It’s 2017 and somehow, through all his struggles and even an almost catastrophic last release, Sonic the Hedgehog is back. But is it more of the same? Or the age old question, has SEGA figured out how to restore their mascot’s image? Enter Sonic Mania.
Dr. Robotnik aka Doctor Eggman is back at it again. This time with some egg shaped henchmen known as the Hard Boiled Heavies. In true Sonic fashion, Doctor Eggman and his henchmen are searching for a powerful magical gem. Upon its discovery, the Hard Boiled Heavies gain new powers and as a result, send the game’s 3 protagonists Sonic, Tails and Knuckles into alternate dimensions setting the stage for the different levels, or “zones” as they are referred to. Nothing exceptional, but for what it is, it entertained.
Sonic Mania plays out exactly as a traditional Sonic title from the Sega Genesis era did. Arguably a platformer, a really fast side scroller. A good part of Sonic Mania’s levels are spent watching the player speed through hoops, but that doesn’t mean the player isn’t involved. Accurately timed jumps and coin collecting are a must. Each Zone is broken up into 2 acts. With their own mini boss and then a face off with a harder boss. Either of which ends up being a Heavy or Doctor Eggman himself.
Throughout the 12 zones are large rings which unlock a mini game to chase down a chaos emerald. Collecting all 7 unlocks the true ending. Additional bonus levels are located at checkpoints with spinning ribbons where the player goes around collecting blue orbs, which award silver or gold medals. The medals unlock additional content in the game.
Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles all played very similarly with the jumping and can “rev up” for a burst of speed. Sonic has a jump dash, Knuckles can glide and climb. Tails is able to fly and swim. All of this adds a little something extra to each play through but isn’t anything to write home about.
Beautiful 16-bit HD graphics is the easiest way to describe Sonic Mania. The animations are crisp and I found every single level to appear to be crafted with love. Remixed older zones such as Green Hill and Chemical Plant had me falling in love from the start. The remixed music and the overall soundtrack has such a retro feel but fresh at the same time. I can’t get over how catchy the mini boss theme song is and I looked forward to each one just for that mini jam session.
Sonic Mania is clearly a game that was put together by a team of Sonic lovers. It is seeping with passion and I couldn’t get enough of it. After my initial play through which took me about 5 hours of frustration toward the later levels, having Doctor Eggman taunt me with the Chaos Emeralds I missed left me wanting to go back again. But then I wanted to replay the game as Knuckles. Then Tails. It’s true that it isn’t anything new or extraordinary, but it’s a damn fine game. One that I couldn’t put down and even gifted a pal. Can not recommend it enough. Sonic Mania left me wanting more Sonic. Even though we should know better by now. Tread lightly with the Sonic euphoria you will be left with.