Posted by Ben at 18:23

Some may find this difficult to believe but the Wii Sonic games have been pretty good all told. Secret Rings was too hard for the younger market, Black Knight too easy for everyone else, but both rate high amongst the best 3D Sonic games. So Sonic Colours has some pedigree to live up to, and thatís what it does, cherry picking the bits that have worked in the past, and excluding those that didnít.

While the remote tilting controls of past games had its moments, allowing for analogue controls is definitely one of Colours better changes. From here itís down to personal preference, some might prefer the digital controls of the remote, some the Classic controllerís stick (although theyíre uncomfortably positioned in my opinion), while others will make the right choice and dig out one of their old Gamecube controllers.

Control itself is tight and sharp most of the time, thereís input lag on the odd occasion, although perhaps thatís due to my tv trying to soften the jaggies. Depending on your controller choice the button mapping makes more/less sense. With the ĎCube pad itís about ideal, with the classic pad the duck button is too unintuitive for a game running at this pace. The graphics themselves are very good, although as mentioned the jaggies you get from playing a Wii game on a HD tv are present. I also became very aware of the frame rate as I played. Not that it drops or chugs, just that at pace the 30fps stops feeling quite as smooth.

The game itself is refreshingly linear. You jump straight into the first set of levels, working your way through to the area boss, which once beat opens up another set of levels. There is a hub world allowing you to return to areas youíve beaten, but thereís never more than 3 new areas to choose from at any one time. Hidden within the levels are red star icons, which when found open up more areas in Eggmanís anti-Sonic videogame also found on the world hub.

As mentioned the gameplay is fairly eclectic, youíve got the into the camera style of Secret Rings, with the left-to-right dodging and homing attacks included too. Around half the game is spent in traditional 2D, and while this is still fun, the level design is very different from the early games, landscapes are a lot less busy. Dotted around the level, usually at points designed specific for their use, are Wisps. The Wisps alter Sonic, allowing him to fly, destroy blocks, tunnel, and travel at the speed of light. The Wisps are revealed incrementally as you play the new areas, but returning to early stages having discovered new Wisps opens up new routes.

Which is where the game really excels. I enjoyed the opening levels first time through, but retrying them with a bit more knowledge of the game and some new Wisps improves them massively. Thereís a lot to explore, and multiple routes to lower your time. That the early levels are worthy of return visits is a blessing, as theyíre a good way to farm for extra lives, something youíll need towards the end of the game.

I canít think of too many moments where I found Sonic Colours to be frustrating, but there are a couple of moments where the difficulty ramps up. Itís not hard to drop 5 or 6 lives at particular points, although it never feels like the game is broken or unfair, the difficulty just comes as a surprise. A note too for the cut scenes, there are some, but they arenít too bad, they might even raise a smile on occasion.

Itís hard to say if itís better than Sonic 4, but it certainly deserves some of the download titles glory.
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Posted by Duane at 06:00

When you say Monster Hunter in the Western hemisphere, people usually give you a rather blank stare as if you're talking nonsense. This is because Capcom's creature harvesting simulation has mostly appeared on the unpopular PSP format. Not only was the chosen console under appreciated, the controls made the experience cumbersome and the fact that Monster Hunter is designed from the ground up to be a multiplayer also led to problems as the PSP titles didn't have an online infrastructure. But all this looks set to change with Monster Hunter Tri.

This is the first Monster Hunter game to be released away from a Sony platform (the first two "proper" games in the series were on the PS2, both had online, but a PS2 network adapter was hard to come by), and Nintendo have got fully behind the release with a huge advertising campaign prior to release. It's also the first Monster Hunter since the PlayStation 2 ones to feature a proper online infrastructure, meaning no need to gather all your mates around at one place to go ahunting. There's more to support its release too, Nintendo have included the ability to use Wii Speak in the game, which as far as I'm aware hasn't been done since Animal Crossing City Folk and they've redesigned the Classic Controller, all of which you can buy together in a mega bundle if you so wish.

