Sonic & The Black Knight
From videogame icon to faltering, gimmicky, uninspired mess; Sonic has had it rough since the jump to 3D. He’s got his head in the gutter, disgraced, with few fans left – it doesn’t look good. The last iteration, Sonic: Unleashed, provided a glimse of hope in these dark days with its day sections offering everything Sonic should be; fast and exciting – an exhilarating thrill ride, to say the least. But when the sun went down the werehog cropped up and ruined everything with its clunky combat and generic platforming. It’s these shoddy gimmicks that Sonic doesn’t need, yet he always ends up stuck with them, time after time. Sonic and the Black Knight is the blue hedgehogs latest adventure, and this time he’s been given a sword, of all things. That sound you hear is the resounding facepalm of everyone in the Sonic know-how. But it can’t really be that bad, can it?
“Travelling back to the time of King Arthur, it’s quite a departure for the Sonic franchise, but one that brings with it some excellent production values.”From the offset it doesn’t look that way; it’s actually rather promising. Travelling back to the time of King Arthur, it’s quite a departure for the Sonic franchise, but one that brings with it some excellent production values. The opening, pre-rendered cutscene sets the tone and the stylish main menu is very cool, capturing the feeling of that long-foregone era whilst also adding the quirkiness expected of a Sonic title. The hand-drawn cutscenes keep up the quality, even if the story is a nonsensical mess featuring characters that look strikingly similar to some of Sonic’s old friends such as Knuckles, Tails and Shadow. It may disgrace English history, but it’s rather easy to follow and keeps the game moving at a brisk pace throughout.
And the visuals keep up the impressive production values, offering some of the best graphics seen on the Wii so far. A lot of the levels may be a bit brown and grey in colour, but the texture work is excellent and the characters – especially Sonic – look outstanding, particularly when the framerate manages to keep up with all the action.
Although that isn’t such a mighty feat as one might imagine. There’s still a degree of fast paced action here, but thanks to that sword it’s severely slowed down, tiresome and generally boring. The production values might stand out, but that doesn’t constitute for poor gameplay – a trait that seems to crop up in Sonic games recently, along with the criticism that it might be a bit too on-rails at times. Sonic and the Black Knight takes this and basically plays out as a straight-up, on-rails game. You just hold down forward, occasionally needing to swerve and jump over obstacles; but really, these instances are surprisingly rare.
“There are no suggestive movements here for sword swings, it’s just the dreaded waggle; and the unresponsive controls don’t help matters.”The bulk of the gameplay consists of fighting enemies. You’ll hold forward till enemies appear, and must then swing the remote about the place until all the enemies are dead. There are no suggestive movements here for sword swings, it’s just the dreaded waggle; and the unresponsive controls don’t help matters. You’ll swing and then wait for Sonic to perform the action about a second later. This delay can get extremely frustrating as enemies are quick to attack the majority of the time, with QTEs becoming particularly aggravating. It just drags the combat down to terrible levels of mediocrity even worse than it was to begin with. Sonic should be all about speed, but that aspect only lasts for a few seconds as enemies continually pop up over and over again, forcing you to stop and take them on. There is no variety here at all, and the enemy types are at the bare minimum. There are some bigger foes, but that just means you need to swing the remote twice the amount of times than usual. There are no unique ways to take down particular enemies, there‘s just more waggle in store.
It all just consists of stop-start, stop-start gameplay, with unresponsive controls and bland level design. Massive corkscrews and giant jumps are no where to be seen; instead, you’re just running through castles and woods on a linear path, slicing up enemies as you go. It’s not fun, especially when you end up repeating each stage a couple of times with only a few minor differences on each run. The only other game mode is a poor arena battle system which uses the same terrible sword combat with up to four players. It would be best to take a pass on this.
And I suppose that applies to the rest of the game as well. Sonic and the Black Knight can be mildly enjoyable for about an hour, but eventually the gameplay leaves a sour taste as you just want the little blue guy to soar free, blasting through each level at full speed without a care in the world. He doesn’t want a sword to participate in some terrible sword play, so stop providing him with these redundant gimmicks. Another disappointing effort.