Sonic and the Black Knight (Wii) Review

By Karn Spydar Lee Bianco 23.03.2009

Review for Sonic and the Black Knight on Wii

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

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

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

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

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


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.






3D Platformer



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   


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