Developer: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action, Platformer, Arcade & Multiplayer
Release Date: 15th of August, 2017 (PAL & NA)
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If you were playing games back in the 90’s, than there is every chance you have played at least one Sonic game and now that Sonic Mania is out on various platforms for the whole world to enjoy, the time has come for lots of gamers to relive their childhood and for me to review what is swiftly become a world renowned creation.
Only before I actually begin to write about what Sonic Mania is and how it plays, being as though this is the first Sonic game I ever got to write a review about, I want to dedicate a couple of paragraphs to the franchise itself and with Mania being a game that pays homage to the titular Sonic’s roots, whilst putting nostalgia back on the table, so here’s the history of Sonic!
Sonic is the super speedy blue Hedgehog that raced into our lives in the year 1991. At first gamers weren’t quite sure what to make of the anthropomorphic Sonic, whom was created by what would become SEGA’s Sonic Team division, as SEGA desired a mascot character of then something in our brains clicked and we took to him like cheese on crackers and it wasn’t that long before a sequel was released.
The 2D side-scrolling platform game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 released in 1992 and it was a lot like the first game, a blue hedgehog going fast, as he uses a series of springs, power-ups and checkpoints, in a bid to reach the end of the level, except Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was even faster and bigger and it was also the game that gave birth to Miles Prower, who is better known by the name of Tails.
Now I liked Sonic, he was an attractive character, but Tails was something else. Innocent, cool and so very pure, so it wasn’t long before Tails also become beloved by so many and he wouldn’t be the only friend Sonic would go on to have. Together the two of them rose in popularity and the series that created them, started to create more and more games including spin-offs and both remastered creations and re-releases. There was also a couple of TV shows as well and Sonic Mania gripped the world, for a time and although Sonic is still going, with Sonic Boom still being a reality, Sonic wasn’t as notorious as he used to be and I say “wasn’t” because everything changed this week!
The Sonic revival that is Sonic Mania, didn’t just come to Nintendo Switch this week, but PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (PC release isn’t until the 29th of August) and if it was a virus, than that plague has consumed the world. Sales are impressive, almost everyone is not just playing it, but enjoying it and too right they should. But since there are a number of you who still haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, here’s everything you need to know about the game and how it handles on Switch.
In terms of story and setting, Sonic Mania takes place after the events of Sonic & Knuckles (released in 1994 and is a direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3) and things get underway when one daily, Sonic and Tails receive a powerful energy reading coming from Angel Island. The two board Tails’ plane the Tornado to go investigate the source, only they’re not the only ones making their way there as Doctor Eggman, aka Doctor Robotnik, has ordered his elite group of Eggrobos (the Hard-Boiled Heavies) to check out the signal.
Just as Sonic and Tails arrive, Eggman’s Eggrobos have already excavated the source of a signal, which is none other than the mysterious gemstone known as the Phantom Ruby. With the ruby in their possession, the Hard-Boiled Heavies are granted new powers and send cast Sonic, Tails and Knuckles (the Guardian of Angel Island,) back in time and from there on, the trio of heroes must make their way through levels of old and new, in their attempt of reclaiming the Phantom Ruby and defeating Doctor Eggman.
But defeating him will not be easy Sonic and crew must make their way through 12 tough zones that consist of 2 acts (24 levels in total,) with each one ending with a boss battle and some will drive you bonkers. The good news however, is of those 12 songs, 4 of them are new, whereas 8 are remixed versions of previous zones and there are three characters for you to play as, or you can opt to play through as Sonic and Tails, with a Player 2 able to take control of Tails. Be warned though, some levels do differ on who you choose and each character does have a different playstyle as Tails can fly and swim, Knuckles can glide and climb and Sonic, as being able to run and roll, he can also perform a drop dash, which is when after a jump, sends him rolling into a dash.
Whoever you decide to play as though, although there is a time limit at play (you will die if the time reaches 9’59’99 and respawn at your last checkpoint,) always be sure to explore each and every nook and cranny of the levels as there are plenty of mini-games/special stages to experience, such as the typical Blue Sphere stages previously seen in other games and even Giant Rings that will transport you to a special stage. A stage in which, Sonic is required to get a UFO to acquire 1 of 7 Chaos Emeralds before he runs out of time and if 7 are collected, a different ending will be presented, along with the unlocking of Super Sonic, which can be activated any time the player collects 50 Rings when playing through the game.
Another reason for you trying to be as explorative as possible, is that Sonic Mania also has a number of modifiers that can be unlocked, such as Debug Mode, Sound Test and even & Knuckles. (& Knuckles is a mode that allows for simultaneous control of any character and Knuckles.) Then of course there are other Extras like earnable medals and Mean Bean (think Puyo Puyo,) which is a two-player mini-game that is actually based on Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and is actually something you’ll get to do in game, as there is one boss battle in particular that sees a Mean Bean battle play-out.
However, if none of the above is your jam, you could always just watch the awesome and awe-inspiringly colourful opening animation trailer that truly catches the essence of Sonic Mania, or grab a friend and do some versus battles, which features a split-screen as the two of you race across a given stage, in a bid to finish in the fastest time and yes, power-ups can also be used. Or you can try something even more competitive and do Time Attack mode and race across levels in the fastest time possible, which can then be shared online. Want to prove you’re the fastest racer in the world? Now is your chance.
The fact is though, Sonic Mania is a complete game with no planned DLC and does have a little something for everyone. It has a great blend of old and new and most definitely promises a trip down memory lane, but although I would never say the game is overrated as it is pretty close to perfect for a 2D Sonic game, I do believe its nostalgia factor is overhyping this game. I’m not saying don’t be hyped for it, you totally should be, but the hype is a little too much, especially when, although the Switch version has the best FPS as it actually runs as 60 FPS, whereas other versions don’t, it still has a few bugs at play. None that break the game per se, but has been known to crash a couple of times and has a slow response to the Home menu button, but a fix is in the works, so if it wasn’t a good game already, it’s going to be even better very soon and that is something to relish over.
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There is a reason why Sonic Mania is receiving such high praise, and it is because it is an immensely enjoyable game that truly captures everything 2D Sonic games are known best for and adds up some extra flavour. Who cares if some areas of the levels aren’t as touched up as they could have or just have more levels in general? Sonic Mania is without a doubt the Sonic game fans have been demanding for, for years! And despite what some reviewers saying about Sonic now being “back,” Sonic never left, but he is however back on top, which is exactly where the blue hedgehog always belonged. My only real negative feeling about Mania however is it raises the bar so god damn high that the pressure is on for Sonic Forces as the 3D game now has everything to prove. You’ve won us all over once this year Sonic, but can you do it again?