Sonic the Hedgehog is Back! Well, almost.
Back in the early 90’s I was given a choice, a choice that would determine my formative gaming years. A SNES or a Sega Mega drive for Christmas. It was the height of the great ‘console war’ of the 90’s, Nintendo vs Sega and after a great deal of deep soul searching I chose the Mega drive. Don’t shoot me but one of the main reasons was my love for Sonic over Mario, I know, I know. I must admit I never regretted my decision, partly due to my best friend owning a SNES which we would play regularly together.
For me, Sonic offered something Mario didn’t, speed and attitude wrapped up in a more teenage centric design as oppose to Mario. Sonic 2 especially was a fantastic game, a fantastic platformer, and one of the standout games on Sega’s new system. Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when Sonic Mania was announced, could a retro 16-bit style Sonic game really be released? With that feeling of excitement there was a certain amount of trepidation based on Sega’s recent dealings with the Sonic platform, I still have nightmares of that awful Sonic game on the Wii (Sonic and the Secret Rings), and from what I hear there is a lot of scepticism for Sonic Forces which is released in November 2017.
One advantage Sonic Mania has over other modern-day incarnations is the fact it wasn’t developed by Sega, it is actually more of a fan made/indie title which was picked up by Sega late on in development when they saw how good it was, so they decided to license and publish the game. The brain child of this development was Christian Whitehead, and he has done a fantastic job.
This game has all the elements which we loved from the top-selling Sonic games of the past, vibrant colours, fantastic music, intricate levels, speed, and that sense of excitement and pure joy in its gameplay. This really does hark back to Sonic 2 for me and Sonic at its height of popularity. There are 12 zones and the levels are constructed in a way as to play to Sonics strengths, excellent platforming gameplay mixed with sections of pure speed and intricacy. Usually you can play Sonic in two ways, rush to the end or explore, and the same applies here. The levels are built very well with multiple layers, so if you keep replaying the same levels, you won’t always follow the same path, which is great.
Dr Eggman (or Robotnik which I prefer) is back too, with various new contraptions for you to destroy. One boss in particular was really annoying, mainly due to the fact the screen was constantly side scrolling, and sonic too, which felt like you had less control over your character. I really dislike it when they do this, especially in the modern games which are more like a ramped-up temple run! With platformers you need total control, that’s the point, then it’s just your skill at play and nothing else. That being said it didn’t take much away from the game as it was very limited throughout.
As well as the 12 zones of gameplay, there are added modes for you to explore. Time attack is exactly what you think it is, but it will rank you against players online, fantastic for all you speed runners out there. There is also competition mode which will pit you against another player in split screen, however the aim is not just to finish the level first, you are also ranked on score, rings and items collected. This is a fun addition, especially in local multiplayer against friends. The best part? You can play as Sonic, Tails or Knuckles. Miles “Tails” Prowler even follows you in normal gameplay, akin to his first appearance in Sonic 2.
I honestly really love this game, it brings out that nostalgic feeling in me, and as the success of the NES mini classic and SNES mini classic shows, nostalgia sells! Overall this is a great game for very small outlay (£14.99 in the UK) and Sega should absolutely take note and develop more games like this, or take the same mechanics that made Sonic great, and use them to bring out more Sonic content. It’s difficult to keep a franchise going for a long time while also trying to keep it fresh and new, look at Mario and Nintendo who are masters at it. Mario Odyssey couldn’t be further from the early Mario games, however what they have in common is they all focus on great platforming gameplay and a huge amount of fun and joy. That’s what games should focus on, not whether it’s the highest definition or frame rate as so many gamers focus on. This is not 4k, it is not ultra HD, but it is beautiful and fun, a lot of fun.