So then onto the game itself, the first thing that strikes you about Monster Hunter Tri is just how gorgeous it looks. The share amount of detail that is on each of the creatures is astounding even without taking the hardware into account. It wouldn't be a great looking XBox 360 game, but it wouldn't be an awful looking one either. Everything from the landscapes, to the creatures to the way your clothing moves and weapons such as the Switch Axe change form is a joy to behold. Each individual creature has their own set of animations which all appear incredibly natural and are distinct enough for you to spot opportunities that require you to either defend yourself or open up an opportunity to attack, something thats incredibly noticeable when it comes to the bigger beasts.

As previously mentioned, Nintendo have seen fit to redesign the classic controller, rebranded as the Classic Controller Pro, and it appears to be that this is the best control system to use (although I personally prefer the original Classic Controller, I'll leave the comparisons between the two to a different article) as using the Wii remote and nunchuck system is rather clumsy and cumbersome, needing you to change the way the remote is pointing to perform different attacks. It sounds like it makes sense, but in practice and in the heat of battle it leads to more problems than either of the other two optional controllers do. But its all about personal taste so I'd reccomend giving any control system available to you a good going over. The same applies to choosing a weapon set as they all control in a drastically different manner. Some, such as the Sword and Shield, are quick and versatile, even allowing you to use items whilst in a guarded position, but are also much weaker. Whilst stronger weapons are slow aand cumbersome and require forward thinking in order to make sure you don't leave yourself too open to attack. This gives the game a suprising amount of technical depth, especially when playing online, which can lead to some great moments where one of you uses the Sword and Shield to fly in with some quick attacks, whilst two others sit back using the lance or bowgun to deliver long range attacks with another guy supporting with something more heavy duty. Its this kind of experience that makes the online portion of the game the key sector, although every single thing you do in the single player mode is designed in a manner to make the online more accessible and vice versa.

Online has been hyped for this particular game, mainly because it does away with the rather poor Nintendo Friend Codes system, although the system put in place for you to make friends and organise games still isn't perfect. You still have to swap codes/names and you can't swap details when in quests, only when you're in the city. There's no mass lobby, ala Phantasy Star Online either. You pick a game to play in and are limited to being able to interact with upto 3 other people whilst there, no pre-arrangement before creating a game unfortunately. Still, it all works fairly well and once you get questing all the porrly implemented organisational systems take a back seat and the hunting makes for the most compelling online Wii experience on offer thus far. The only thing that lets it down is that the Wii Speak is fairly useless, but keyboard chat (via the use of a USB keyboard) more than suffices and is infact essential.

Monster Hunter Tri then is an essential title for anyone that owns a Wii or anyone that wants a compelling online role playing experience but doesn't want to commit to something like World of Warcraft. Suprisingly its still incredibly enjoyable in single player and the option to play two player splitscreen is also there. the first of a slew of must have Wii titles in 2010 then.
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Posted by Duane at 14:55

Its that time of year again, the one that has football fans going mad and those who couldn't give a toss hiding inside with everything turned off. Yes it only comes around once every four years (technically twice if you count the European Championships), but its International Football time, this time round its the World Cup in South Africa and EA Sports unsuprisingly have a game out on every platform to cover it.

Here we tackle the Wii one, or as its more commonly known the "poorer cousin". Largely regarded as the Christopher Wreh to the "bigger consoles" George Weah, its hard not to jump in expecting the worst. Thats not to say previous FIFA's on the Wii have been bad, and to judge them to other versions on different systems would be unfair as they're pretty different games. The focus here is on fun, regardless of wether you play it in local multiplayer, online or in single player, its more of an Arcade title compared to the simulation efforts of the PS3 and XBox 360 versions.

With this in mind, the method of play fits perfectly. The game has three simple actions, A passes the ball, B performs a lob pass and a shake of the Wii remote takes a shot on goal. The former have power bars attached to their actions, the latter doesn't appear to follow suit meaning your attacking player will administer the correct amount of power for the shot you've taken. This makes things instant and fun, allowing anyone to pick up a set of controllers and score 40 yard screamers. However, there's a strong feeling that you don't have full control over whats going on. The players feel too light and there's a delay between button presses and remote shaking on occassion. This is most notable online and can be rather frustrating when a delay causes you to lose the ball in the dying moments of a match whilst in a goal scoring position. The tackling too feels clumsy and you're punished far too often for performing slide tackles than is really necessary.

