Review: Sonic Mania - Back In Blue
It's 2017 and I have to admit that I was terrified to write this sentence. There's a new Sonic game. Sonic Mania has hit our shelves, shall we take a look and see if it shines like a Chaos Emerald or lives in the dark like a certain werewolf.
I'm going to be blunt straight off. It shines. My god does it shine. Visually it is an incredible throw back to the days of the Mega Drive. Think anywhere from Sonic the Hedgehog to Sonic & Knuckles and you've got the aesthetic. But even with such an old school look, the creators of Mania have taken the time and love to polish every aspect of the game. The frame rate is upped, making everything look somehow crisp despite being pixel-ated, the colour is contrasting and full of life and that's just from the first level.
It throws you into what seems like a re-mastering of Green Hill Zone and to some extent it is. However as you progress through 'Mania Mode' (the campaign/story), you begin to see the direction the developers moved the game through, with twists on previous levels and then creations of their own.
These new themes and stages are just as good, I'll argue even better. With enemies new and old to suit the atmospheres, backgrounds that look like they had as much time put into them as the rest of the level and the theme track. I could spend hours talking about the music in this game, which has taken the scores from the previous iterations and lovingly touched them up and then created absolute masterpieces for the original content.
Not only does the game have everything to look and sound like a Sonic game, it handles so well. With controls that are as simplistic as the Mega Drive controller, it still manages to feel fluid, fast and free, while also giving a variety of challenges and routes in each level, rewarding you for well timed jumps, use of shields and power ups and having enough rings for certain challenges. And yes, they bought back the Blue Spheres. I have to admit, they are still as infuriating as always. But y'know what? It works. The frustration from some levels and dying in the same way a few times gives you the amazing feeling of accomplishment upon completion.
They've even managed to make the boss levels fresh and different, something I always thought was lacking from the original titles. Variety really is the name of the game here, it really isn't just a 'jump on it until in breaks' game anymore, there is some thinking required. However, if you have or haven't played an original Sonic game before, it won't stop you from grabbing a controller and jumping in. You can even do it with a friend, as Mania has bought back the infamous split screen. Not only that, it's the infamous split screen from Sonic 2, the one which I swear is the reason my sister and I don't speak anymore. Forcing you to race each other through various levels to beat the other to the finish line, it brings back the sofa competitiveness and can be a great nights entertainment.
Sonic Mania is a game that has been forged in the fires of love. It feels like a fan game that was treated with care from the moment of birth right through to the end, with a team that knew what they were doing with the sacred blue hedgehog. Even the opening credits were made by someone who used to make Sonic parody videos. This is a game for livelong fans and for those who have never had to 'run fast'. Grab your red running shoes, a controller and a copy, this is not one to miss.
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