Sonic and the Black Knight Review

Sonic and the Black Knight front

Short but speedy action platform game with the beloved Sonic the Hedgehog.

Story

In this story book adventure King Arthur has been possessed by an ancient and powerful curse, originating from a mysterious source. The curse makes him evil and grants him immortality. Thus the entire kingdom lives under a tyrant, the former King Arthur now known as the Black Knight.

The young sorceress Merlina desperately tries to stop the evil king’s reign and performs a ritual that is supposed to summon the chosen knight – which happens to be Sonic the Hedgehog – to save the kingdom! Sonic is quickly tossed into the conflict and he takes the challenge with ease, but learns that the king’s curse can not be broken unless the chosen knight wields the legendary sword called Caliburn. Caliburn is a talking sword and with Merlina’s support the quest begins to save the kingdom!sonic_black_knight_15

Introduction

Sonic and the Black Knight is a fast paced action platform game featuring the world’s fastest hedgehog. Sonic and the Secret Rings was the first in the Sonic story book adventure series and was released on the Wii in 2007. Sonic and the Black Knight is considered to be a sequel as they have many similarities in terms of gameplay and they both take place in the story book world. It should be noted however, that the stories of the two games aren’t linked in any way.

The Game

The game is seen from a third person perspective and your movement is limited to a set track. This limitation puts the focus of the game on avoiding obstacles, collecting bonus items and running as fast as you can without having to worry about where you should go next. Perhaps the most prominent and unique feature here is the fact that Sonic carries around the legendary sword Caliburn and uses it to slice enemies and to cut down obstacles that comes in his way. Having a sword certainly opens up for some new gameplay elements and it’s nice to see something new thrown into the adventure. Other than that, this game is a beautiful platformer game with lots of action, breathtaking speed and it takes the famed video game hero Sonic to explore an entirely new time and place.

Controls

The game is played with the Wii remote together with the Nunchuk. You steer Sonic from left to right with the thumbstick on the Nunchuk and slice with the sword by swinging the Wii remote. Jumping is done with the A button and regarded as a whole the controls are good and easy to play with. Because of the endless hoards of enemies that you’re fighting, swinging the Wii remote gets straining very quickly and there is no option to remap the attack function to a button instead.

While playing some of the stages you will also notice that it’s impossible to know where the stage will take you. But Sonic seems to know and just keeps running through bends, loops, turns and intersections. This brings some confusion at times but you will quickly learn to go with the flow. This becomes even more true if you play the same stage repeatedly.

Content

The single player story mode called Adventure takes you to the story book world where you, as Sonic must do what it takes to save the kingdom from the Black Knight. You’ll unlock new stages and Missions as you progress through the game. There’s an overview map of the kingdom where you can freely jump from one mission to another that you have unlocked and you can even replay any of those missions to better your score or to unlock new items.

The typical goal of the missions is simply reaching the end of the stage. The stages are also filled with enemies that you can either avoid or slash down with the sword making each stage quite challenging. Sometimes Sonic is also forced to block incoming attacks to avoid taking hits and there are a few other special moves that you must master such as wall climbing, rushing and even kicking enemies.

The Adventure mode is filled with bonus challenges and extra stages in forms of unlockable missions. The game isn’t overly clear about which missions are mere bonus missions and which ones you must beat to clear the story line but you’ll probably figure it out anyway. The various stages will take you through interesting environments such as forests, castles, battle fields, caves and swamps.

Some of the challenges are incredibly hard and can really test your patience. For example, there’s a stage where you must reach the goal without running into any of the townspeople that are wandering around on the stage. As if it wasn’t enough that these people are virtually everywhere – they pop-up just a few feet in front of you if you’re running, leaving no room to react on their sudden appearance.

Another infuriating mission is a so-called Grind Challenge where you must grind on a rail and if you touch the ground at all you fail the challenge. Sounds pretty basic, but the rail is trafficked with wagons – lots and lots of wagons – and if you touch any of those you lose balance and fall off the rail. Timing of jumps is a central focus of any platform game, but these kinds of challenges easily overstay their welcome.

The boss fights are all interesting experiences, mostly because they seem impossible at the first few tries. When you figure them out however they become easy and experiencing that change really makes you feel like you have mastered a part of the game.sonic_black_knight_3

The story in Adventure mode can be completed in about three to four hours including retries, which is a bit disappointingly short. After beating the game, the story continues with an “aftermath story” of sorts where new special missions become available that you can play with other characters (Knuckles, Blaze the Cat and Shadow the Hedgehog). These special missions are much harder than the regular missions and you must beat them in order to complete the whole game. The game has around 90 missions all in all – enough to provide hours upon hours of play time. Unlocking all these missions can take forever mainly because the game doesn’t tell you what exactly you must do to unlock them.

For each mission you beat you are given a star rating from one to five stars. It’s a nice indication on how well you are playing and works as a motivation to keep improving your game. Because most stages can be beaten in just a few minutes and they’re all intense, replaying a challenge becomes second nature unless you play just to progress through the story and ignore what ranking you get.

As you play the game you are also gathering followers and advancing in titles. The better your title the more moves you will learn and you will be able to select which set of moves you want to use before each mission.