Graphically its an odd one too. Previous Wii FIFA titles have gone down a more detailed Mii route. World Cup 2010 tries to go half way between cartoony visuals and realistic looking players and doesn't quite pull it off. Its not the over brightness of the colours that are the problem here I might add, its that it all looks a little flat and unappealing. Another big issue is the sound, one thing in particular, the horns that African fans are famous for blowing make an appearance here, and why not, its all part and parcel of the culture of the World Cup. However it would be nice to be able to switch them off as the noise (similar to that of an angry wasps nest) can be highly irritating and especially annoying. The option is there, but you have to unlock the ability to turn this noise off, something I see as a big mistake.

Game modes wise, theres a few different things to do, the normal quick play, tournament, road to World Cup and online matches are there. As is a new take on the Challenge Mode that tasks you with certain challenges in order to unlock players for your custom team, which you can then stick onto your Wii Remote and take to a friends to compete against their team. As I said previously, there seems to be more of a focus on multiplayer fun and if you can ignore the niggle of slightly delayed controls from time to time (and it doesn't happen all that often if I'm being honest), you can have a fair amount of fun in multiplayer on this Wii release of FIFA 2010 World Cup South Africa.
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Posted by Ben at 19:56

You've seen the film (well, I've seen the film), now play the game!

I will admit I came to Onechanbara with low expectations, and I dare say that approaching it in any other manner may be a mistake. To its credit though, as a budget game, Onechanbara is surprisingly competent. Think of it like a supermarket value brand game, you get everything you would from the name brand, but every single corner has been cut.

The graphics are probably the main example of this, with admirably chunky character models and reasonably busy environments. The core characters have lots of paraphernalia, belts, hats, and jewellery, which do flesh out the characters a bit, adding detail. The problem is that everything is incredibly grainy, expected jaggies aside. The textures on the landscape and buildings are nothing to write home about, possibly better than I was expecting, but the more detail there is the worse it looks.

Gameplay takes its cue from the likes of Devil May Cry, and while the systemís not as deep, chaining combos is rewarded. Thereís a certain amount of technique to the game too, timing attacks correctly is of benefit, and certain enemies are only susceptible to certain techniques. Each character also has a secondary move set, these vary in usefulness, and certainly donít suit all occasions. Main character Ayaís secondary move set sees her using two swords, which is more fun than her single sword for combo building, but the wrong choice later in the game.

Controlling attacks by shaking the remote/nunchuck does of course have its problems. Compared to simple button presses timing is far less precise, itís easy to get caught in combos, and throw in unwanted strikes. That all being said, the same game without the use of the Wii remote would be far less enjoyable.

As gimmicky as it may seem, waving the remote around does add something to the game. Itís also surprisingly competent at recognising motions. Indeed I canít think of too many games that are better at this, particularly given the speed it moves at. Admittedly most attacks require nothing more than a shake, maybe an upwards motion rather than a downwards. But there are others, such as Ayaís dual sword attack where she rips an opponent in half, to do this you simply put the nunchuck and remote together, then pull apart. Itís nothing particularly special, but considering the tone of the rest of the game it is certainly commendable.

The combat stays relatively interesting throughout, helped perversely by the game not helping you out enough. Information is either given hours before you need it, or hours after youíve worked it out. There are a few different enemy types, but aside from having to make use of kicks to break guards, thereís not much to test you. What you will find is that exploiting the gameplay mechanics, such as the rampage mode, becomes increasingly tempting, if only because you understand it by the end of the game.

Thereís problems with the camera and the lock on system, and itís quite easy to get yourself turned around on the simple maps, but really these are quite minor complaints. The game has a decent-ish length, especially if youíre willing to play as the other characters. Truth is the thought of revisiting the game so soon after completing it is not one Iím relishing, however I do intend to go back.

