Sonic Mania Review

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Posted August 24, 2017 by Alexander Handziuk in Video Games

Fast and Furious

A disclaimer as this review begins, Sonic Mania is my first Sonic game and I had no real experience with the franchise before this title. (But now I do so read my review)

Sonic Mania is a fast game. Now that may sound like un-needed hyperbole, but I feel like it needs to be said. The game throws you into the thick of the frenetically paced Sonic universe and with very little handholding, it’s at times overwhelming. It feels like the development team expected the people playing this game to be familiar with the Sonic franchise. I can appreciate that as the fast pace is what I love most about Sonic Mania. At the same time, it infuriates me.

Mania Mode

The first level of Sonic Mania is a cheery and fast paced introduction to the world of Sonic. There is very little handholding and tutorials simply don’t exist. It’s clear from the beginning that Sonic Mania wants you to experiment and learn from your mistakes. Sonic Mania is at its best when you’re barreling full speed down a ramp and bouncing off jump pads, all the while trying to avoid enemies. There are twelve worlds that make up the game (including classics such as Green Hill Zone), and they are wonderfully diverse and visually striking. The enemy variety and different ways in which speed is utilized is very well done, managing to hit the nostalgia of games from its era while not feeling old. There are crab creatures, ladybugs, pirañas, wasps, metal sonics and many more!

Dr. Eggman’s menacing machinations that make up the game’s bosses are both visually and mechanically interesting. Each one requires a slightly different technique to defeat. The best ones managed to surprise me by not being conventional boss battles, like the level where you play Puyo Puyo against Dr. Eggman. The variety adds a welcome level of charm to the game, and combined with the classic soundtrack, and visuals makes for a throwback game with great presentation.

Sonic Mania also manages to surprise throughout the course of it’s play time. There are a ton of secret mini levels hidden throughout that range from racing to catch up with a robot to only collecting blue circles from a sea of other colors. They’re charming and a genuine surprise when you run into them. And I do mean “run into them” quite literally – there’s no real pattern to where they’re hidden in the various levels.

This sense of randomness is part of where Sonic Mania struggles. The game’s lack of explanation or time constraints lead to many annoying deaths. The fact that the game is made up of two levels per zone and that a game over sends you to the beginning of the first zone compounds this irritation. (One of the most annoying of my deaths occurred while fighting a late game boss and dying without warning because I ran out of time). And while I mostly enjoyed the lack of hand holding, it can be a double edged sword that kills the enjoyment a little.

The slow moments of platforming are also rather rough and jumping to platforms while not traveling at blistering speeds is tedious. The jumping mechanic is missing a sense of floaty-ness that drops Sonic a bit too early for my liking. Sonic Mania is a good game, but after playing it through it’s also a game that I have no real inclination to play again, at least for a while.

Multiplayer/Time Trials                                                          

The local multiplayer is a nice distraction from the main game, and it especially makes great use of the Switch’s capabilities. In it you can race through any of the levels from Mania and do it via split screen with a joy con each in hand. It also manages to take the sometimes infuriating deaths you experience in the game fun, as the thrill of the race takes over. It’s not especially great for long sessions but that’s ok because it serves as a great ten or twenty minute distraction from other multiplayer games.

Much like the multiplayer, time trials is lots of fun and a welcome distraction. There’s something calming about playing to beat your personal time rather than trying to beat the level to progress and time trials is a nice break. The addition of online rankings are also a nice addition as you can see how your times compare to your friends and others.

Verdict

Sonic Mania is a fun and frenetically paced platformer that manages to pack in a good number of secrets and variety into its over eight hours of playtime. It’s held back from greatness by a lack of hand-holding, some wonky platforming and many infuriating moments, but for 19.99 it’s a fun title to add to your library.


About the Author

Alexander Handziuk

Alex is a comic aficionado who loves Aquaman, Overwatch, the musical Hamilton and medium length strolls on beaches. Check him out on the Comics Dash Podcast, on twitter at @axehandziuk and in real life patrolling the borders of Canada.