Review of Sonic Mania

sonicmania

Sonic the Hedgehog hasn’t been doing too well lately. Gone are the days when the blue speedster was considered a genuine rival to Mario. Apart from a couple of exceptions, since 2006 most of Sonic’s games have been garbage. Sonic Boom’s reboot of the character flopped and the less said about the Princess Elise bestiality romance the better. Sega’s current creative team have no idea what made Sonic so special back during the 16-bit era. Thankfully someone in the company does at least have the sense to outsource their mascot’s next adventure to a programmer who does. Christian Whitehead seized the opportunity given to him by Sega and the result is arguably the finest post Genesis Sonic title to date.

OVERVIEW

One thing I like about Sonic Mania is that it goes back to basics. Gone are the convoluted plots of recent times. A dialogue free cut scene sets up the story. Eggman has gotten his dastardly mitts on the mystical Phantom Ruby. Just like sexual harassment, that’s no good. Sonic and chums race after Eggman, but upon confronting him get sucked into a portal and are transported to the past. Players must now guide the trio of heroes through twenty-four stages, which are inspired by classic Sonic levels. The playable characters on offer are Sonic, Tails and Knuckles… who since Sonic Boom appears to have cut down on the steroid abuse. If you want an easy playthrough pick Tails because he can swim and fly.

Although some of the zones are modelled off levels from yesteryear their design has been tweaked and there is a fair number of brand new areas to challenge too. That’s a relief because playing a Greatest Hits of old content would have felt like a rip off, especially given that Sega has rereleased the vintage Sonic trilogy more times than Square has recycled Final Fantasy One. Dashing through each zone is a joy, as the courses have been crafted in such a way that you can appreciate Sonic’s swiftness. The stages may only have one exit, but there are multiple routes you can take which encourages exploration. No two zones feel the same, as every act houses its own unique set of obstacles.

VERDICT

My rating for Sonic Mania is four and a half stars. If you enjoyed the nineties Sonic games, Mania is a must buy. Unlike the disappointing Sonic 4, Mania captures the spirit and feel of the Mega Drive era titles. It’s surprising how well the sprites still look and the music is as catchy as ever. The soundtrack boasts a nice collection of remixes and new electronic tunes. It took me around five hours to clear the story, which is long by Sonic standards. The fifteen quid asking price seems fair given that I have yet to replay the campaign with the other two characters. I also have to hunt down the Chaos Emeralds and tackle the epilepsy inducing 3D orb mini-game. Pikachu isn’t the only mascot that can trigger fits!

The sole gripe I have with Sonic Mania is that progress is only saved at the start of a new zone. Levels are divided up into a pair of acts. Should a player exhaust all of their lives during act two they will be forced to replay act one from the beginning. Not a big deal though, as the game isn’t difficult. Insta-death pitfalls are rare and Sonic is practically immortal, providing that he holds at least one ring at all times. Any frustration I felt with redoing a stage was offset by the game’s cool references to past Sonic titles. My favourite throwback came at the end of Chemical Plant Zone, where the boss challenges you to a Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine duel. I couldn’t believe it. Sonic has to beat “Eggman” in a puzzle game? You must be yolking.

46 thoughts on “Review of Sonic Mania

  1. The original Sonic on Genesis is the only one I have any attachment to, having moved on to the SNES before 2, 3, and Knuckles came along. I gave both Adventure games a shot on Dreamcast and didn’t care for either. It seems to be the general consensus that aside from Sonic Generations there hasn’t really been a great Sonic game since the Genesis era, and Mania appears to rectify that. I do love me some 2D platformers and I hope to give Mania a go at *some* point, but I’m wondering if I’ll enjoy it as much as others if I’m just not much of a Sonic fan to begin with.

    • The first Sonic game is decent, but probably the weakest of the mainline Mega Drive titles. Sonic 3 combined with Sonic & Knuckles was my favorite of the bunch. I don’t dislike all the 3D games, like some people do, but lost my love for the series after Sonic 2006. It was a disgrace that Sega would release a game with so many bugs and lengthy load screens.

      Sonic Mania isn’t a full price game and not a huge time investment so it’s worth a bash. Based on your comment I’m not sure you are the target audience for it though. Mania is clearly aimed at players who have nostalgia for the 16-bit Sonic games. If you like speedy platformers I would also recommend Freedom Planet.

      • I played Freedom Planet on Wii U and thought it was pretty great, yeah. Once Mania goes on sale on PSN (since we all know sales are a rarity on Nintendo platforms — though I’d prefer it on Switch) I’ll probably give it a go.

  2. S3&K still remains my favourite of the originals, but honestly, I want as down on the newer games as some. Heroes was fun, and I really liked Adventure 2 Battle. I loved Generations and never understood why so many people disliked Unleashed. Sonic 06 … I liked the premise, but it was so glitchy and fiddly.
    Mania is a welcome step back to the old school though and will with the cheap price. Sonic Forces looks like Generations II and is apparently also gonna be discounted, so that’s looking good too. You never know, Sonic may yet make a real comeback at this rate

    • Apart from the occasional camera issue I liked the Adventure games. The switching teammates mechanic of Heroes was neat. Heck I even liked Shadow the Hedgehog. Sonic 2006 is when things started to go sour for me. That said I also liked Generations and Colors was okay too.

