Just as Mario is the de facto mascot for Nintendo, Sonic the Hedgehog is an iconic character for Sega. While Mario’s games have almost always gone from strength to strength, we can’t really say the same for Sonic. Over the years, the blue hedgehog has been in an impressive number of games, but many of them, such as 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog, 2008’s Sonic Unleashed, 2009’s Sonic and the Black Knight, 2014’s Sonic Boom, and 2015’s Sonic Lost World, were big disappointments. So you can’t blame us for being skeptical when we started playing the recently released Sonic Mania. Luckily, we’re happy to say that we were wrong about this game.
The graphics and art are intentionally retro in Sonic Mania. It looks like a fan’s tribute to the good Sonic games of the 90s, right from the moment you fire it up. Everything about Sonic Mania evokes nostalgia, from the art, to the music, and even the way Sonic responds to the controls.
The game starts with Mania Mode, which is where you get to unleash Sonic the Hedgehog’s best traits — high speed, and lightning quick reflexes. This mode is an old-school 2D sidescroller for the most part, where you will be vaulting over obstacles, curling Sonic into a supersonic ball and knocking enemies over, and speeding past entire levels. Your faithful companion Tails, whose primary ability is to swing his tail like a helicopter’s rotor, accompanies you.
You can’t control Tails in Mania Mode but he collects rings for you, and even helps you take down foes. Mania Mode also carries over a frustrating element of old Sonic games. Because Sonic is racing everywhere at high speeds, you’ll often encounter obstacles and enemies that seem to randomly appear from off-screen. Sometimes you’ll be on a great run with over 100 rings collected, and suddenly you’ll hit one row of spikes or an enemy and you lose all your rings, forcing you to push your reflexes even further.