Sonic the Hedgehog, that cocky spiky blue hedgehog caused me so much pain my younger years. The frustration at making the slightest mistake and losing all those precious rings I had worked so hard for and yet Sonic Mania comes along and I find myself wanting to jump straight back in and start all over again.
There have been many attempts to bring Sonic back, upadating his image and diversify his gameplay, ultimately though none of them became hits with the fans. With Sonic Mania however, we might have just found a return to form, the game was built by fans of the game who were well known for modding & hacking Sonic titles.
When you first load the game, it looks like the Mega Drive games of old, but because of the work done and the console you are playing it on, things look even more impressive, constantly running at 60fps and full of bright vivid colours.
From the off everything feels very familiar, starting at Green Hill before playing through the greatest hits of Sonic levels from the Mega Drive games. Sonic 2’s Chemical Plant Zone is there too, and it still gives me nightmares as the toxic material fills the level as I desperately try to escape. The and new areas like the Wild West-themed Mirage Saloon Zone and TV-filled Studiopolis all feel like they have been plucked from the original game, which is an excellent achievement. Even in the original levels, small improvements have been made, such as extra jumps and pads that allow you to stick to ceiling.
Of course, the best thing about Sonic games is that they instantly feel familiar, although it took me a while to remember to let the game do most of the work, you forget how fast the original Sonic games were, so you can’t help but be a bit twitchy as he flies round the level when you first begin to play. It’s all down to the fantastically designed levels, and once you finally get into the swing of things you’ll need to keep your wits about you. Some of the boss fights are excellent, I’m not going to spoil them for you, because it’s all part of the experience but they are such fun to play.
On occasions the difficulty spikes can be a bit much, especially if you are new to the Sonic titles, but having said that if you were too young or not interested in playing Sonic games, this is a great game to have your first experience with. Sonic Mania is only a short game, lasting around four hours, but it does include a Time Attack mode and a Multiplayer versus mode. There are also some 3D levels that you can unlock during your play through that give you a chance to hunt Chaos Emeralds, which add an extra challenge to the game.
Because of the speed we expect from Sonic, you’ll tend to want to get around the levels as quickly as possible, but it’s worth slowing down and really taking in the levels, sometimes there are multiple ways around the level, or there are parts of the levels you may never have noticed before.
Despite all of the previous attempts, Sonic Mania is the only title that will really capture fans new and old, it feels like you have just discovered your old Mega Drive.