Sonic Mania — Review

From the moment you’re present with the opening splash screen Sonic Mania promises a retro-flavoured treat, and boy does it deliver. The colourful retro 2D graphics and its vibrant soundtrack will please any fan of the series right from the off.

Sonic Mania does an excellent job in showing players just what a new Sonic game can look and feel like, truly going beyond the expectations of many. The game not only celebrates the past and all its glory, it gloats at the possible future we could all have for this beloved series.

Inspired by the classic 16-bit games Sonic Mania just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how old, or how much time has passed, a good game will always be a good game.

Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles all return to fight Eggman and his horde of minions. Run, jump, spin and fly your way around 12 excellent zones. The addition of both new and classic zones remix is welcome and pays the perfect homage to the original titles.

There is some fantastic level design, as expected from a Sonic game, with varied pathways and plenty of obstacles that keep players guessing all the time. Classic zones like Chemical Plant and Stardust Speedway make a return, but gloriously reimagined and remixed.

The old zones in Sonic Mania have some new tricks up their sleeves, not only in wowing you with nostalgia, but being overall bigger areas and filled to the brim with tricks.

The 2D art in Sonic Mania looks amazing and it’s clear a lot of love and care went into perfecting it. In particular, the new sprite animations that bring life and personality to your favourite characters. There is a lot of attention to detail in both the levels and characters, bringing a fresh and joyous vibrancy to the look and feel.

Both the visuals and the music are crafted to perfection in Sonic Mania and compliment each other well. The soundtrack is as always-top notch; with new tracks present in the same 90s retro feel as the originals.

Sonic Mania follows in the fast pace 2D platforming footsteps as the original games, but it expands on what’s already loved, bringing new ideas to the table. This becomes really apparent when you play the remixed levels, which have a few new tricks of their own.

The new stages and zones have some really inventive mechanics, but all still have the feel of a Sonic game and are not out of place. There are sections where you’re encouraged to freeze yourself into a block of ice so you are able to smash through walls.

Every level ends with a boss fight, as you’d expect. These range from simple fights to extremely challenging and rewarding engagements. There’s a great balance of difficulty, however, so it’s unlikely you’ll struggle to get through the first half of the game.

The gameplay is typical, classic Sonic, with the exception of a few welcomed things. In Sonic Mania you can play as all three characters; Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. This was amazing news for someone partial to Knuckles, like myself.

The movement and feel of each of the three characters are distinct from one another but remains faithful to the original game. Each has their own special and returning abilities, with the exception of one addition. Sonic now has a sort of drop dash ability, which allows players to quickly roll forward after jumping. It’s a handy trait to have and it doesn’t spoil anything, or seem out of place.

All three characters can be played on any level and one of the great things about Sonic Mania is that none seem out of place when doing so. Levels are excellently designed to fit with each character and by often replaying levels and using the unique abilities you can find hidden areas geared towards each character. It’s nice to see a game that rewards you for replaying levels with different characters.

Sonic Mania has all the great gimmicks and hidden passages you’d expect from a Sonic game. Both the physics and the overall feeling of the game make it just as challenging as the original titles. However, due to the widescreen capability and a smoother frame rate, players will find a better sense of awareness as you tackle the trickier levels.

It always seemed a good idea to go back and replay levels in Sonic Mania. Some of this is almost required in order to collect all the Chaos Emeralds and see the games true, but other times it’s to try and perfect the tricky special stages. Special stages are where I have some of my gripes with this game, as I found one of the lesser enjoyable parts. The camera is my biggest annoyances as it can make barriers and another thing easy to miss.

Bonus levels also return in Sonic Mania, but these don’t reward you with Emeralds. Instead, they unlock bonus features in the game. These are called secrets and a fun little addition to the game. Be aware though that to use some of these secrets, you will need to disable the save functionality, essentially meaning you’ll need to play through the entire game in one sitting – which I’m sure some people are happy to do.

As great as this game is, it is obviously not without its issues. The new elements to Sonic Mania are the best part of the game and I wish more focus had gone into that instead of the remix. If you saw something in an older game, chances are that you will see it in Sonic Mania, in one way or another. That, unfortunately, applies to even the bad stuff.

Despite the small flaws this game has, Sonic Mania speeds forward and manages to regain its rhythm throughout the 12 stages, even after some slight stumbles. After years of previous Sonic titles chasing the legacy of the originals, we’ve never quite had a game that can stand toe to toe with the early games – but that’s all changed now.

Sonic Mania uses nostalgia in the right way. Keeping the somewhat familiar present, but then mixing in a large and healthy dose of the new and fresh. It’s an excellent 2D platformer that is not only the long-awaited evolution of a classic Sonic game but perhaps one of the best ones ever.

Sonic Mania is a tip to all other developers and would-be’s – this is how you make a retro game in 2017.

Constantly threatening to write a book, but always with a story to tell. Tom has a typical northern English soul. He may sound as mundane as Jon Snow, but at least he tries to articulate. Lover of video games, comics, geek pop culture and wishing he could play Dungeons & Dragons.
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