Ultimately that sums up Onechanbara, itís more fun that you might expect, but itís not really good enough to devote serious time to. Itís worth picking up as a curiosity on the Wii, but compared to the likes of Bayonetta on the PS3/360 it suffers badly, and not just because of its graphics.
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Posted by Duane at 14:40

Dead Space, one of the games feature on my "Staff Picks" for last year, I found it an incredibly immersive third person action thriller with heavy survival horror leanings. It did everything it tried to do pretty much perfectly but it wasn't really very inventive, it borrowed heavily from other games and possibly far too heavy from films, but it worked incredibly well and deserves everyones attention. Dead Space Extraction is the prequel to last years XBox 360 and PS3 release. This time the tale of the possesion of the crew of the Ishimura and the mining colony has appeared on the Wii and is an entirely different game and overall experience.

Dead Space Extraction is EA and Visceral Games' addition to the light gun genre that has seen a new lease of life on Nintendo's system. It is also an answer to those critics who claim that the Wii is a kids console, as quite clearly this isn't well suited to a younger demographic. From the off you'll be dismembering various creatures and led through a rollercoaster ride (and once again a bit of a trek) of a game. The difference's here are that you aren't in control of any of the characters directly, you merely aim their weapon, which takes away a large chunk of the tension that Dead Space managed to force upon the player in an impressive manner thanks to its use of environmental sound. You never really feel a connection to the characters either, a fact not helped by the chopping and changing between them for the 10 chapters that are on offer here. So in all resepcts Dead Space Extraction kind of fails in every area that Dead Space seemed to excel in.

But it's not as bad as it seems. The use of the Wii-remote (and if you have one, Zapper attachment) gives you a new kind of immersion into the game. Taking out enemies is as simple as pointing and shooting, although sometimes they're a little fast or far away leading to accuracy issues, this is where your abilities from the original game come into play. You are still able to send out a sort of grappling beam to grab items (normally health packs, ammunition or audio/video/text diaries) and you can also send out balls of stasis to slow enemies, projectiles or items such as fans down, the game forces you to think tactically and whilst ammo isn't normally an issue on the default difficulty thanks to a weapon which you always carry with that has unlimited ammo, it isn't particularly powerful, with a creatures arm needing two accurate hits to remove one limb, so its a constant panic as to whether to use the other weapons and risk running out of ammo or over using your stasis and having to wait for it to recharge.

One area it takes a huge knock is in its atmosphere. The occasional whispers are still there, as are the odd moments of pipes and metal rattling as something runs along it, but these are never as common nor as fear inducing as in Dead Space, mainly because they're pretty much always a warning for an attack where as the original game would play with your sense and not always send anything at you. It also loses its impact of making you feel uncomfortable via its visuals, don't get me wrong, there's still odd stuff, mostly hillucinations but nothing compared to seeing a random crew member smash his own head against the wall or the babies in giant test tubes that were there before and it feels overall like they've toned some of that back because of the chosen platforms more family friendly reputation.

However, Dead Space Extraction is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish, there are moments of frustration where things aren't particularly clear or when certain creatures are just too small to hit with the control system the console has, but the overall experience is a postive one, even if short lived, but with the added challenges and the option to play co-operatively theres enough here to come back to if you so wish.
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Posted by Ben at 17:30

It's been a while since we did an import review, even longer since we've done a Wii one I'd bet. Well with the Homebrew channel easily manageable and the pound creeping back to its old self, now's as good a time as any to take a look at ExciteBots on the Wii. Especially as it looks like it will never see a European release

Excite Truck was, in my opinion, an underrated gem of a game. Its rampant playability was ignored, and instead it was accused of a lack of depth and length. An unfair charge in my opinion, as completing the game and unlocking the reversed tracks was no mean feat. Anyway thatís the past, ExciteBots is the present, and as PAL gamers, itís also some kind of parallel dimension that exists separate from our own.

The most notable change for this sequel is that the trucks have now been replaced by a collection of animal themed transformer things. Initially this seems merely cosmetic, perhaps an attempt to skew younger, but the more you play the more you realise the shift runs deeper. The racing of the first game was far from the be all and end all, with crashes, drifts, jumps, and rings equally as important in your quest for stars. Here though the racing barely needs to exist.

