At first glance, Sonic and the Black Knight looks like a success, seeming poised to deliver the sorts of speedy thrills that make the heroic hedgehog's greatest adventures so exhilarating. But alas, it quickly becomes clear that this sense of speed comes at the expense of anything resembling entertaining gameplay. Sonic and the Black Knight is a simple, sloppy, frustrating game.
There's a great sense of speed that makes the game look even better in motion.
Darkness has fallen on the once-thriving realm of King Arthur. The noble ruler has been corrupted by the power of immortality granted by the scabbard of the sacred sword Excalibur and has summoned armies from the underworld to stamp out all that is good and pure in the land. Merlina, granddaughter of Arthur's sorcerer, Merlin, summons the only one who can defeat the king and restore prosperity to the realm. Sonic falls out of the sky to find himself thrust into a world without chili dogs or Dr. Robotnik, though the knights of the Round Table who will fight both against and alongside him bear an uncanny resemblance to allies and rivals from his home. Sonic arms himself with the pompous talking sword Caliburn and sets off to become a true knight and save the land. The tale is told in a simple but charming storybook style, and while the plot bears little connection to actual Arthurian legend, it successfully pulls off the unusual concept of tossing the blue blur into a fantasy landscape without the whole thing coming off as absurd.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't pull off the concept nearly so successfully. The levels are narrow and linear and typically require you to do nothing more than hold up on the nunchuk's thumbstick to tear through them and tap A on the remote to jump over the occasional obstacle. You can also maneuver left or right a smidge, which is useful for avoiding environmental hazards or smashing objects to collect the rings that serve as Sonic's hit points. Sonic turns in all the right places, grinds on rails, leaps from pole to pole, and performs other acts of derring-do, but he does it all without any input from you, making you feel more like a spectator to the action than a participant. There are a few different types of missions--some involve just reaching the goal, while others have you defeating a certain number of enemies or handing rings over to townspeople by matching a few onscreen button presses--but the simplicity of it all makes the experience feel dull and repetitive long before the tale reaches its conclusion.
You'll encounter plenty of foes blocking your path, but whether they take the form of generic knights, giant spiders, or more generic knights, fighting them is a basic affair of blocking attacks with the Z button and hacking your foes with a quick shake of the remote. Considering how fast the game is in other respects, the combat is incredibly sluggish, with a noticeable delay between your shakes and Sonic's swings. There's also a powerful special attack called the soul surge that you can use, provided Sonic has some energy in his soul gauge. Anything that lets you make short work of your enemies is a blessing, since the tiresome combat makes them less of a challenge and more of a nuisance. It's a relief when you can just jump over groups of enemies as you speed toward the goal and avoid dealing with them altogether.
Sonic doesn't always require your input to navigate obstacles.