Through out the game you will collect rings but you won’t see rings floating in the air like they usually do in Sonic games. Instead, touching a golden fairy gives you rings as well as busting open various barrels and crates along the way. When you take a hit you lose some your rings, giving you plenty of chances to catch up even if you happen to take a few successive hits. Because of this, the amount of rings you are holding represents your health more than ever. If you happen to take a hit while carrying no rings, you are knocked out. The game does not keep track of lost lives. Instead you’re taken back to the nearest checkpoint and it continues from there until you either beat the challenge or give up.

There are also red fairies you can touch to build up a special gauge called Soul Surge, which lets you unleash some very powerful attack combos with the sword. The bigger your Soul Surge bar, the bigger and longer combos you can pull off.

The fighting itself is limited to a few different slashes, all performed by twitching the Wii remote. This simplified fighting system is actually appropriate for this game – here precise timing of your attacks is more important than pulling off varied attacks.

While playing the different missions the camera will seamlessly shift from different positions to better show the ongoing action. You get to play some sections looking at your hero from the side, (just like the old classic Sonic games!) but mostly the camera sits right behind you.

The Treasury is where you will see the various items that you have collected in the game. There are 247 items all in all to collect. You have the chance to find items from enemies or crates, and whether you beat the stage or not, you still get to keep the items you found. After playing the stage you are taken to a screen where you can identify the items you have found with special identifying points that you automatically earn when playing the game. The items can either be simple collector’s items or, they can be equipped to give you various bonuses like extra rings after losing a life, bonus score from defeating enemies etc. Using the items that best suits your needs isn’t a central focus of the game, but will certainly be of great help.
Items can also be traded with friends via the Wi-Fi connection, so you can help each other out finding and collecting the rarer ones.

There’s also a nice collection of unlocked bonus content in Sonic and the Black Knight in the section called Gallery mode. The Gallery has eight vaults with fifteen unlockable items in each vault. The vaults are categorized in different categories such as art, movies from the game (cutscenes), music, stories and developer’s diaries. There’s definitely some generous fan service going on here but it would have been nice to be able to see what must be done to unlock each item.

On top of all these features there’s also an Emblem editor in the game. This allows you to customize the symbol that appears with your nickname on the online scoreboards. It’s pretty pointless really.
There’s also an item crafting mode where you can combine items that you have collected to power up your equipment.

Multiplayer

The multiplayer mode is a local battle arena called “Battle”. It offers a mere seven stages to battle on in ten different modes. Once you unlock them, you’ll find both free-for-all battles, survival and co-op battles that support up to four players.

The Battle mode has twelve playable characters that you must unlock and each character has their own set of Soul Surge moves, weapons and attack patterns. You can also set handicap options for each participant. Even though there are many rule sets to try out, there are many similarities between the modes. The co-op battles are disappointing though. It’s basically just one battle against a giant knight and even though you are supposed to work together, the auto aiming attacks stubbornly targets your friends and even damages them.

There is also a mode called Ranking, where you can play various challenges to compete for the best scores with the world’s players on an online leaderboard. The game starts you off with just two challenges but more are unlocked as you play the game. The different challenges also come in varying difficulty levels but they’re all very hard to compete in when you compare scores on the world-wide leaderboard. Perfection is needed.sonic_black_knight_5

Graphics

Sonic and the Black Knight really pushes the Wii’s hardware to its limits. The game is gorgeous from start to end and every mission offers both breathtaking speed and views. The cutscenes are very crisp and really gives you a better look at Sonic and his friends than ever before. The in-game graphics are also very colorful and vivid. The frame rate fails though and brings down the overall experience by a whole lot on a few occasions. The game is still fast and furious, but occasionally it’s hard to follow exactly what’s going on because of the massive amounts of enemies on the screen at one time and all the twists and turns the stage takes you through.

Everything in this game looks awesome. Some highlights to look for are the design of the main menu, the weather effects, the grassy field stages and the beautiful sunsets.
Considering that the loading times are virtually non-existent, the game is really a technical feat.

Sound

As expected from a Sonic title the music is rocky and loaded with a cool attitude. This musical style suits the game perfectly and there are many catchy songs here that really capture the essence of what Sonic is all about. There are also some songs that has a medieval sound that uplifts the medieval theme of the game and nicely puts it up front.
The game also has support for both Japanese and English voices and they both are very well executed. Music and sound wise this game is brilliant.

Summary

Sonic and the Black Knight being one of the prettier Wii games to date really is a speedy adventure to boot. This is a game full with unlockable bonus content. The downsides are that there is a bigger focus on bonus content than on the main adventure story and that the multiplayer battle mode turned out to be a shallow addition to the game.

It’s obvious that this game was designed to be a casual experience with its free roaming world map and bonus challenges. Thus this game feels more like a huge collection of tricky challenges than a platform adventure and story narrative.

The difficulty level of the game is very unbalanced, as some parts of the game are very easy while others are frustratingly hard. All in all, this is a fun game for as long as it lasts.

Developed By: Sonic Team
Published By: Sega
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Platform / Hack ‘n Slash
Players: 1-4
Released: 2009-03-13

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