Is Sonic still relevant today in gaming? A Sonic Mania gameplay review

Aug 3, 2016

Sonic  is still putting smiles on the faces of young and old gamers around the world. Especially at the packed Sonic 25th anniversary party in San Diego a week ago where the next big Sonic games were announced. Some say Sonic is dying out because the games lack innovation. Sonic himself captures the hearts of many who grew up with the blue furball on the Sega Genesis in the 90s and even new young gamers love him because of the popular tv show Sonic Boom. So many of you are wondering how does a game that hasn’t changed much in the past 25 years keep going and even gets it own fan made conventions every year now in LA? Well, I’ll tell you how. Going through the levels with each character’s different abilities and working through new and unique challenging platforms. Sonic Mania, delivers all that. Sonic Mania is coming out on all three major gaming platformers next Spring and I was fortunate to demo it at the Sonic 25th Anniversary party.

Sonic games are casual, fun, and fast paced. Hardcore gamers might not like that, but it’s great for someone more casual like myself. Myself and many others just want a fun and easy game to kill time while at home. Sonic Mania is easy, aesthetically good looking, and introduces new creative mechanics to figure out how to pass a level. The game also has catchy tunes that I could whistle to. The Green Hill stage especially has a great remix of the classic Green Hill Zone music. Another highlight is the Studiopolis stage which has a jazzy beat to it.

I think creative level designs and Sonic himself is what keeps Sonic gamers coming back to buy the new games.  Each character has a different gameplay style. Sonic Mania exemplifies this, each character could go through a level differently using their various abilities. This has been the case before, in Sonic Advance you had four different characters which worked different. Tails can fly, Knuckles can glide and punch, Sonic can spin dash, and Amy can swig her hammer. Sometimes these abilities can allow you to access areas of the map that other characters couldn’t access. For example, Tails flying can allow you to fly to tall places easy. In this new game, Sonic will also have a new ability to use to beat challenging platforms. His new ability is called the spin drop. I think it’s smart that Sega is giving what fans want in their next games by letting players chose their characters and also going back to the original gameplay with no Sonic Boom or Sonic Colors gimmicks. These games were considered too easy and were more puzzle games than fast paced platforming.

The Sonic Mania demo was on PC with Xbox 360 controllers. The game being developed by Sega European partner Atlas. The game’s green hill zone was easier than the Studiopolis level. Aestically, this game is far more detailed and has a great creative soundtrack. When  hit by enemies, rings look like they’re popping out of the screen a little bit. In the Studiopolis level, there are tv screens with an animated dancing Eggman that remind of me of black and white Steamboat Mickey Mouse. The Studiopolis stage was a bit tricky because you had to learn that windows could be broken to advance to new parts of the game. Until you broke the windows, you would not know where secret items like bubbles are hiding. Sonic Mania seems to be on the right track, it take the best parts from past classic 2d Sonic games but adds to it by having more hidden areas and the best design I’ve seen in a long time. 

My closing comments are I think Sega will be around for many years to come. I think the company having a mobile, PC, and console presence is great. Sega is giving characters a fun and semi-challenging new platforms to deal with that require certain character moves to tackle. Also, when I was at the Sonic 25th anniversary party I got to speak with a programmer from the Irvine office. I asked about how they would distribute Sonic on PC and he said there is a possibility of other means than Steam. For those who hate DRM, this COULD be your time to get Sonic DRM free. I think if Sega continues to make Sonic games every year and listen to their fans, then Sonic will be around for another 25 years.