Sonic and the Black Knight

Are you sitting comfortably children? Right then, we can begin. Once upon a time there was a hero named Sonic. But he was no ordinary hero, he was a hedgehog. But he was no ordinary hedgehog; he was bright blue with red sneakers and Mickey Mouse gloves. Trust us, he was much cooler than he sounds. Anyway, one day Sonic found himself…

That’s the beauty of Sega’s speedy hero, you could pretty much end the above sentence any way you choose and no-one would bat an eyelid. One of gaming’s most unlikely heroes, Sonic is equally at home in an apocalyptic industrial landscape as he is in a colorful fantasy world. And that’s exactly what Sega’s Wii-exclusive spin-off series of Story Book Adventures is all about. It worked wonders with Sonic and the Secret Rings, a migraine inducingly colorful reimagining of the Arabian Nights stories with an added lick of speed.

Sonic and the Black Knight is the second game in the series, plucking its themes from an equally rich and well loved story by plonking our hero into the court of King Arthur. Yep, Sonic’s been summoned to a reimagined Camelot to do battle with the evil Black Knight. To do so he’ll be using his trademark speed, but the only way to really defeat a medieval ne’er-do-well is with a hefty blade. Thus for the first time in his 17-year-history Sonic will wield a weapon.

Unlike in The Secret Rings, Sonic’s movement is now controlled with the Nunchuk, leaving the remote free for sword-swinging duties. The game plays an awful lot like Sonic Unleashed with a focus on speedily traversing pretty landscapes with a mix of 3D and 2D platforming. The difference is, of course, the sword. Frequently Sonic has to slow down and slash his way through errant knights and obstacles. Better yet the blade can also be used to scale and descend sheer walls with style. There’s also an emphasis on collecting items and impressing townsfolk. Doing this will unlock hidden content and gain Sir Sonic followers. The more followers he gains the more effective a knight he’ll become, which in turn allows him to level up and access new abilities – much as he did in The Secret Rings.

There are issues we’d like to see addressed, mind. For instance, constantly curbing your speed to hack through enemies could make the pace feel a bit stuttery. Why not give Sonic a running attack to keep things moving? Also the old criticism of it being too on-rails applies – though this has been admirably sidestepped in Sonic Unleashed.

Still in its early stages, Sonic and the Black Knight is shaping up to be a thrilling tale of swashbuckling adventure powered by a jet engine. It’s another clever sidestepping of the traditional formula that adds something refreshingly different.Aside from the gorgeous Zelda-like visuals it looks to be fast, varied and, with emphasis on simple mission-based play, rewarding and fun. Following The Secret Rings was always going to be tough, but it looks like Sega might pull it off. With the Arabian Nights and Camelot taken care of, we’re already starting to wonder where the Story Book series will take Sonic next. Sonic in Wonderland, perhaps. Or Sonic and the Beanstalk even. How about Sonic in space? Now there’s a thought…

Nov 25, 2008