A Blast From The Past
Sonic, much like Mario, is a beloved video game character that has been around for quite a while. He is quickly closing in on his 30th anniversary. He is a character who has had many ups and downs in regards to the quality of his games. Regardless of this fact he has a considerable loyal following of fans that eagerly await each release. Sonic Mania is a blast from the past that reclaims the speedy side-scrolling magic that made Sonic's initial releases so much fun. It recaptures and replicates this formula perfectly and proves even retro gameplay can still be as fun as more modern selections. I was floored by how much polish this game had and by how much fun it was to play. It's also worth mentioning that this game only cost 1/3rd of the price of most AAA games and is better than many of them.
A Tale of Three Heroes
Sonic Mania gives you the choice of speeding and spin dashing through its 12 zones as either Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles. You can also take Sonic and Tails through the campaign together just like in retro games such as Sonic 2. The games' 12 zones are a nice mix of remixed retro stages as well as brand new zones to this adventure. The remixed zones tend to have one stage that is ripped straight from a retro Sonic title, such as Chemical Plant Act 1, but they also contain a brand new stage for that zone that introduces new mechanics and snazzier effects into these fan favourites.
The brand new zones were a lot of fun and very good looking. They were very colourful stages that had a lot going on within them. I wanted to explore every nook and cranny the game contained. You find all sorts of challenges and “easter eggs” littered throughout every stage and it will make you want to replay and explore. There are so many paths through each stage and some of them are wildly different and even require you to play as a specific character to see. The reworked zones also shine. The developers do recycle some old gimmicks but also introduce all sorts of new elaborate pitfalls and obstacles that constantly left me surprised every step of the way. The old zones also contain tons of visual tweaks that make them more beautiful than they've ever been. All of the colours have been reworked to pop off the screen. The stages are definitely more detailed than their retro counterparts and feature a lot more movement in both the foreground and background. I absolutely adore the 2-D pixel art graphics and it recaptures the Sonic from my youth perfectly; down to Sonic tapping his foot when you leave him idle for too long. The game's soundtrack is just as excellent as the rest of the game and features some standout remixes of classic tracks right alongside some wonderful new compositions.
Let's get special!
Special stages also make a return in Sonic Mania and there are two types of them. As you speed through each stage you will encounter checkpoints that allow you access to the red/blue sphere special stages from Sonic The Hedgehog 3, if you are carrying enough rings. These stages do not reward you with chaos emeralds. Instead, you earn medals that give you access to some unique unlockable features such as a debug mode, sound test, and even some hidden mini-games. These stages seemed easy at first, but I found them very hard to master. If it's the “Chaos Emeralds” you are after then you are gonna want to tackle the “UFO Chaser” special stage by finding the huge rings that are located throughout each level. Once you get all the “Chaos Emeralds” you can even turn into the legendary Super Sonic which is an absolute blast.
The game is also littered with boss fights that were very fun to play. You get a mini-boss in each of the first acts of zones as well as a more intimidating boss at the end of the final act. I loved each and every one of the boss fights even if a few of them did tick me off at first. The difficulty of the boss fights is all over the map. Some were extremely easy and others were rage inducing, but as I said I enjoyed them all. There were some really interesting revamped boss fights from classic Sonic games right alongside the glorious new fights. Just like with the rest of the game the developers mixed the old with the new perfectly.
It really is amazing
In fact, every part of Sonic Mania is Sonic fine-tuned to perfection. It has interesting elaborate stages and the controls are spot on in this release. Sonic is extremely responsive to player input and the movement physics are simply the best out of ANY Sonic title. Whether I was avoiding a trap in style or falling victim to the many obstacles placed in my way, Sonic was always a joy to control and I never once got frustrated for anything that wasn't my mistake. If you fail in Sonic Mania it is typically your fault and not bad design. This hasn't been the case in most recent Sonic games and it pleased me immensely to see such a well designed Sonic game. The game requires you to have great reaction time without being overly difficult or cheap. You have to stay alert though if you want to come out on top in Sonic Mania.
Sonic Mania does a lot right and very little wrong as it speeds its way into your heart. The only complaint that I have is with the new drop dash move for Sonic. It didn't feel as useful or natural as the spin dash so I ended up not using it very much -- a very small flaw that didn't impact my experience with the title. Sonic Mania pulled on my nostalgia very hard and reminded me exactly why I fell in love with Sonic and friends when I was young. It made me feel like I was eight years old again sitting in front of the TV gaming on my Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. There was a ton of love poured into Sonic Mania and it shows. I think that the development team behind should take over as the new Sonic Team going forward. I can only hope that they will be allowed to bring us a Sonic Mania 2 -- and give the same love to it.
Captures retro Sonic perfectly
It sounds as good as it looks
The difficulty is just right
Fantastic replay value
New drop dash move isn't very useful