that was unpleasant the first time round.

Screenshot for Sonic and the Black Knight on Wii- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The analogue stick is a step up from SatSR's motion controls, but it's still awkwardly flippant. Combat, however, is the game's biggest falling - it simply isn't satisfying in the slightest.

Graphics

The few animated cut scenes are beautiful, the storybook styled segments are charming, and the in-game graphics are excellent as well. Some of the environments are quite uninspired, but look good nonetheless.

Sound

A selection of re-worked Sonic Adventure tunes join a variety of all-new tracks to create a very satisfying soundtrack. You can even listen to your favorites in the 'Gallery Mode' once you've unlocked them.

Value

The main story will only last for a few hours, but there's plenty of unlockable content and extras - including concept art and developer diaries - as well as an RPG-lite progression system. The problem is none of this provides much incentive to revisit poorly designed levels.

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Average

About this score

Sonic and the Black Knight is an extremely disappointing game. On the one hand it looks and sounds fantastic, features plenty of nods to previous Sonic games, and is even fun on occasion. On the other hand, however, it's hindered by flaky controls, level design that is excruciatingly irritating at worst and insipid at best, and a sword mechanic that simply doesn't meld well with the rest of the action. Sonic's fans will, unsurprisingly, eek the most enjoyment out of the whole experience, but we suspect that even they will come away unsatisfied.

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23.03.2009

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Developer

SEGA

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (24 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Yeah I thought the sword combat would be faster but it looks horrible and slow, graphics and music are good but I really doubt I'll be buying it now.

Nintendo Network ID: LKR000               PSN: LKR000     
3DS: 1246-8696-120                              GT: LKR101
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

As I\'ve said in the past, the sword fighting is also my biggest complaint by far (and it\'s a big part in the game...) It could have been much better without it (played the Legacy stages? Now there\'s an idea...)

I\'ll agree about poor stage design too. While the 2nd half of the game is much better stage wise, the stages just aren\'t as good as Secret Rings\'.

The other optional playable characters are an excellent addition (do this in future games too!) and will add some replay value (for me atleast..) but saying that I don\'t feel the want to go back to SatBK until I\'ve gotten bored of Persona 4... Smilie

Good review anyway, this without sword could have taken it up a point for me. Maybe Sonic and the 3rd StoryBook will be the improvement people were hoping for.

( Edited 23.03.2009 20:48 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I won't say I'm C3's biggest Sonic nut (because SuperLink would castrate me telepathically - yuck, mental image), but I'm surely up there, so this was a very disappointing experience for me especially.

Cheers, though, SL. Of course, the best part about playing as other characters is avoiding battles by gliding over them with Knuckles. Smilie Oh well, third time's the charm, eh?


Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >

Real shame.
I really liked Secret Rings, and thought just fixing the flaws in that would make a great game.
But it seems like this is a set back Smilie

Pitty, Rings had some superb level designs.

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Spydarlee said:
I won't say I'm C3's biggest Sonic nut (because SuperLink would castrate me telepathically - yuck, mental image), but I'm surely up there, so this was a very disappointing experience for me especially.

Cheers, though, SL. Of course, the best part about playing as other characters is avoiding battles by gliding over them with Knuckles. Smilie Oh well, third time's the charm, eh?


I certainly wasn't overwhelmed like I was in some ways with Secret Rings, but I think it's safe to say they solved Secret Rings' biggest flaws while adding new ones in their places (sword and bad level design). Optional characters are a must for both Book and mainseries games from here on out. Playing as Knuckles in speed gameplay for the first time in a long time was great, since he was pretty much raped by the Adventure games, Heroes and '06.

Darkflame said:
Real shame.
I really liked Secret Rings, and thought just fixing the flaws in that would make a great game.
But it seems like this is a set back Smilie

Pitty, Rings had some superb level designs.


It is a shame, perhaps not a wasted effort, but they could have spent much more time on it. Visually it's great, so there is a mark of effort there. If you "really liked" Secret Rings then this one may be worth a rental. I've heard it described as the marmite of Sonic games since the community is so split on it (maybe that's just an excuse, who knows Smilie)

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

Maybe Sonic Team is making a ton of crappy Sonic games so when they actually make a good one it'll seem awesome?

Anyway nice review, the controls seem to be the common complaint... I'll probably pick it up eventually though.


.:Zelda Adventures:.
u guys are DNA.
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Biggest letdown so far in 2009 IMO. I won't buy it, i was expecting great gameplay.

How in the world can a platformer force you to backflip in order to come back from where you came ? That buuuuuullshit !

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

It is a really good game but I don't think thst it is as good as Sonic and the secret rings. The sword play does let it down but the story makes up for it.



SuperYoshi6 PSN name
3DS friend code 2878-9581-8999
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Owch, good review but shame on the score! Was hoping this would perform better than SatSR but it's looking like its averaging out worse purely because of the bloody sword.

SEGA. SEGA. SEGA! Smilie

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I'm seriously beginning to doubt you've actually played the game. I just played an hour or so ago and I've found that most of the observations the reviewer made are wrong. Maybe we have different views on these things, but I personally find it a very fun game and HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE GOING NUTS ABOUT!!! It's not a bad game, sure 06 was, and there are kinks to be worked out, but it's not bad. Neither was Secret Rings. And it's not a bad sonic.

Please play the game with an open mind before bashing it.

Sonic boldly goes where no one has gone before.

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