Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t enjoyed Sonic for a good decade or so. The Sega franchise has taken some pretty strange twists and turns in its lifetime, and – in my opinion – could’t really compete with the success of that Italian plumber everyone likes.
Sonic Mania however is a return to form, going back to the basics and reestablishing why we were ever fond of the blue hedgehog in the first place. Project leader and lead programmer Christian Whitehead is passionate about the series – having previously developed fan games and received attention from Sega with a port of Sonic CD – and this really shows in the final product. This kind of back to basics style of play is exactly what the franchise needed, and it’s a solid example of why AAA companies should pay attention to their fan bases. Sonic Mania is like a continuation from Sonic 3, stripping the title back to what it needs to be – a simple yet challenging side scrolling platformer.
Taking you back to and re-imagining classic stages, Sonic Mania is a great blend of nostalgia and new content. With 90s staples like zany boss fights, frustratingly difficult jumps and a playable cast of anthropomorphic heroes, it’s hard not to find this game fun for fans of the originals.
And the aforementioned difficulty, it’s very much there. I know I’ve covered recently with the Crash remaster just how hard games used to be, but damn, you need patience for this one. Although it can be frustrating in places, the overall package is still incredibly enjoyable, with the traditional arcade style play, speed runs and a versus mode where you race across levels in local split screen. You’re also able to play as fan favourites Knuckles and Tails, giving you some variation in how you traverse levels.
Aside from simply running across maps and destroying bosses, there are a few mini games to be found within Sonic Mania, such as chasing UFOs and facing Dr Robotnik in a round of Puyo Puyo style Tetris. There’s enough to keep you around, although it might not be crazily long the replay value is pretty fantastic, especially on the Switch, where a quick few rounds can be snuck in on the move.
Visually the game hits the mark for a continuation of the retro style Sonic games. It looks old school, but with a lot more detailing in the environments and an overall crisper appearance, and of course the soundtrack is exactly what you’d expect from Sonic, and it’s a welcome presence.
If you’re new to Sonic or weren’t alive in the 90s, you might find the game a bit confusing, but if you’re craving some of that older style gameplay and a hit of nostalgia, this is the game for you – and retailing at around AU$25, it won’t break the bank.