Gotta go fast in this blast from the past
How come Tails and Knuckles are named after body parts, but Sonic isn’t? He should be Feet The Hedgehog.
When Sonic the Hedgehog burst onto the gaming scene back in the early ’90s he was a fast and furious breath of fresh air. Riding the spiked shoulders of its blue hedgehog, Sega fought back against Nintendo’s monopoly and earned a place among the gaming elite. Unfortunately, Sonic hasn’t exactly aged well. Over the years the little blue hedgehog-that-could has been through a bit of an identity crisis. His 2D games, like Sonic 4, missed the mark, and his 3D excursions are a mixed bag ranging from atrocious to just about passable. Sonic Mania seems at first to represent Sega finally taking fan feedback to heart, crafting a game that’s true to the series’ roots, but updated for a modern era. The reality is a bit more nuanced than that.
What it really feels like is a greatest hits montage, with a few new tracks thrown in to tide you over. The game opens with the iconic Green Hill Zone from the original Sonic game, but this time you’ve got Tails right behind you like in Sonic 2 and 3. From there you take on Doctor Eggman in a series of re-imagined boss fights across a collection of new and updated zones. We’ll try to spoil as little as possible, because there’s nothing like rediscovering a favourite while playing, but you’ll recognise the likes of the Chemical Plant Zone from Sonic 2, and Stardust Speedway from Sonic CD. There are also a handful of brand-new zones that have never been seen before.
In the zones
In addition to the core ‘Mania mode’ gameplay that has you travelling through each zone one after another in the classic Sonic style, there’s also Time Attack and Competition. The former’s exactly as you’d expect: you can pick any zone that you’ve completed and play through it as either Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles to get the best possible time and score. Competition mode, on the other hand, works just like it did in Sonic 2, pitting two players against each other on the same level at the same time in a race to the end. You can also play co-operatively in Mania mode, but all multiplayer is local-only, so you won’t be taking on or palling around with strangers online. It’s disappointing, but more authentically retro, we suppose…
Jump physics feel incredibly accurate, the sense of speed – absolutely crucial in a Sonic game – is admirably captured, and both the remixed and new level designs really shine through as inventive and unique. In many ways, the classic stages still feel ahead of their time a whole 25 years after we first saw them, and all of the new zones fit right in without a hitch – perfectly complementing the originals.
The art of the videogame remake is a delicate and careful balance. On the one hand you want to appeal to the fans’ sense of nostalgia as you channel the core of what made something good in the first place. But on the other hand you want to offer something fresh and original so that consumers don’t feel like they’re rebuying something they’ve already played. Sonic Mania doesn’t stray too far from its roots, but does plenty at a great price point to keep the rabid fans of speedy blue hedgehogs happy, and to hook in people who’ve never played a Sonic game in their lives.
“feels like a greatest hits montage with a few new tracks thrown in to tide you over”
The CRT Filter option makes it look like you’re playing on an old-fashioned telly, for the real nostalgia nuts out there.
Format Switch, PS4 (reviewed), XO, PC Publisher Sega Developer
Headcannon, PagodaWest Games ETA Out now Players 1-2