Up until the mid-to-latter cups of the unlock able ĎSuper Exciteí difficulty the game is a breeze. Youíll easily be scoring enough stars to progress to the next race, with only a handful of races requiring a redo to net yourself the S rank. For the first ĺof the game the A.I. poses few problems, so youíll be raking in the 50 points awarded for a 1st place finish, but thereís also the sheer amount of points awarded just getting to the end.

The spinning trick is now far easier to pull off, thereís still plenty of jumps to hit for air, there are now bars dotted around the course that can net up to 10 stars, thereís weapons, on-track mini games such as bowling and football, and stars just floating around the track waiting to be picked up. If the total required to pass is 200 stars, youíll likely reach that before crossing the finish line.

Thatís not to say there is no skill involved, hitting the more interesting routes certainly requires practice. The yellow bars are a nightmare to get 5 stars on without practice, and losing control of your bot will likely cost you points and places. As you reach the later stages of the game however things do start to get much tougher. Youíll find yourself hitting restart to try to make the leap from A to S, knowing that clipping that 1 tree cost you glory.

ExciteBots isnít just about the main game, thereís also a competent online mode in there too. It can take a while to start a game, youíll likely have to watch the end of a race before entering the lobby, then wade through the various options it presents you with. The net code itself is very solid, I assume Iíve been playing against Americans given where the gameís been released, but Iíve had no disconnections or lag, even with a full 6 players. Although in real terms youíre essentially trying to outscore each other, and as such there are times where it feels the other racers might as well not be there.

Thereís also a ĎPoker Modeí, here you race along the track with a near complete poker hand, picking up cards to make the best hand possible. Itís an interesting idea with a handful of tracks to play about in. It certainly gives you more to think about, but itís no where near as fun as the main game.

ExciteBots graphics are smoother than its prequels, though not exactly a leap forward. The game seems to abandon frames as your spped picks up, the rate seems constant itís just a trick to create the illusion of pace. Drifts are less common, and truck/bot smashes are less visceral, and thereís even some reused tracks from the first game. The option to create a custom sound track has been removed too, itís hard to see why, but given how rarely this feature exists on the Wii perhaps itís unfair to complain.

All in all though ExciteBots is a superb sequel. It differs in enough ways to warrant a purchase if you have its older brother, yet keeps the core the close enough that the aesthetic missteps can be forgiven. If youíre a fan of the original this is worth installing the Homebrew Channel for, if youíre Nintendo then there seems little reason why this canít sell enough to warrant the trip to Europe.

Great exhilarating fun!
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Posted by Ben at 14:16
Consider this a bit of an experiment.

In what is very much a first attempt, below is Bitparades' first video review. The next one will likely be much better quality, both in terms of errors and visually.

There'll be an accompanying text review that goes into more detail early next week, till then enjoy

Show/hide video

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Posted by Ben at 11:45

This is an companion review to Duaneís posted earlier in the week. Itís intention is not to review the whole game just the use of the new MotionPlus peripheral

The lack of tutorial is a fairly major blow to Grand Slam Tennis, initially at least, leading to frustration and confusion. There is the ball machine to play against, but itís not representative of playing against a computer opponent, nor trying to pull off the shots under pressure. Through experience you learn that holding still, with the pointer facing the screen between points helps settle the MotionPlus device, although there are still occasional problems.

Youíll eventually learn that stroke play requires exaggerated movements. That if you want to hit across court, youíre going to need end your swing across your body. Hitting down the line on the forehand isnít too difficult, although slicing out of play is common until you beat into yourself that you need control the tilt of the remote, or at least rise from low to high in order to get some top spin.

Volleying is much easier, although the game can ignore you switching hands, but generally it matches the angle you were trying for. Itís actually indicative of the root problem with the MotionPlus controls on Grand Slam Tennis. Having to recreate the full tennis motion is fine, good fun even, and not nearly as hard as youíd think given that thereís not actual ball to hit. The issue is that the game moves so quickly (quicker than a real game) that you donít get the time to perform the action, so you soon resort to short jolts of the remote. This will work for the most part, but if you change from a forehand to a backhand shot the game simply wont/cant register it.

