Sonic has had his ups and downs, and it is safe to say that in recent times he hasn’t had a game as well polished since Sonic 2 or Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. Well, it seems that developers Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, and PagodaWest Games and publisher SEGA have turned that around with Sonic Mania.
[Disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Sonic Mania that was purchased and is not, in any shape or form, endorsed by SEGA. In other words, this very review wasn’t made available through a free review key.]
If you happen to be in search of a solid, fast-paced 2D platform game, you are going to find that there are far and few made available recently. Sonic owns the genre of fast 2D side-scroller action, but the blue hedgehog and crew games are either okay or flat out bad… that is until Sonic Mania rolled up.
In an attempt to bring back the iconic blue speedster to the latest gaming consoles and to PC, Sonic Mania offers a both a nostalgic yet fresh take on the original games, while also introducing new content, levels, enemies and unlockable content to the game.
The act of keeping everything simple and accessible can be seen first-hand through the game’s clean UI. Mania Mode, Time Attack, Competition, Options, and Extras are a center-focus once in the game’s main menu, and spell out everything to veterans and newcomers alike without requiring a long tutorial to greet you on startup.
Everything is kept to a minimum, all without feeling lazy or like the developers were trying to outdo the original classic entries in the ongoing Sonic franchise — all of that applies not only to the UI but to the music, controls and the re-imagined levels featured in the game.
Remixes of classic Sonic songs pop up along with original tracks for original levels; all of which fit in nicely together and don’t sound or feel out of place. And if you happen to be annoyed by any of the songs or SFX in-game, the options menu holds volume controls to adjust the sound.
Sonic Mania wouldn’t be a Sonic game if it didn’t have stop-and-go stages and all out fast-paced levels. The new game manages to debut both old and new stages alike while keeping each level true to what it had to offer back in the 1990s, along with a few new surprises for today’s generation of gamer. No stage feels like it tries to overlap another, however each stage offers a unique feel that reminisces the best aspects of other past stages in the Sonic series of games to bring a whole new level of skill and speed.
On the topic of gameplay… special shields interact with stage props and themes in a unique way that can either hamper your progression through a stage or get you to another place to collect more rings, standing to be a very interesting touch nonetheless.
The game also houses Special Stages that are similar to a Mode 7-like atmosphere. These special stages task you to collect blue spheres to increase your speed and collect rings to gain more time to catch a UFO that holds a Chaos Emerald. Spikes, pits and other hazards will try to prevent you from catching the UFO, it’s quite challenging given the strict time limit and speed required to navigate each stage. Checkpoint posts hold Bonus Stages that contain Gold or Silver Medallions, which if enough are collected can unlock more content and features in the Extras menu.
Boss battles aren’t anything to scoff at in the game, and will require some measure of timing and skill to overcome them. Some of them will even challenge you to think outside the box when it comes to defeating them, which is a good thing. Some bosses may be a bit easier compared to others, but overall they each offer something that is unique to their design and the stage, rather than being stagnant rehashes of old concepts.
Overall, if you are looking to test your speed shoot for Time Attack; if you want to best another person in a friendly round, try Competition; and if you want a variety of stages, bosses, Special Stages and other fast encounters Mania Mode is the mode you should most definitely check out.
Sonic Mania is a game worth picking up if you are into all-things Sonic, platform games, and going fast. Once a moment, stage or boss starts to feel a little dull the game offers a nice mix up to pique your interest and keep you on your toes.