Can any game be worth a 23-year wait? Yes

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS - @cat­gonecrazy

The Blue Blur is still run­ning [gold] rings around the com­pe­ti­tion.

By the Ma­nia, for the Ma­nia”. That’s what Sonic Team’s Takashi Iizuka said when he first saw Chris­tian White­head’s pitch for this game, spawn­ing its name and per­fectly en­cap­su­lat­ing its essence. It is Sonic fan­dom in­car­nate. And against all odds, af­ter 23 years, ‘the Ma­nia’ fi­nally gets the Sonic game it’s been want­ing since 1994’s Sonic & Knuck­les. In­cred­i­ble. Mind you, it will take an ex­cep­tion­ally de­voted Sonic fan to no­tice and ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery morsel of fan ser­vice that’s been put in here. The Sonic Spin­ball shake­down, Game Gear sound ef­fects at key mo­ments, the grainy res­o­lu­tion of the team lo­gos at the start of the game – it’s all beau­ti­fully-ex­e­cuted and a joy to dis­cover. There’s even 3D pop-in dur­ing the spe­cial stages be­cause Sonic Ma­nia has been de­vel­oped as though it were run­ning on a Sega Saturn, which makes it the clos­est we’ll ever have to the then'next gen­er­a­tion’ 2D Sonic game that never was.


From a mod­ern new­comer’s point of view, this fan ser­vice may mean lit­tle, but it has a very wel­come side ef­fect: all the char­ac­ter­is­tics that made Sonic a global phe­nom­e­non in the first place are back, and he feels at the very top of his game, which he hasn’t done in decades. The ac­tion is fluid, fast, vi­brant, and ex­cit­ing. The hog doesn’t ut­ter a single word, in­stead ooz­ing per­son­al­ity from vastly-im­proved – yet still faith­ful – an­i­ma­tions.

The level de­sign is in­tri­cate yet flow­ing, thanks to the team’s clear un­der­stand­ing of Sonic’s physics and what makes them fun to play. The new ‘drop dash’ doesn’t break the game, ei­ther, in­stead feel­ing like it should al­ways have been in Sonic’s reper­toire, and giv­ing him a sig­na­ture move to ri­val Knuck­les’ and Tails’ glid­ing/ climb­ing and fly­ing re­spec­tively. The re­sult is some four to six hours of ram­pantly in­ven­tive ac­tion in your first playthrough, though that fig­ure can be dra­mat­i­cally al­tered de­pend­ing on the fre­quency of your trips to the bonus lev­els.

The show­case spe­cial event is the se­quence of seven UFO Chase stages. Ap­pro­pri­ately dif­fi­cult to beat, they blend old ideas and iconog­ra­phy with new game­play in real style. Con­versely, the re­turn­ing Blue Sphere stages from Sonic 3 feel like ob­vi­ous filler. With 24 Blue Sphere stages to beat, gold/sil­ver medals to be won, treach­er­ous dif­fi­culty, and un­lock­ables to be found only by play­ing them, com­ple­tion­ists will hate them. And since they’re so easy to screw up and there’s a check­point pole ev­ery 60 sec­onds or so, Sonic Ma­nia can feel like Blue Sphere Ma­nia at times. You can just run past them, if you choose, but


that’s not the point. Some­thing new would likely have been much bet­ter, es­pe­cially since this team so ob­vi­ously ‘gets it’ when it comes to cre­at­ing sym­pa­thetic new con­tent.


So while there are many all­new boss fights, new zones, and new moves, there is just a lit­tle too much ‘old’ here, com­pared to the new. Fa­mil­iar, clas­sic lev­els like Green Hill, Chem­i­cal Plant, and many more are re­vis­ited, repli­cat­ing sig­nif­i­cant chunks of old lay­outs blow-for-blow, al­beit with some new se­crets here and there. That’s fine – it’s a megamix of all the best bits you re­mem­ber from the ’90s. But when the com­pletely new stages like Stu­diopo­lis look and feel ex­actly like peak Sonic 3-era Sonic Team, it would have been nice to have just a few more of them.

In the end, though, only the Blue Sphere stages feel like an ob­vi­ous mis­step. For that to be the only sig­nif­i­cant crit­i­cism of a new Sonic game is un­heard of since 1994. And, just like the Mega Drive games of old, it’s the small things that make you love it. The hun­dred tiny touches that make you grin like a kid who got a Game Gear for Christ­mas. The pixel art back­grounds, the tim­bre of the mu­sic, the amaz­ing role-re­ver­sal boss fight. Sonic Ma­nia re­cap­tures what’s been miss­ing from Sonic games for far too long: a sense of joy, won­der, ex­cite­ment, and magic. The re­sult is sim­ply one of the slick­est, most daz­zlingly-pro­duced, and en­joy­able plat­form games ever made.


While the ra­tio of old to new ideas is a lit­tle too cau­tious, and the Blue Sphere stages can be­come an­noy­ing, this is ev­ery­thing fans have been want­ing for far too long. It’s the best Sonic game. Justin Tow­ell

Sonic even looks the way most fans pre­fer: short and round.


Be­low Sonic’s bi­plane, the Tor­nado, re­turns, and we love it.

Right The twoplayer mode is squashed, like in Sonic 2. No slow­down this time, though.

Above right OMG! Sonic’s wear­ing the gog­gles that were cut from Sonic 1!

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