Thereís the question of who the gameís aiming at too. Duaneís already covered the use of the nunchuck, but the MotionPlus controls take easily as much work, possibly more. I grew to love the advanced controls, they add a whole other layer of depth and challenge to the game, however they are a massive stumbling block when you first pick up the game. Itís doubtful your average Ďcasualí gamer will progress beyond the easy settings with the advanced controls, in the same way should you have enough MotionPlusís for a multiplayer game, unless you all have experience with it, new players are at a massive disadvantage.

There are occasions where itís impossible to gauge the depth of the ball, meaning you gift points to your opponent because performing the correct action takes too long, conversely there are times where the game mistakes preparation for the shot itself. There could also be a bit more variety to things, but thereís enough against the computer and online that itís not too big of a problem.

With MotionPlus Grand Slam Tennis really shines. Slicing a serve out wide before playing a drop shot to the opposite side feels like an achievement. When you win a tough match you feel like you earned it, physically and from a pride point of view. It takes a while to click and the lack of tutorial is a mistake hopefully EA and others will learn from, but itís a game you get out what you put in. A very good first effort from EA.
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Posted by Duane at 15:09

It's pretty obvious that the Wii's control system is perfect for the summer sport of Tennis, why else do you think Nintendo bundled Wii Sports (complete with its own tennis game) in with each and every console? The question remains though, is it worth buying a standalone tennis game when you have a free one already? Well, in all fairness it depends what you want from your tennis game.

Grand Slam Tennis is EA Sports' first attempt at a tennis game, and it imediatly faces stiff competition, not just from the already established and in every Wii owning home Wii Sports, but also from SEGA's Virtua Tennis 2009, a series thats been the go to for tennis sims for around a decade, and whilst I don't have the opportunity to compare the two, I will say that Grand Slam Tennis is definetly worth giving a chance as its a wonderfully fast, accurate and entertaining title.

The game itself comes either bundled with or without Wii Motion Plus, hopefully Ben will be able to comment on what the game is like with Wii Motion Plus as I do not have the required adaptor. Suprisingly the fact its seemingly designed with this attatchment in mind doesn't detract from the gameplay if you don't have it, the game still registers very accurately what you want to do with your racket, even if it can't quite work out the subtleties in any twists you perform in make the ball behave differently. It also gives you the option of using the nunchuck to move your character or leaving it to the computer, obviously the best choice to go with for those that want to take things seriously will be to add the nunchuck so they can begin moving to where they believe the ball will be returned to that little bit earlier, which could be vital when playing better AI opponents or against other players online, but even so the AI does a very good job of trying to make sure your player is in the correct spot to recieve the vast majority of shots, meaning the game is easily and instantly accessible to everyone who's played as little as 5 minutes of Wii Sports Tennis.

Visually, it's rather odd. EA Sports have gone for a sort of cartoonish realism, there's a correct sense of proportion to everything, but players and colours are more simplified than they are in SEGA's effort. Wether or not this has an overall effect on the gameplay or not I couldn't comment, but it does seem to be a style thats better suited to the hardware, both through the systems reputation and its capabilities.

Online is suprisingly good too, you're never more than a couple of button presses away from a match, either against friends or against random players from all over the world, its probably the best intergrated online system I've seen on the Wii thus far, and if all that doesn't make the package seem attractive to you, there's your normal EA career mode in there where you build up your own created player from the bottom ranks until they're a Grand Slam champion in all the major competitions, including the US Open and Wimbledon. Lastly, and for those of you with a bit of a Wii Fit obsession, EA Sports have included a calorie counter and "Get Fit!" system, that lets you plot how many calories you want to burn in any given period whilst playing the game, this makes the game that little bit more addictive, and considering I'm not really interested in the whole keep fit thing, I still find myself regularly checking just how many calories I've burned per match, how accurate it all is though I don't know.

Overall then, Grand Slam Tennis is suprisingly fun and addictive, brilliantly presented and has a bit of everything, including multiplayer minigames, for everyone
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Posted by Ben at 20:13

Itís not right to describe Sonic & the Black Knight as a return to the mascots roots, what made those games great, but itís fair to say that compared to the recent Unleashed it gets far fewer things wrong.

