Sonic Mania - Review

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Sonic Mania - Review

Postby iMURDAu » Thu Sep 30, 2021 1:05 pm

If you're old enough to remember Sonic the Hedgehog being a gaming icon because of the quality of the franchise on the Genesis/Mega Drive you'll feel at home in Sonic Mania.

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Ominous background silhouette is ominous
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The game's lead designer cut his teeth by making Sonic romhacks. Romhacks are patches applied to an original copy of a game in order to add or modify content, similar to mods for PC games. He later would port Sonic CD to his own iPhone in order to convince Sega to let him port it to mobile. He then ported other classic Sonic titles to mobile. Oh and also worked on Sonic 4 which for some reason is still only available in episodic format. Ugh. Outside of M2 there's probably no dev team more familiar with 2D Sonic games.

As soon as you launch the game you're hit with a white screen featuring a familiar 4-letter logo accompanied by the nostalgic sound of "Saaay-gah". Everything about the art design is straight out of the 90's but polished to a modern sheen and running at (a seemingly capped on PC) 60 fps. Looks great, sounds great, two things we've gotten out of so many Sonic games and then that's all they'd have to offer.

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Any plane old pun will do here
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As I stated in the opening you'll feel at home when you start playing this. Maybe too at home? There are plenty of zones from other Sonic games represented in this but there's twists. New pathways, old ways you used to go might be blocked off, secrets to be found all over, springs where there didn't used to be one sending you to another part of the level. Don't think you can go blindly playing this as if it were a 1:1 remake of classic Sonic because there's enemies and obstacles added to trip you up.

But not trip you up to where you lose the essence of what made Sonic enjoyable and a top selling series. Going faster than the camera can keep up with, loop de loops, giant jumps off ramps heading towards who knows where, its all still here.

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I'm on a boat
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There are special stages of course. Hitting a checkpoint with a certain number of rings spawns a glittery halo that you can jump into. That special stage is reminiscent of Sonic 3 where you have to collect blue spheres and avoid the red spheres. I'm not sure what the developers were thinking though when they're asking you to collect over 100 of them in one go. Tee. Dee. Um. However the other special stage which is found in giant rings is a 3D chase sequence where you follow a robot holding a chaos emerald. It's timed but you add time by collecting rings and gain speed with blue spheres. It's also on a circuit map so there's potentially several laps chasing the robot but its very fun and a refreshing break from the 2D platforming. I'm also trying to think of the last 3D game I played where I chased something down and didn't have to murder it because of how the game mechanics work.

Not to say you won't be murdering robots in this game. You will be. Often. Possibly more than you'd like. At the end of each act there's a boss. Not just at the end of each zone, but at the end of every single level in the game there's a boss fight of some sort. Some are pushovers, others are incredibly frustrating, all of them require you to figure out either a gimmick or when the boss' hitbox is actually available for you to damage. I believe the game could do without so many bosses. Maybe they thought it would make the game more epic? It just comes across as "Oops All Bosses".

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Runaway!
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One other nitpick is that some acts are incredibly long for a platformer. If your level needs 4 checkpoints it should have ended two checkpoints ago. I spent almost 10 minutes in a level that I didn't die in. Just a lot of hitting a spring and watching Sonic racing around at the speed of sound with nothing for me, the player, to do.

Level design overall is quite good. There's a few troll moments as to be expected from a romhacker running the show. You'll rarely get lost because even if you get flung in the opposite direction you were going the levels are designed to keep you moving towards the end.

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Yes, you fight a boss like this
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Do I even need to mention the soundtrack slaps? I mean, I guess I'm doing that now. These aren't the original tracks but they're cleaned up and remastered. No weird notes or out of place sounding instruments in the arrangements. Just an enhancement of what your ears were used to. Chemical Zone is still going to make your head sway.

I wouldn't say Sonic Mania is a must own game but it is firmly in the class of games that are very good and you could definitely do much worse when it comes to platformers. I'll put it this way. Celeste is the recommended diet for platforming enthusiasts and Sonic Mania is what you play on your cheat day. If you can get this on sale I say go for it.

All of the screenshots in this review were captured by me. I got the game free a while back from the Epic Games Store. There is DLC available, I haven't purchased it.
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