      Fingers crossed that Forces is a hit. If it doesn’t go down well I think Sega should seriously consider make future titles in the mold of Mania.

  3. In my gaming days, I was never very good at Sonic. In fact I was really bad at it. Granted, I never played this on a console, but instead on the PSP, but still, I was pretty bad. Platform games never were my gaming genre really, I was more into shooters. But I still liked playing them, especially the ones that had really Legends in them, like Mario and ofcourse Sonic 😊 It’s cool to see this fun character is still alive and kicking 😊

    • Most video game characters don’t stand the test of time. The fact that Sonic is still around, especially after starring in some poor games recently, says a lot about what a loyal fan base he has. You are a fan of shooters? I’m not too good at those because dodging bullets and aiming is tough. What games did you own during your PSP days?

      • Well…I was a very, very fanatical gamer back in those days. Which means that I owned quite a number of games. Most of the PSP games were shooters and racing games (such as Ridge Racer), but I also liked several puzzlegames. The game that contained Sonic was the Mega Drive Collection and quite a bit of fun to play (as these were mostly classic retro games). I’ve sold most if my games, but all the PSP games i still own though 😊 But yeah shooters were my thing, especially Unreal Tournament. Loved that game to bits 😀

  4. Oh my gosh! I can remember the hours my son would play Sonic on his Game Cube. I miss those days. I always enjoyed playing it with him too. I’ve not tried the newer games, but great review. 🙂 ❤

    • Nintendo and Sega used to be fierce rivals, so it was weird seeing Sonic appear on the Gamecube after Sega dropped out of making consoles. I too spent many hours playing Sonic on the cube courtesy of Sonic Adventure Battle 2 and the Sonic Mega Collection. Good times.

  5. I am completely unprepared for a Sonic game to be good. There’s a part of me that doesn’t even think it can be possible. Surely if it could happen, we would have seen some hope of life in the last ten years, right?

    • From the past ten years I thought Sonic Rush Adventure, Colors and Generations were okay. The other stuff has been poor though. It’s surprising that Sonic is still around with that track record. Many franchises get cancelled after just one weak sequel.

  6. “…especially given that Sega has rereleased the vintage Sonic trilogy more times than Square has recycled Final Fantasy One.”

    I don’t laugh out loud often. Thank you!

  7. I just played some of this at a friend’s earlier, and instantly liked what I saw. I’m not the biggest Sonic fan. But I can appreciate a good Sonic title like the old Genesis, CD, and Dreamcast classics. This completely hearkens back to the original trilogy, and so I think people who love the Sega Genesis games are going to really dig this one.

  8. I haven’t played Sonic in years. I think the last game I played was a Sonic tennis game, we got free with an Xbox 360. So you can probably guess how long ago that was. hehe 🙂
    This post has made me feel all nostalgic and want to collect those gold rings again hehe 🙂

    • I think that must have been the Sega Tennis game, which included a bunch of their characters – including some from the Sonic series. The game was decent, but I preferred Mario Tennis more, as it had more content.

      • I think you’re right. The name sounds familiar
        🙂 It was a nice little mess about game. Good for getting use to the console.
        I’ve never played Mario Tennis, but does sound better. The character are a lot cuter 🙂

  9. I’m really tempted with this game, reception has been amazing and really enjoyed the original games… But when recently I’ve played those games again, the feeling wasn’t the same as in the past. But I’m sure that sooner or later I will give it a chance. Great review!

    • The gameplay is identical to the old Sonic games so maybe it won’t be your cup of tea? Depends on why you didn’t care for the older titles. If it was a case of feeling bored about replaying something you have beaten before Sonic Mania does at least offer new levels.

  10. I think I would enjoy this one. I used to play Sonic a lot in the 90s, and when it is a game of your childhood you regard it dear. I still look at this character fondly. I remember I had all those books where you put Sonic stickers in. Nostalgia, were good days.

      • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book is not too bad to have either. I remember I had some film on a VHS which began with only the trailer to the turtles film and I was so into the trailer and excited by it, it was like I had the film lol, crazy times.

  11. This game looks exciting, looking at the stages it looks well done. I never really paid any attention to the 3D Sonic games and I’ve never really understood the sonic fanbase but I’m assuming that the relationship between the two is just like a man who almost flawlessly disappoints his wife every time that she gives him a chance.

  12. Glad you enjoyed the game so much! It’s good for Sonic to finally be embracing both 2D and 3D by having games coming out for both. I’m looking forward to Forces even more now with Mania subtly leading into it. For some reason I always thought Mania was a 3DS game instead of a PS4 one. I think I just need to get used to the 2D Sonic games being back on the home consoles.

      • Yeah, we do need another big one on the 3DS. I’m actually surprised it wasn’t made for both consoles, but maybe there were some tech limitations or something.

  13. I loved this game when I was a kid…. It is amazing to see how they completely took it to the next level as years went by… Excellent review, Judge… 😉 xx Enjoy the weekend

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