Taking its cue from previous Wii outing Secret Rings, Black Knight is also based (loosely) on a classic tale. Gone is the Arabian theme, replaced with the swords and sorcery of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Sonic lands in this new world and is quickly tasked with recovering Calibur, a legendary sword, and saving everyone from the tyranny of the evil King Arthur. The plot takes a few twists and turns, and is actually pretty respectable considering how much it disregards its inspiration, Power Rangers ending aside.

The story is told primarily through semi-static images, accompanied with full voice cast. These are more animated than those of Secret Rings, but itís still a shame that the superb CGI is again left by the wayside beyond the intro and outro. The rest of the graphics are superb, with nice touches such as blades of grass waving as you swing your sword. Itís impressive too just how quickly the game moves, with drops in frame-rate few and far between.

Gameplay too takes its cue from the previous Wii exclusive outing. Sonic is locked on a narrow path running into the screen, he can dodge from side to side and jump, targeting enemies. There are a few changes though, firstly control is no longer a matter of tilting the remote, instead you use the analogue stick on the nunchuck. The lock-on attack has changed too, it now requires a filled meter having become a special move called the ĎSoul Chargeí.

Attacks are now performed using Sonicís sword, i.e. a swing of the remote. Initially this may seem a little cumbersome, youíll be reaching enemies and stopping to waggle, but youíll soon begin to appreciate that your attack should begin before reaching your target, and that when timed right can lead to you blitzing through a horde of enemies. You can also block attacks by holding down the Z button, something encouraged early on but soon discarded.

Combat is in essence quite simple, but itís staggeringly easy to take damage, even against weaker enemies. Itís never quite clear when you can and canít attack certain enemies, while others require lightning reactions and an ice cool head ill fitting of the rest of the game. Much easier is just to jump over the trickier enemies, perhaps combining that with an attack. To its credit though, when the combat does click and youíre practically teleporting from enemy to enemy, taking each out in a single swing, itís an exhilarating experience.

Black Knight still maintains some of the rpg elements of its predecessor, but itís a more watered down affair. After a few levels youíll be able to alter your play style (and later your character), each of these can be levelled up and potentially affect how you approach a level. Youíll also be able to equip a couple special items, and itís here where things seem a bit lightweight. Rather than having a direct effect on Sonics abilities, the equipable items generally only make it easier to get other bonus items used in the multiplayer mode.

The upside to this watering down is that itís no longer a 4 hour slog before Sonic becomes Sonic. From the off youíll be able to perform just about every move in the game, although this does come at something of a trade off. The first half of Black Knight is far too easy, as previously mentioned youíll still take damage, but not because of any discernable challenge. Indeed probably the hardest thing youíll face is the Quick Time Events triggered when talking to a villager, and bar a couple of levels thatís entirely optional. Initially bosses can cause the odd headache, but this is more because youíre being fed information mid-fight, once you understand whatís being asked they pose little threat.

Almost certainly the biggest victim of the generous difficulty curve is the platforming, as for the first half of the game itís non-existent. Itís startling and quickly becomes worryingly apparent, especially as thatís the one thing Unleashed got right. The real tragedy is that once the game remembers itís supposed to have a bit of jumping about itís brilliant. With the platforming also come the challenge, the sense of real exhilaration and achievement. The kind of one more try challenge of yore, apt given the theme, and why Black Knight is worth persevering with.

Itís this self betterment thatís key to Black Knights staying power, you likely arenít considering the game for its multi-player, nor are you going to rush through again with the unlockable characters. While a handful of extra levels do open up once the final credits roll (incidentally the initial credits roughly mark the halfway point), itís only really the knowledge that you could do a lot better, maybe even try the other styles, that will stop you from moving on. For most people thatís not enough, but that there are so many extras is commendable, certainly it shouldnít be taken for granted.

Copy and paste the end of any recent Sonic game here, blah blah missed opportunity. Sonic and the Black Knight does a lot of things right, but doesnít quite reach the heights it could have. Add an amendment to that though, Black Knight is as good a Sonic game as weíve seen for a long time, itís only crime is that for the initial few hours itís a cake walk, perhaps ideal for younger players, whereas the later levels are superb fun and a real challenge. Unfortunately that means the game is aimed at two different markets and as such any recommendation to either is tempered, a shame as it is a very good game.
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