There was a time in the past when Sonic used to compete with Mario not just in sales, but also in term of the quality of the games. As time passed, the star power of Sonic slowly diminished mostly due to the fact that the series failed to transition properly to 3D resulting in games that were mechanically flawed and hence were critically panned. Sega has since then tried to bring back the side-scrolling Sonic back into action but has failed to do until now. The release of Sonic Mania paves the way for classic Sonic to return with its 2D side-scrolling roots and it packs the same excitement and fun as the original Sonic trilogy on the Sega Mega Drive.
Sonic Mania is the brainchild of Christian “Taxman” Whitehead, who himself is a fan of the classic Sonic games. He has mostly programmed enhanced version of some of the classic Sonic games and almost all of them have been received favorably by the fans of the series. The release of Sonic Mania was his first major project that was a joint collaboration along with Sega and it is no surprise to see that he has managed to create a Sonic game that the official Sonic Team has failed to do so for many years.
Sonia Mania features a retro sprite-based art style that evokes memory of the Sega Mega Drive days. It is basically an enhanced art style from the classic Sonic games with modern techniques mixed in between so that the retro look is maintained but improved upon with the better hardware offered now. A lot of the animations from the classic Sonic games have been retouched and improved giving them a completely new feel while making sure that the original gameplay experience is maintained. This is no easy feat as we have seen that the official Sonic Team, who developed majority of the Sonic games, have failed to achieve the same result.
I have only casually played most of the mdoern Sonic games and was never really a big fan of the series, but I did enjoy what I played of the 2D sonic games. Even though Sonic is considered one of the better platformer of the early Sega Mega Drive days, it also had its fair share of flaws. The sense of speed might be incredible but it came at the expense of a sense of progression in the level. You had the whole level for yourself to explore but do you spent time with it, or do you just rush to the end of the stage so you can start the boss fight. This is something that might not sit well with those who prefer traditional platformers like Mario but giving choices to the player is never a bad thing, right?
Sonic Mania builds on the same foundation laid out be the classic Sonic games by giving the player the choice to rush through a level with full speed, or explore it to discover all the hidden secrets within it. The levels are divided in acts and labeled as zones with the game carrying around 12 zones to complete with 2 acts each per level. There are also boss fights at the end of each act majority of which is unique and ranks as one of the best boss fights in the series. There are a lot of creatively designed boss battles that keep the gameplay fresh and offer some interesting break from the standard platforming gameplay. These boss battles are based on a pattern and require you to understand them in order to defeat them. They are also pretty entertaining the first time around and since they are usually short enough, they never feel like a burden during a replay of the game.
Speaking of the level design, some of it is jaw dropping gorgeous. Each level has its own set of gimmicks that are tied to the design of the level so they never feel forced. There are a lot of secrets to collect in each level with bonus stages for unlocking chaos emeralds. If you are a true Sonic fan, you will have a great time collecting each of these chaos emeralds and completing majority of the game. However if you are just here to play through a game the first time around, it is rather short and will take just under 5 hours to complete all of the zones. Of course, this assumes you rush through each level instead of exploring every nook and cranny.
Sonic Mania has a rather charming presentation where attention has been given to make sure it retains it classic look. The game also features a CRT filter that implements scanlines on the screen for maximum nostalgic feelings. Aside from that, you have multiple different modes to tackle like the Time Attack mode or the Competition mode. The game also works in co-op so you can play it with a partner which can be extremely fun in itself. You can also play through the main story with either Sonic, Knuckles, Miles or a combination of characters.
Sonic Mania also offers plenty of secrets that are unlocked through various means in the game. These secrets add to the replay value and should keep you occupied for a long time. The developers have even added some cool cheats and codes to be used in the game which is a breath of fresh air in the current DLC fueled market. As for the Nintendo Switch version of the game, there is no major issue aside from a very minor bug that delays the opening of the home screen. It hardly affects the actual experience of playing the game and even then, the developers are already working on a fix for it. Honestly Sonic Mania feels like the ideal game for the Nintendo Switch with its handheld and TV hybrid allowing the user a variety of options to play the game.
Sonic Mania Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Sonic Mania is a side-scrolling platform game developed by Headcannon and PagodaWest Games and published by Sega for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows in August 2017.
Sonia Mania is a refreshing attempt to bring the spotlight back on 2D Sonic games. It easily rivals the original Sonic trilogy in term of the level design and boss fights.