Sonic Mania – Review

Title: Sonic Mania
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PC
Genre: Action, Adventure, Casual
Developer: Christian Whitehead , Headcannon ,PagodaWest Games
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: Aug 15, 2017

It’s been over 20 years since a classic Sonic the Hedgehog game has graced the console world. Sure, we’ve had the odd side-story here and there, but most of that time has been filled with 3D Sonic games that have never been all that great; And I’m including the Sonic Adventure series into the mix.

For years people have been asking for a traditional 2D Sonic game, a style where I, and many others, feel that Sonic works best. We nearly got that with Sonic 4, but that game simply tried to capture the past with new modern mechanics and an ugly style that failed to connect. Hell, I don’t think that game was ever finished, releasing only two of the planned three episodes that would complete a full game.

Fast-forward to 2017 and the release of Sonic Mania across all modern platforms, including the PC. What we have is not simply a love-letter to fans that grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog, but a game that not only stands alone to the testament of the best a side-scroller can be, but also may just stand as the best Sonic game to ever grace consoles.

Sonic shines in 2D.

Everything about Sonic Mania feels like the perfect followup to Sonic 3/Sonic CD. Gone is the forced attitude and cut-scenes that bogged down the 3D iterations of the series. Sonic Mania focuses on speed in a way even classic Sonic games could never achieve. Let’s face facts: the original Sonic games weren’t all that fast outside of the schoolyard marketing buzz.

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Sonic Mania, thanks to the power of modern consoles, feels like it’s really moving, so much so that the game almost suffers from it at times. It might not be all that uncommon to get a mild headache from just how fast things are moving across the screen at any given time. But on the other side of the coin the traditional platforming is fun and responsive, with stages being quite large, but still being easy to navigate and offering a lot to completionists.

Upon getting started with Sonic Mania, the games pulls at the nostalgia strings with references, scenes, and stages pulled straight from prior iterations of the series with minor tweaks. These serve to draw in old players to this new adventure, but also serve to teach new players how this whole Sonic thing works in a non-3D setting.

New stages will become instant classics.

But aside from the blistering speed and excellent platforming design, Sonic Mania comes with a lot of details that are sure to make any gamer smile. The team have put together a fantastic soundtrack, one that I am seriously debating on purchasing because of just how incredible it is to experience.

And since this is classic Sonic, you are going to be taking on a lot of bosses that are looking to stop you from saving the animal world. These boss battles come in many forms, and while not all of them are going to test you to your limits, or be all that impressive, the majority of them are top-notch. You even get references to other Sonic titles like the boss battle that has you play a puzzle game in the form of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean machine.

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Graphically, Sonic Boom is simply a delight. The 16-bit styled graphics are sharp, colorful, and help set a pretty amazing mood for each distinctive zone. And as the game progresses you are going to be introduced to all new zones for the series that simply blow everything that came before them in the Sonic world away.

New 3D bonus stages join much-loved classics.

But all is not perfect in this new Sonic adventure. Even though this is a 16-bit inspired game running on modern consoles, the game sometimes deals with some really strange slowdown when things get a bit busy. Sure, this sort of thing happened back in the early 90s, but you’d think the PS4 that we reviewed the game on could be more than enough to handle the games sprite-based graphics.

Another issue that you are going to face in Sonic Mania is one that anyone that played the classic 16-bit games will understand: platforming issues. Now, I know that I said the platforming was great earlier, and it is, but that’s in terms of design; In terms of execution Sonic feels a little more loose than I would like.

This make traversing the stages a bit harder, especially when making tricky and precise jumps. There where times where I had to redo a section five times or more just to nail a jump, or series of jumps. It’s by no means a game killer, but it is a nagging point against the game. Then again, this was an issue that we all complained about back on the elementary school playground.

Boss battles are loads of fun.

In the end, what Sonic Mania does right far exceeds anything the game might have going against it. You get a ton of new features and gameplay mechanics that make Sonic Mania feel like an entirely new game while still holding onto everything that made it, well, so darn unique.

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After years and years of less than stellar Sonic the hedgehog video games, it’s really comforting that the blue blur is back to the roots that made him special, and that the core of what Sonic was back in the early 90s stills works so beautifully today.

 

“Sonic has finally come home to 2D where he belongs and he has never been better!”

Final Score:

4.5/5

 

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J. Luis

J. Luis is the current Editor-In-Chief here at GAMbIT. With a background in investigative journalism his work encompasses the pop-culture spectrum here, but he also works in the political spectrum for other organizations.