After a year of waiting, Sonic Mania is finally out for console gamers. And reviewers are already praising the game.
For the uninitiated, Sonic Mania is a 2D platformer heavily based on the original Genesis Sonic games. Levels are inspired from the first four games, and players get to play as Sonic, Tails or Knuckles in 2D sprite form.
Most of the developers came from the Sonic fangame community, too, and development was led by a programmer that worked on ports for early Sonic titles. So the game is essentially made by (and for) fans that know what the community wants from a Sonic title.
But enough about the game's backstory. Here's what reviewers have to say:
'Sonic Mania' Feels Like a Sonic Genesis Game
The Genesis Sonic years have a certain charm to them. The way the levels are paced, the way the game look, and the mixture between high-speed action and platforming depth that served as a cornerstone behind every '90s release. Ever since Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Team has had a hard time recreating that feeling.
But Sonic Mania looks, feels and plays like the early Genesis games. And that makes it pretty fun.
"Sonic Mania preserves the pleasure and thrill of speeding through a stage, grabbing every ring you can while bashing enemies along the way and discovering new routes," Game Informer notes. "The team of independent developers behind the game paid attention to so many facets that fans of the original games remember."
Sonic Mania is addicting for that reason too. Because the game feels just like the original Sonic titles, it has that same enjoyable level design that has always kept fans coming back for more.
"From the beginning to the end, I couldn’t seem to put Sonic Mania down," Azario Lopez wrote for Dualshockers. "This is for Sonic fans everywhere and it will not disappoint."
In Fact, Maybe It's Too Nostalgic
Sonic Mania really likes the '90s Sonic games. Their feel, their style, and their gameplay are all cornerstones of Mania's content. But this comes to a fault. Polygon argues Sonic Mania feels "fetishistically devoted" to the older games, to the point where nothing too new or bold is there to be found.
"But in its fixation on making a perfect recreation of '90s-era Sonic, some of the series' more egregious recurring problems remain present — with some modern quality-of-life elements nowhere to be found," Polygon explains.
There aren't many improvements on the original trilogy's formula here, including the kind of pacing and level design that left fans scratching their heads in the originals. In fact, Sonic Mania relies mostly on recreations of classic levels from the original series, to the point where new material is largely missing. This led PlayStation Lifestyle to call the game a "greatest hits" collection over a brand new game.
"If I have one complaint about the offerings as a whole, it’s that — as well-selected and polished as the old material is — it still makes up far more of the total gameplay than I thought it would," PlayStation Lifestyle explains.
But 'Sonic Mania' Is A Must-Have For Sonic Fans
No game is perfect, and Sonic Mania has its flaws. But unlike so many games from the 2000s and 2010s, Sonic Mania is fundamentally a good Sonic game. It refines the early Sonic levels while adding in some new material here and there. And it brings back what fans wanted all along: a Sonic game that plays, feels, and looks just like the original Genesis launches.
"As a synthesis and expression of a specific era of Sonic, Sonic Mania is devout toward its inspiration, for devout fans of Sega's beleaguered mascot," Polygon points out. "If more of what Sonic is what you want, then this is very much that, but more, and bigger, and faster."
Of course, this means that the original games' problems are still there, and there's not much new going on inside the game.
But maybe that doesn't necessarily matter so much. For fans, it's the thrill of those early '90s releases that really made Sonic so memorable. That's what diehard Sonic gamers have wanted for years: to go back in time to their first run through the original games. And Sonic Mania finally delivers that. As the A.V. Club puts it:
"The people who made Sonic Mania were, first and foremost, fans who spent years tearing those classic games down and seeing the series in a way Sonic Team itself either failed to comprehend or was never allowed to explore. Given the opportunity to express that passion on a grander stage, they’ve made a game that finally realizes everything the Sonic of old could be."
Are you interested in grabbing Sonic Mania? Share your thoughts in the comments below.