Sonic, much like his parent, SEGA has had a rather tumultuous history. Marred by a slew of questionable, or even horrendous games. One could argue that Sonic never again reached the heights of his Mega Drive days.
As a result , a great deal of attention has been focused squarely on Sonic Mania. Would this be his saving grace, or would Sonic be forever doomed to a life of mediocrity? Read on and let’s find out!
Please note that this is a *SPOILER FREE review of the Nintendo Switch version of Sonic Mania*.
The game is primarily rooted in the template set forth by the original game. Sonic runs, jumps and collects rings. Sometimes he runs really fast, sometimes he takes his time and explores a bit.
The game is broken up into a few different modes. Mania Mode is the game’s core ‘story’ mode. Although there isn’t much of a story to speak of. Mania mode can be played locally with a 2nd player controlling Tails!
The game also features a time attack mode, where you can challenge each act of each level to try and set the fastest score. You can then compare these scores on leaderboards with people all around the world. It’s a welcome addition to the game that will help flesh out its longevity.
Finally, there is Competition Mode. This pits 2 players in a head to head stand-off. This mode is unfortunately only available as a local 2-player option. An online version of this mode is definitely something the developers should look into in the future.
As you progress through each of the game’s roughly a dozen levels, you’ll encounter a number of diverse and fun boss battles. These range from the traditional ‘jump on their head’ platform-clichés to more inventive battles. This includes a rather delicious Mean Bean Machine stand-off.
If you’re lucky (I hear the kids sometimes call it ‘skill’), you’ll get to activate a bonus mission and chase down one of those elusive Chaos Emeralds. A mainstay of Sonic games. This bonus round sees Sonic chasing a UFO and uses a distinctive 3D-style pixelation effect that is, well, effective!
At times the game can be difficult, and while I’m a firm believer that games should pose an adequate challenge to the player; Sonic Mania’s difficulty seems scattered, if not inconsistent, especially where water levels and some boss battles are concerned. This will pose less of a problem in the future as you become more accustomed to the levels and boss patterns, but early playthroughs may encourage certain levels of frustration by sudden jumps in the game’s difficulty. Though it must be said that having Tails with you does alleviate some of that difficulty.
A Switch exclusive feature allows you to take this game portably, and from my experience the performance in handheld mode is spot on. To contrast TV play, where I noticed a considerable amount of lag on a few separate occasions when the screen is ‘busy’. I possibly had more fun playing this in bed late at night than I did on my TV!
The very moment you boot up the game and see that big, beautiful pixelated SEGA logo, the nostalgia wave hits you like a typhoon. This is soon met with a stunning hand animated cut-scene featuring our three heroes, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 26 years it offers you great insight into what you’re about to play, whereas long time fans may beckon fond memories of the classic Sonic cartoons!
Even the menus totally fit the retro motif of the game. The attention to detail in every corner is impressive. The ‘controls’ portion of the options menu even features a pixelated diagram of the Nintendo Switch controller!
The game’s levels are a visual and technical marvel, with their enormous designs illustrated beautifully. They take much inspiration from the earliest Sonic games, but have been reimagined more than enough to make them feel fresh and exciting.
Sonic Mania ditches the story emphasis of more recent Sonic games for a rather basic plot, much to its benefit. Taking Sonic back to its basics was necessary, and putting more focus on immersive levels and smooth gameplay was far more important!
Long time, die-hard fans of the franchise may be a little disappointed by its decision to ditch nearly the entire extended cast, but they can surely find solace in the huge number of in-game cameos to be found!
What very easily could have been a simple cash-in on the current wave of nostalgia plaguing every orifice of the current gaming landscape went so much further than my wildest expectations.
Sonic Mania almost single handedly manages to erase 20+ years of questionable history with that iconic wag of Sonic’s finger. This isn’t just a throw-back, or some piece of nostalgia-bait. This is a return to form. It casts away what didn’t work, and reinstates everything that paved the way for Sonic to become a video game icon to begin with.
Sonic Mania is quite simply the past, present and future of Sonic.
|+Superb presentation||-Sudden jumps in difficulty (Minor Issue)|
|+Fluid gameplay||-Some minor lag|
|+Lots of replay value|
|+Fantastic level design|