It’s been a very, very long time since I enjoyed a sonic game. This is a shame as the Sonic series was one of my favorites game series as a child. Somewhere along the way, for me, Sonic lost his way. Sonic Mania fixed all of that.
So, what is Sonic Mania? Sonic Mania is a bit of a fan game, built from and around the classic Sonic games, with new new features, levels and characters remixed in the game. Headed by former fangame designers and internal Sega designers, the game has been created from the ground up on the Retro Engine by the people who enjoyed these games as youths. It’s a bit of the old games, but importantly, a lot of new throw in also.
The story is simple enough. Sonic, Tails and Knuckes stumble across the ever persistent Dr.Eggman (forever Robotnic in my eyes) and are quickly thrown into a world of peril as
Eggman Robotnic (Darn it!) digs up a new Chaos Emerald which seemingly distorts time and reality. From here, classic levels known and loved are warped and changed into exciting, new areas.
Now, I’m going to keep this short. We all know what Sonic is and how it plays, but I’m going to concentrate on what Mania does different. Crucially, Mania starts out by fixing all of the problems of the originals. No longer do characters run face first at high speed into enemies. Now, speed is handles beautifully, with Sonic always being slowed down or stopped naturally by the level design, almost always preventing accidental collisions with enemies unseen from beyond the screen. Secondly, the sluggish controls are gone. Sonic feels like you remember, just now tighter, more fluidly, and far more easily handled. He does what you want, when you want. Finally, Mania eliminates the dulldroms of the original. Water stages are modified to avoid constant drowning and slow-mo running, old bosses are changed in ways that surprise and delight, bosses are pulled from other games and dropped in places you wouldn’t expect, new bosses and enemies completely change how the game plays (I can’t spoil these, but some of them are absolutely brilliant and left me all giggly inside), and elements of the levels are put together in a way that’s faster, more fluid, and more rational than I could have ever hoped for.
Smaller changes like rings leading the way to the next place you need to go, power ups being positioned so that they can be used to unlock new areas of the levels while also interacting with the environment in clever ways , and character specific routes that lead to fun and interesting locations, all add a certain level of design polish to the game that was never present before. Graphical details like more frames of animation, new animations, well timed character blinks and expressions, smoothly rotating rings, and Easter eggs hidden in the level design (with strong musical allusions to the classics), are icing for long term fans, and new fans alike.
First and foremost, Mania remembers what made the originals great, and set out to fix them. Sonic was always about platforming, traversing the levels with speed and grace, and Mania nails this like never before. It’s the Sonic we all deserved, but never quite received, and I love it for it.
Check this game out.
*Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. Personally purchased for entertainment purposes.