Sonic is still seen as major gaming mascot. Sega’s own ‘Mario’. His games defined the Megadrive generation and people still get excited with each new release. Yet, let’s be honest he is no Mario. Shocking a statement that might be, you only have to see the list of failed games which have come out under his tenure, to realise that he can’t hold a candle to Mario.
Mario games, putting the sports and party games aside, do not come out often. The 3D games, once a platform, and the 2D games also are pretty rare. Sonic games though, seem to come out every one to two years, and sometimes in multiple forms. They are not all bad, but they are not all good, and few are great. Ever since Sonic went 3D, Sega have been unsure what to do with him. From camera controls, to controls of actual Sonic himself, the whole world of Sonic has been hesitant and unsure. There have been some highlights of course. Back on the original DS there was a great Sonic game called Sonic Rush. It was great as it harked back to the MegaDrive days, and made great use of the hardware, having levels flow between the two screens.
So it’s with some relief that we can cut to the chase and state that Sonic Mania is excellent. It’s a true return to form! Not least because a lot of the levels are re-worked old levels. It’s the essence of the past, but it’s fresh and new.
What has always made Sonic special, at least in our mind, is the fact that its a true ‘twitch’ game. Before the days of that term applying to COD, it was Sonic’s to own. It was a hybrid between a platformer (clearly) and a pinball game! Sonic moves so fast that at times you have to sit back, and work out what is coming up ahead with your fingers ready to intervene to stop him hitting some spikes or wee beastie. Sonic Mania brings us back to that gameplay. Whilst the 3D interpretation of this gameplay often makes the gamer feel redundant or out of control (due to poor camera angles or the ability to see ahead), the core 2D gameplay still holds true.
The game looks fantastic. 16 bit, yet modern. Hi res graphics, with super smooth scrolling, but totally in keeping with the original. This is how a re-master should look. You can even go into the options to choose a CRT type display, so you get a cool retro effect on the screen.
Oh, and yes, you can play Co-Op with one of the players taking control of Tails. That opens the game up completely and becomes a lot of fun with two players.
Out now for PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One. We’ve played the Switch and Xbox One version and both are excellent. For anyone wanting a burst of nostalgia without compromises, should look no further than Sonic Mania.