Written by Gregg Dietz
Sonic Mania is an absolute delight. I never grew up playing “Sonic the Hedgehog,” minus the few times I went to a friend’s house. My history with the blue blur is lacking quite a bit. I still haven’t beat a classic title. As a matter of fact, “Sonic Mania” is the first title in the franchise i have ever finished. That being said, I had so much fun playing “Sonic Mania.”
This game's greatest strength is the gameplay. As I’m sure most of you already know, the game plays like the classic Genesis era titles. The controls feel very tight, with every death feeling entirely my fault. However, I experienced very few deaths due to excellent level design. From what I remember from the classic titles, and watching streams of others playing the games, the levels were merely designed to adhere to speed, but would break that up with occasional moments of platforming. This game does the same, but less so; every stage still wants you to think quickly as you zip around every turn.
There are 2 types of special stages. The first being the most common; if you collect 25 rings and cross a checkpoint, a circular gate opens up and takes you to a Blue Sphere stage. These were the bonus stages in “Sonic 3 & Knuckles.” However, here they are a bit different; by completing them you are awarded a silver coin, but if you collect all the rings, you get a golden coin. Collecting everything will grant access to a few additional fun things. Some can affect the game itself to the unlockables on the main screen. As for the giant rings you may find throughout the levels, those will take you to a Mach Speed section. These are very reminiscent of Sega Saturn’s “Sonic R”. Among the 7 stages, you chase down a UFO to obtain one of the Chaos Emeralds. You do this by collecting blue spheres for speed and rings for additional time. Once all 7 are collected, you can become “Super” by having 50 rings. Being super means you are invincible but slowly deplete rings. You may have seen Super Sonic before as he looks to have gone Super Saiyan.
One of my favorite things is how every stage ends in a boss fight. I don't remember this from the originals, but it was a new thing to me and i thoroughly enjoyed it. As for the bosses, I had a blast fighting each one, as it wasn’t ridiculously difficult but still challenging. Some of the bosses were clever in theme with the level, Including one that calls back to one of the lesser known games starring Dr. Robotnik. From what i understand, a few of the bosses were from the original games. I’m sure this was fun nostalgia for fans of the classic series.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of hearing just about every song in just about every Sonic game; it really is the best thing about the entire franchise. I truly mean that, even the worst of the games have a stellar soundtrack. I can confirm that this title has some of the best music to date. Each stage is filled with just the right tone and 16-bit sounds. I genuinely loved it.
I thought about every aspect of this game and i couldn’t for the life of me find something i didn't like about this game. Honestly, it was just a pure pleasure to play from start to finish. If i were to nitpick about anything, it would be that there wasn’t enough to do. Once you complete the standard game, you can play it again with either Knuckles or Tails but that's about it. Some of the unlockables will grant some fun playthroughs, which adds to the longevity of the game, but this is such a huge nitpick because the game is $20 and that's super cheap for this quality of work.
Overall, this game is such a delight and I couldn't recommend it more, whether you are an old school fan or just an onlooker who sort of knows the franchise. I think it’s important to note that this game was made by incredibly passionate fans, and it shows in spades. I give “Sonic Mania” a 9.5 outta 10.