It has almost come to the point where I dread any title that features Sonic’s name. What once was the mascot for speed and excitement has slowly turned into a farce of equally epic proportions. I actually start this review though with a sense of optimism. At first glance everything seems to be clicking together. You can actually feel some of the love and attention to detail by the developers which has been lacking for so long now.
This time, Sonic the Hedgehog is dragged from his hot dogs to a world that features King Arthur and all the usual pageantry you would expect with this theme. Merlin though is replaced by a female guide named Merlina the Wizard, who attempts to show you the way of a true knight. Sonic though is obviously as cheesy and big headed as usual and it is up to Merlina and Caliburn your talking sword to enlighten you to your new role and future adventures.
King Arthur is your nemesis, who has lost is way corrupted by Excalibur, turning to a dark evil path rather than look after the folk who reside in Camelot. Arthur is not alone though, as characters you will remember from other Sonic games appear as his knights to prevent you from your new quest.
Sonic and the Black Knight starts as you would expect, with a lavish introduction video that sets your senses ablaze, but unlike previous titles, this dazzlement actually continues. Instead of 3D rendered segments detailing the journey whilst providing story background, an artistic style has been implemented, which actually works surprisingly well. Yes the segments are typical Sonic cheesiness, however you can’t help but admire the effort involved.
Even the games menu navigation has love oozing out of every pixel. Here you can play the typical adventure mode, battle in the multiplayer mode, compare worldwide scores thanks to an online ranking system, explore the items you have collected within the game and a fairly substantial gallery with video, music and literature.
So diving into the adventure mode, you are first surprised that the graphics are very lush. They lack the colour and diversity of the typical Sonic game (which is a shame), but it makes up for it in medieval charm (if there is such a thing?). The grass, the surroundings and sonic all push the Nintendo Wii, yet the framerate is quite smooth throughout.
At this point you might be thinking, hey at last a Sonic game that is worthy of attention and maybe even my hard earned cash, however read on a little more before you share your wealth with the gaming industry.
With all this polish and style, the actual gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. Sonic rather than jumping and spin dashing his way through countless enemies now sports a sword, which with the Wii Remote you slash in a few directions to obtain the desired result. There are special attacks you can invoke by collecting red glowing fairies (no I am not imagining this!) and by slaying your foes, however it becomes nothing more than slash, run, slash, avoid trap, run and you guessed it, slash some more. Most of the time you can simply jump over the enemies bypassing them altogether. If for any reason you need to go back though, you have to jump backwards, which is just plain odd. This is due to the way Sonic is locked to a particular path. There is no room for exploration as you can’t simply stop and check every last inch of the landscape. Sonic can strafe left and right, move forward and hop backwards in desperation, but you won’t be turning around at all.
It is not just reaching the goal that is important though, on some of the levels you are required to share your collected rings (which in this game are collected through yellow glowing fairies and smashing objects on the way) with the villagers, who will be most pleased with your chivalry. This means you need to avoid being hit to keep hold of your ring stash, which unfortunately can happen quite a bit if you are getting fed up of waving your arm about. Another is vanquishing a set target of enemies, but the lack of imagination in these tasks is quite disappointing. There are moments of diversity such as a scene where you stand on a horse drawn wagon, while being chased, but not much more than that.
Sonic and the Black Knight is certainly one of the better attempts to reignite my love for Sonic the Hedgehog. The lovely presentation and consideration that must have taken place is really worthy of my praise and indeed yours, however the gameplay slips into the usual trap of repetitiveness and very close to being categorised as another title of mediocrity. Sega can at last show they are sharing their love with the blue hedgehog, but yet again fall short of something we can in exchange love ourselves.