Release Date: August 15, 2017
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC (August 30)
Developer: Headcannon, PagodaWest Games
When Sonic Mania was announced last year for its 25th Anniversary at San Diego Comic-Con, it received a lot of criticism about whether we needed another Sonic game or not. Since Sega’s demise after the fall of the Dreamcast, the games featuring Sonic seem to have been mediocre. We have received plenty of iterations of 3-D Sonic games, and even a classic version with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 in 2012, but they scratched the surface of how the blue hedgehog grabbed the gaming community like he did in the early 90’s. This release changed all of that.
I was genuinely excited to play Sonic Mania, after viewing the Collector’s Edition commercial trailer, which I also did an unboxing of. With classic platforming, challenging game play, and nostalgia written all over it, Sonic Mania is a love letter to retro game fans, new and old alike.
If you’re looking for classic Genesis game play, Sonic Mania will not disappoint you. Mania Mode was incredibly fun and addicting to traverse through levels at top speed, collecting rings, only to either narrowly avoid the enemy at the end of a run, or lose everything. You don’t have to try to take down Doctor Eggman and his robot minions all alone though, as Sonic Mania features cooperative game play with a second controller. This game is basically a remix of levels from previous Sonic games. Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Hydrocity, among others are here, but re-envisioned into a completely new game.
The soundtrack replicates that of the traditional Sonic theme. I love retro 16-bit music, and the selections for each level were perfection. It’s a great trip through memory lane, however it feels like the developers were afraid to think outside of the box sometimes, and didn’t try anything too new. Additions to levels were definitely welcome, breaking the flow of standard “gotta go fast” mechanics. But it didn’t feel as if they added enough to the levels for it to feel like a brand new Sonic game. I also found too many times a glitched platform or obstruction in the level that would cause me to instantly die, which should have been worked through in 2017. A nice addition were the inclusion of bonus stages and challenges that gives a nice break from platforming.
The true stand out for me were the boss battles. After each Act, you face one of Eggman’s creations in an intense battle. Each fight is unique and creative, challenging the player to devise a way to take down the boss. I admit, at times I felt like throwing my controller to the ground, and stomping it into oblivion. But when I finally made it past a Zone, it was truly a rewarding experience. You also feel encouraged to replay a lot of the bosses and acts, as each level takes on different twists and turns, and have a lot of hidden areas. It’s also nice to see how much quickly and easier it becomes each time to tackle an Act. Other than Mania Mode, the game offers a Competition and Time Attack Modes after completing the first Zone in Mania Mode. Time Attack Mode pits you against yourself to see how quickly you can beat a level. Competition allows you play against a second player in a split screen mode, racing to see who can finish a level first.
Sonic Mania brings a lot of more classic aspects of the franchise, and also brings a few new ideas to the plate. The game features the three classic protagonists Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles as playable characters, all of which have their own unique abilities familiar to the original games. Sonic has a drop dash ability, which sends him spinning off after landing a jump, Tales can fly and swim, and Knuckles can glide after jumping and can also grab/climb walls. You can begin a new game in Mania Mode with either Sonic, Tails, or Sonic and Tails. An “& Knuckles” game mode is unlockable after completing several of the Blue Sphere levels. The Blue Sphere levels are bonus stages within the game that you access through check points. When you pass through a checkpoint with 25 rings or more, a special portal will appear to access the bonus stage. Collect enough medals within the Blue Sphere levels to access unlockables in the menu. Unlockables include a Super Peel-Out move, Insta-Shield, and Debug mode. Debug modes allows you to do a level select, access sound testing, and add in objects into the levels such as special item boxes. Completing the set of medals unlocks additional features such as the Mean Bean Machine mini game, Blue Sphere levels, and sound test. Along with the Blue Sphere levels, there are also hidden bonus stages in each level, accessible through a giant golden ring. Completing the UFO chase level gifts the player with the classic recurring Sonic collectible, a Chaos Emerald. Collecting all Chaos Emeralds gives you the ability to transform into Super Sonic, rendering you basically invincible and giving you the ability to fly. These extra additions breakaway from standard game play and add replayability to Sonic Mania, even after beating the story line.
Sonic Mania is a love letter for any classic Sonic fans, and a great beginning for anyone new to the series. Coming from someone that grew up mainly with a Nintendo console in my home, it was truly a rewarding experience to play this game. It was incredibly fun, even though it made me want to rage quit at times, it kept drawing me back in. I plan to go back and revisit Time Attack, and also play with friends in Competitive and Cooperative modes. Even with a few glitches, and a focus on an old-school formula, I would definitely recommend it to anybody interested.
- THE GOOD
- Nostalgia everywhere
- Fantastic music
- Value and replayability
- THE BAD
- Old school glitches that shouldn’t exist
- It needs more “new” to the formula
- Difficult game play, yet rewarding
Sonic Mania is a love letter for any classic Sonic fans, and a great beginning for anyone new to the series. Difficult at times, but truly rewarding.