After playing Sonic at every waking moment before he was 10, Craig takes on our Sonic Mania Review
For a long time, there’s always been a debate as to whether or not the Sonic games of old were just a well-made product of their time or if they were genuinely great games.
Sonic Mania has put those arguments to bed for the most part. Sega’s reinvention of the classic 2D Sonic formula has given the blue blur a lease of life that it hasn’t received since the Dreamcast.
Bringing back gorgeous 2D sprites that emulate the classic Genesis and Mega Drive games perfectly with a set of physics which is hard to differentiate from the original games.
The original appeal of Sonic was in its simplicity. Press right and left to run, one button to jump and hold down and tap a button to perform a spin dash, the rest, as far as the platforming goes, is self-explanatory. Mania follows these rules to a T, but also provides surprises in its level design to both new and old players, introducing new patterns of play and reversing expected tropes at the optimum moment.
For old fans, Sonic Mania reinvents a number of old stages, starting off with the classic Green Hill Zone and Chemical Plant before introducing fan requests like Lava Reef and Flying Battery.
For those who played through these zones a multitude of times, the game plays on your memory, often introducing sections which first appear familiar, before sending you in a completely opposite direction with new challenges.
You won’t just see old zones reimagined, even though they are completely new levels in all but name.
Sonic Mania also presents brand new zones, all of which seamlessly fit in with the existing levels. Zones like Mirage Saloon and Studiopolis continually borrow small elements from past Sonic games (as do all the levels) but they help to give them their own character and personality, they’re not just dumped in for fan amusement, but created and placed in such a way that it fits the atmosphere of the level.
As you make your way through both acts of each Zone, you’ll be greeted at the end by a boss, each with its own unique take on the best way to send Sonic and his friends to their doom.
Like the levels themselves, each is done in such a way that oozes class and, at times, humour, with some of the bosses completely throwing the player and disregarding the typical 2D platforming that you’ll usually have to use.
These surprises are best to discover yourself but nods to past Sonic throwbacks are a plenty.
Bonus and Special stages also make a return, with the former allowing you to collect blue balls on a circular plain, while the latter sees you chasing a UFO in order to grab a Chaos Emerald.
In order to obtain the ‘true’ ending, you’ll need to collect all 7 Chaos Emeralds, although this doesn’t have to be completed in one run. Getting at least a silver on the increasingly difficult Bonus stages will allow you to unlock special features within the game.
The look and feel of past Sonic games is also replicated in Sonic Mania’s sound as well, with the wheeps, bleeps and bloops of the classic games coming through in a great fashion and even the new zones sound right at home.
One quirk of Sonic Mania is in its slightly archaic save system. Losing all your lives will see you put back to the start of a Zone, meaning that if you die at the final boss on Act 2 of a level, you’ll have to restart all the way back at the start of Act 1.
It’s more of a pain than a real issue with levels taking just mere minutes to complete, but one that’s annoying nonetheless, especially when everything else within Mania has received a superb deal of due care and attention.